My problem with ‘Internet Federalism’Locked
President Truman once admonished the U.S. House and Senate as a “do-nothing Congress” bent on stalling rather than taking action. While I’m a fan of Harry, I almost wish the do-nothing Congress would make a comeback, because the legislative branch’s obsession with legislating away the evils of computers and the Internet is causing more problems than it solves.
CNET’s Declan McCullagh warns us that no less than five antispyware and antispam laws are being hustled through Congress, all modelled on the rousing “success” that was the Can Spam Act.
Meanwhile, at the state level, the Terminator himself has signed a California law banning “heinous, cruel, or depraved” video games, as if such terms were objectively measurable.
McCullagh’s article cuts to the heart of the matter: “George Mason University professors Bruce Kobayashi and Larry Ribstein have written about how Internet federalism affects Americans’ privacy rights. They say that ‘federal law would perversely lock in a single regulatory framework while Internet technology is still rapidly evolving. State law, by contrast, emerges from 51 laboratories and therefore presents a more decentralized model that fits the evolving nature of the Internet. Moreover, competition among state laws can mute the inefficient tendencies of (special interest group) legislation.'”
Action is not the same as progress. State and federal legislators need to take a breath and figure out where the law can do the most good, rather than where legislation can score the easiest political points.