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House Passes Dopey, er, DOPA legislation

Steven Titch
July 27, 2006, 3:08pm

In a move designed to demonstrate they are "doing something" about on-line child predators, the House voted Thursday 410-15 to ban Amazon.com from schools and libraries. Yes, you read that right. The Delete Online Predators Act (DOPA) will do nothing to deal with the problem on line predation. For example, it has no provisions to encourage education about the risks of disclosing personal information on-line. DOPA orders schools and libraries receiving federal to block Internet access to any site with chat rooms and social networking features. It is another example of the "if it's popular and fun, then ban it" mentality toward cable TV, PC and online entertainment and applications that is sweeping Capitol Hill. Of these social networking sites, MySpace.com has the highest profile, but hundreds of others, including Amazon.com, that offer social networking functions. Heck, as Adam Thierer at the Progress & Freedom Foundation has pointed out, the entire Internet is a social networking site. TechDirt.com reports Rep. John Dingall (D-Mich.), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, was one of the 15 House members who realized the sheer uselessness of the bill. "So now we are on the floor with a piece of legislation poorly thought out, with an abundance of surprises, which carries with it that curious smell of partisanship and panic, but which is not going to address the problems. This is a piece of legislation which is going to be notorious for its ineffectiveness and, of course, for its political benefits to some of the members hereabout," Dingall told colleagues. TechDirt further writes:
DOPA...doesn't actually protect children at all. It's incredibly broad, and would effectively ban things including Amazon.com and LinkedIn from schools -- hardly the places where "online predators" hang out. In fact, one of the bill's sponsors uses Facebook as one of the example sites he's worried about, despite the fact that Facebook is a closed system that you can't just sign up for without a school affiliation. Furthermore, this is a "head in the sand" type bill. Do these politicians really believe that by banning these types of sites at school kids won't use them any more? They'll either get around the filters or will keep using the same sites in other places where they're not under the watchful eye of an adult. In other words, this could make them a lot more vulnerable. Instead of trying to hide these services from kids (only making them more attractive to kids), why not fund better education programs that teach kids (and parents!) about the risks of being online so that those kids know how to deal with things if they are approached by an online predator? Pretending those predators don't exist doesn't protect the kids half as well as simply teaching those kids how to respond to a questionable approach.


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