The federal government is proposing regulations that would effectively kill adult social-networking sites. This is being done under the guise of fighting child pornography. You have until September 10 to object to these regulations. It’s easy to do and essential. A sample e-mail comment is at the bottom of this page. Please forward this information to your friends!
What’s the Deal?
The Department of Justice is proposing regulations to implement a federal law designed to combat child pornography, known as Section 2257. The law was first enacted in 1998 and was amended in 2006 and significantly expanded to include regulation of the Internet.
While many of the regulations pertain to companies that produce adult entertainment magazines and videos (and are extremely burdensome), they would also affect anyone who uses an adult social-networking site. Here’s how:
- The regulations would require the people running a site to get and maintain personal information from every user (that means you) who posts a “sexually explicit” photo, including your photo ID (driver’s license, passport, or military ID).
- The regulations would allow the Attorney General to conduct warrantless searches at will on the sites’ records, including your personal information.
- There are few safeguards over what the FBI can do with the information it obtains.
- If a site operator fails to comply with the regulations, he or she would face a prison sentence of up to 5 years.
Obviously, none of this has anything to do with child pornography. Instead, it is a blatant attempt to end the ability of consenting adults to use adult social-networking sites to meet other people for sex. Obviously, if these regulations go into effect, they will kill this industry.
What You Can Do
The Department of Justice has published these proposed regulations and the public has until September 10 to comment on them.
We need to generate thousands of comments objecting to the proposed regulations – and it’s easy to do via e-mail. Just follow the instructions below.
Why The NGLTF Is Involved
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Inc. is involved in this fight because we believe sexual freedom is a fundamental human right and we don’t think the government has any place in relations between consenting adults. These regulations are part of our government’s hypocritical and punitive views about sex, sexuality, and reproductive rights. All of this – from abstinence-only sex education programs to the elimination of funding for accurate and explicit HIV prevention programs – fall hardest on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Take Action Now
Here is a sample letter with the e-mail address you need to send it to (Admin.firstname.lastname@example.org) and the subject you must include in the subject line of your e-mail (Section 2257 Docket No. CRM 104).
Re: Section 2257 Docket No. CRM 104
To the U.S. Department of Justice:
I am writing to object to the proposed “Section 2257” regulations.
These regulations are complicated and burdensome on legitimate businesses, and have very little to do with protecting children and minors from pornography. Their reach — particularly into adult social-networking internet services — is overbroad, unnecessary, and would allow the federal government to search and seize personal records of adult consumers without a warrant; a clear violation privacy and constitutional rights.
Specifically, I object to the following provisions:
1. The regulations (18 § 2257(b)(1) and (c)) would force adult social-networking services to obtain and maintain personal information about their users, including the user's photo ID (driver’s license, passport, or military ID). (I must note that the sites already require users to affirm that they are over 18 years of age.) Many sites have tens of thousands of users and it is simply not possible for them to do this. Moreover, many people who use these sites want to maintain their privacy, for any number of reasons, including the sad fact that they might face discrimination and/or violence if others found out they were using these sites. It is still legal in 31 states to discriminate against someone who is gay or bisexual, and in 41 states if the person is transgender. The combination of the recordkeeping requirements and many users’ fears about providing such information will kill the entire industry.
All of this is overkill given that adult social networking sites were not identified as a problem in the production, distribution and downloading of child pornography in the Department of Justice’s own report on “Child Pornography on the Internet” (May 2006).
2. The regulations (18 § 2257(g) and under 28 C.F.R. § 75.5) would allow the Attorney General to conduct unannounced warrantless searches at will on the sites’ records, including reviewing and presumably seizing the personal information on site users. This is an egregious abuse of government authority, an unwarranted invasion of privacy and, in my opinion, a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
3. The regulations (28 C.F.R. § 75.5(4)) provide insufficient safeguards over what the government can do with the information it obtains through its searches. This, by itself, has a chilling effect on the ability of people to engage in constitutionally protected activities. As noted above, this is particularly dangerous for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Let me be clear: I believe children need to be protected from coercion into pornography and it is important for the federal government to do all that it can to insure those protections. Sadly, many of the provisions of the proposed 2257 regulations do nothing to address child pornography, but instead are clearly aiming at destroying an industry and ending a legal and valuable way for adults to meet one another.