Look, kiddie porn and terrorism are bad. Obvious. But what better way for a government to push through controversial legislation quickly than to harness their emotive properties? After all, what self-respecting member of the US House of Representatives would vote against legislation called Securing Adolescents From Exploitation-Online, or SAFE? Only 2 it turns out (Rep. Paul Broun from Georgia and Rep. presidential candidate, Ron Paul) with 409 members voting yesterday in favor. The new bill requires everyone (that includes you and Starbucks) offering an open WiFi connection to the public to be on the lookout for report known "illegal images" and "obscene" cartoons and drawings. The reporting requirement extends to cover social networking sites, ISPs, and email providers. Failing to dutifully report what you've seen (or haven't seen but are unwittingly complicit in) could leave your data seized and in debt from fines of up to $300,000. This isn't a call to arms, however...

On the surface we're not happy in the least at the prospect of being required by law to do what is an ethical imperative in the first place. Besides, laws are already in place that require ISPs to report child pornography sightings to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Given that the Act was rushed through under a procedure reserved for noncontroversial legislation, never voted on in committee, and was never posted (in its modern October 10th form) for public review, well, let's just say our distrust of the Nanny State has peaked. Ron Paul, care to comment on your dissenting vote before this heads to the Senate?

SAFE Act of 2007 (summary)
Voter roll call

Update: Here is the SAFE Act [H.R.3791.EH] as it was passed. At least it does not seem to require proactive monitoring of data or persons crossing your pipes. Post updated to reflect new information.

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House overwhelmingly passes SAFE Act on obscene images -- Ron Paul dissents to save us from ourselves?