It’s rare that I find any North Carolina Democrat doing something to praise, but the votes of Reps. Heath Shuler and Mel Watt against H.R. 1981 deserve a bit of it. They were among 10 members to vote against the measure (PDF) in committee earlier this week. Nineteen of their colleagues, including Republican Rep. Howard Coble, voted for it.
H.R. 1981 is also called the Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011. How could anyone be against that? It’s “for the children,” right? North Carolina Republican Howard Coble feels that way. He’s a co-sponsor. The legislation purports to make it easier to catch child-porn pushers and users, but it’s the way it proposes to do it that is the problem.
H.R. 1981 would require your ISP to spy on everything you do online and save records of your usage for 12 months. Yes, this would make it easier to catch pedophiles, but at what cost? Supporters, I’m sure, would argue that no one would use those records for nefarious purposes, but they are naive. As we can see from the acrimonious atmosphere in Washington these days, it’s not hard to imagine some hard partisan getting his hands on an opponent’s online records and using them for leverage.
Or imagine a bureaucrat or regulator at some federal agency obtaining embarrassing internet usage records and using them as leverage against a private citizen. Don’t think it can’t happen.
Shuler and Watt are right on this one, and Howard Coble is wrong. Let’s hope the full House slaps this down quickly.
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