In short, my answer is no. Aside from my own reservations about excessive government control and spending, I believe that such a course of action would be a practical and technical impossibility. To begin with, do we need regulation of such sites in the first place? Sure, there are predators and phonies out there but these things exist in the non-virtual world as well. As a society we have not found it necessary to regulate and control every possible area where someone can be harmed, and I don’t think that such regulation is required for social networking sites. While there are penalties and agencies in place for when things like identity theft occur there is no overall watchdog like the FCC to keep track of every transaction or claim that is made in the retail world. If one cites pedophiles trolling chat rooms or social networking sites for young prey as reason to regulate the virtual world, I think that the example of children in parks is a good counterpoint. Certainly, those intent on doing harm to young children would be quick to survey playgrounds and the like, but as a society we have acknowledged that and taken proactive measures against such things happening. Because it is not even close to physically possible to have police or guards in every single high risk area, parents either personally supervise their children or educate them to beware of potential predators. By taking on such personal responsibility many parents have undoubtedly reduced the number of cases in which the police might have to be called in. I think that in the case of children using the internet a little education and vigilance on the part of parents can go a long way.
Furthermore, the cost of an agency similar to the FCC would be astronomical. The organization itself estimates that it will need $338,900,000 in order to operate in 2009.( http://www.fcc.gov/Reports/fcc2009budget.html) While I’m not an economist or budget expert by any means I can only figure that an agency charged with policing a medium as vast as the internet, notwithstanding the already substantial portion of users on social networking sites, would be even greater. And for what? So that the government might be able and more proactive in perusing our personal information? I’m completely supportive of taking a hard line against pedophiles, identity thieves, and other web criminals but I am not willing to give up my privacy so that (merely for argument’s sake, not seriously) some bureaucrat can try to determine whether or not my favorite movies listed on facebook constitute a risk to children, or maybe even the Federal Government.
I lived in China for 4 months and I can say first hand that intense monitoring of the internet by the government leads to nothing good, unless you’re speaking in terms of state control. While I wasn’t too annoyed by the sites or searches I couldn’t go to (I’d already seen pictures of the tank in Tiananmen Square so I wasn’t disappointed when that was denied), I knew from speaking with an IT Security expert beforehand that my traffic was being monitored and that is just creepy if nothing else. Additionally, all of this monitoring slows internet traffic down and with so many users the censors (even if they are primarily digital) just can’t keep up, resulting in a less enjoyable experience for all. I think my position is pretty clear and I might speak with a little more passion since I’ve experienced intrusive monitoring, but where do you stand on government regulation of social networking sites? While I’m not an alarmist or paranoid, I would also want to think about what slippery slope agreeing to such measures might lead to.