masthead-highres

Friday, January 21, 2005

Glenn Reynolds: Regulator?

Glenn Reynolds seems to be calling for governmental regulation of free speech.

If the government can regulate a nonprofit's ability to say it believes that one in five children have been sexually solicited online, then that same government can regulate a nonprofit's way of speaking about Social Security reform, the war on terrorism, or whether low-carb or low-fat diets are the healthiest ways to lose weight.

Apparently, in Glenn's World, nonprofits may only commit government-approved speech. Rules applied retroactively.

Does Glenn know how much scrutiny nonprofits receive? Does he know how much time and financial resources nonprofits already put into meeting regulatory requirements? (I suspect not.) He writes, "Nonprofits need to be getting the kind of financial-accounting scrutiny that businesses get." What leads him to believe that they don't now? Does he think a nonprofit's CEO can't go to jail for signing a false tax return (the non-profit's equivalent of a for-profit's financial statement)?

Is he aware that a typical national nonprofit (to be "national" in this context all you have to do is have "please donate" on a website that is accessible from all fifty states, even if no one donates) is regulated by nearly fifty different government agencies?

Glenn says, "Some readers may think I'm not serious about these proposals. I am." Maybe I missed them, but I didn't actually see any actual suggestions for what regulations he would change, where he thinks enforcement has been lax and what he would do about it.

Glenn's post, by the way, rebutted itself. He quoted a Wall Street Journal columnist who challenged the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's sex stat while (oddly) claiming no one would challenge the (supposedly false) sex stat. But both the columnist and Glenn Reynolds complained about it. The Wall Street Journal and Instapundit's 150,000 readers a day versus the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Is something unfair about this? And even if one side or the other has a larger audience (which?), is not the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children entitled to its opinion?

And, speaking of that opinion, Glenn calls for regulation based on the supposed inaccuracy of a statistic that might not be inaccurate. Does Professor Reynolds not receive spam? Tell me that one in five children who receive e-mail have NOT been sexually solicited online. Probably repeatedly. Unless you narrowly define "solicitation" exclusively as one-on-one solicitations for in-person sexual activity and make a case that Triple XXX porn site solicitations don't count -- an argument made neither by the Wall Street Journal columnist nor by Glenn -- the stat on the face of it appears reasonable. There is just too much porn spam out there for kids not to be receiving it in droves.

But the point of this post is not to take a position on how many kids get sexual solicitations online -- just to say that the government should not regulate the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's right to say what it thinks on the matter, just as Glenn and the Wall Street Journal should be able to say what they think, unfettered by regulation.

When perhaps the nation's #1 blogger calls for government regulation of the content of public policy speech, one wonders: Will a call for government regulation of blog content be next? Sometimes bloggers post things that -- horrors! -- readers disagree with. Should someone go to jail?

Quick, somebody, call the regulators. We're all going to jail.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:08 AM

Copyright The National Center for Public Policy Research