NASCAR and other professional sports are littered with advertisements for beer and cars. But a proposed Indiana law aims to prevent children from seeing these advertisements if contained in an email. Which is it Indiana? Do you not want children to see ads for beer and cars, or do you want to host the Sprint Cup Series?
You might remember this bill from our February iAwful list. This law creates fines for anyone who sends an email advertisement to a minor in the registry for any product a minor cannot buy.
It plays out like this, suppose a minor subscribes to the email updates of NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Car. Everytime that minor recieves an email with a picture of Brad or the car, Miller Lite may vilate HB 1418 since there is an inherent ad for beer, sent to a minor.
But it doesn't stop with NASCAR. HB 1418 could impact other professional sports. Think of the last time you saw a football or baseball game without an ad for beer.
To stop HB 1418, last week I went to Indianapolis to testify against it.
First up at the hearing was the CEO of Unspam, the company bidding to run Indiana's registry. His was a sales pitch.
Then I had my change to talk about the real harm of this bill. I opened by analogizing the choice between "building fences around pools vs. teaching kids to swim," and "to protect our kids from all emails vs. teaching them to surf responsibly."
Then I explained how this bill would hurt Indiana businesses like TGI Friday's and Kroger, whose emails include ads for beer and wine. I added another great example: ads from auto dealers, since a minor cannot sign a purchase contract for cars in Indiana. These unintended consequence took many of the legislators by surprise. (You can read my written testimony here).
Then I went on to explain how the Unspam program is a mirage of state revenue and that Utah actually lost money with its Unspam registry program.
Finally, I explained how existing email services like Yahoo! Mail, AOL, and Hotmail already stop loads of spam and let parents set additional filters to eliminate unwanted emails.
In the end, no vote was taken, and legislators acknowledged that more discussion is required.
Nonetheless, I ask Indiana, if the goal is to prevent children from seeing ads for beer and cars, why would you let them watch NASCAR, let alone have the state host its events?