As Techdirt readers know only too well, doing things “for the children” is a perfect excuse to pass all kinds of ridiculous laws that would otherwise be thrown out without a thought. For example, back in 2013, we wrote about attempts to pass legislation in Russia that would ban swearing on the Internet. It was framed as an amendment to an existing law called “On the Protection of Children” that introduced a blacklist designed to block access to information on drugs, suicide and child pornography. Now the head of Roskomnadzor, the body that oversees website-blocking in Russia, has a bold proposal for protecting children from all the Internet’s possible harms. It takes the “for the children” logic to its logical conclusion, as TorrentFreak explains:
In a Q&A session with AIF.ru, Alexander Zharov spoke on a number of issues, including online safety, especially for children. Naturally, kids need to be protected but the Rozcomnadzor chief has some quite radical ideas when it comes to them using the Internet.
“I believe that a child under 10-years-old should not go online. To use [the Internet] actively they need to start even later than that,” Zharov said.
He went on to say:
“Some parents are proud of the fact that their three-year-old kid can deftly control a tablet and use it to watch cartoons. It is nothing good, in my opinion. A small child will begin to consider the virtual world part of the real world, and it changes their perception of reality.”
This is presumably just Zharov’s personal opinion, not a foreshadowing of official policy — it’s hard to believe the view that children under 10 years old should stay off the Net would ever be enshrined in a law. Then again, given some of the things that Russian officials have been suggesting, such as disconnecting Russia from the global Internet, you never know. And once people start invoking “for the children,” common sense tends to go straight out of the window.