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Beware the Technopanics

Legislation over the past decade to shield children from the seedy side of the Internet is unconstitutional and based on overblown fears of technology fed by the popular press, according to Alice Marwick, a doctoral candidate in media, culture, and communication at New York University.

In a recent article in First Monday, an online journal about the Internet, Ms. Marwick labels advocates of such legislation “technopanics.” She says they focus on new media forms, such as social-network sites, and “pathologize young people’s use of” new media “like hacking, file-sharing, or playing violent video games.”

Ms. Marwick writes that the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, approved last month by the Senate is an example of a bill pushed by technopanics. The bill is the latest incarnation of legislation called the Deleting Online Predators Act. Apparently, telecommunications companies also are heeding the technopanics. Three major Internet service providers on Tuesday announced plans to block their customers from gaining access to Web sites that offer child pornography. The move has raised censorship concerns, according to an article today in The Washington Post.—Andrea L. Foster

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