Denial-of-service attacks are a threat to the Web. Viruses are a threat, and uncontrolled spam is a threat. But dirty words? Ridiculous. It looks like Apple is going to do the adult thing and add parental controls to iPhone 3.0 and stop censoring prospective applications on the App Store.
That's good news for freedom of speech. Apple has engaged in egregious censorship, even forcing a writer to tone down a novel he wanted to sell as an e-book. But every time you boot your computer, someone else decides to play nanny. You'd think the average Web user is a sensitive plant, ready to wilt at the slightest shock. Now Google and Congress are getting into the act. Enough already.
[ Looking to develop your own mobile apps? Find out how in InfoWorld's developer's-eye view of smartphone platforms. ]
Watch what you say
Sure, some of the remedies are well intentioned. You may remember the ugly MySpace bullying case that led to the suicide of 13-year-old Megan Meier. I have zero sympathy for the woman who taunted and humiliated an innocent child, and I'm glad she's going to do some jail time.
But passing a vaguely worded law to crack down on something called "cyberbullying" is, well, stupid -- and probably unconstitutional. You'd think that after eight years of watching the constitution shredded by the Bushies, Congress would think twice about abridging the First Amendment. But wave the banner of protecting our children, and common sense immediately takes a hike.
The Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act (introduced by Linda Sanchez, D-Calif.) makes it a felony, carrying a two-year prison sentence and a hefty fine, to post or electronically transmit information "with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person ... to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior."
What does that mean? It sounds like hurting someone's feeling is now against the law. Was I a committing a felony when I repeatedly called IBM CEO Sam Palmisano a bozo and a slumdog millionaire in this blog? Much more significantly, what about a journalist or a citizen who uses the Web to beat on the bad behavior of a public official?