Congress returns to vote on DOPA

Deleting Predators Online Act would protect kids, proponents say, but would block students from using most important aspects of Net, ed-tech pros say.

When Congress returns to session after Labor Day, one of the edtech items at the top of the agenda will be the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA), which purports to protect students by outright banning the use of virtually all modern Internet services, eSchoolNews reports. The House approved the bill 410 to 15 but it was running into strong opposition by ed-tech proponents in Senate debate.

Its critics say the bill--which requires schools to block access to social-networking web sites as a prerequisite to receiving valuable eRate discounts--is overly broad, redundant, and likely would prohibit educators from fully embracing the internet as a tool for teaching and learning. The proposal would force any school or library that receives government funding to block access to any web site that "allows users to create web pages or profiles that provide information about themselves and are available to other users, and offers a mechanism for communication with other users, such as a forum, chat room, eMail, or instant messenger."

Read it again. Any site that allows communication with other users, including email and instant messenger. It seems the Internet is safe for one thing and one thing only. Reading web pages. No creation. No collaboration. No communication. Now they're safe.

"This legislation is the first of its kind to address the growing use of social-networking sites by sexual predators," noted the bill's sponsor, Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., in July after a version of the legislation cleared the House. "Passage of the Deleting Online Predators Act demonstrates Congress's commitment to safeguarding America's families."

Leading ed-tech groups complain the measure would effectively end Internet access in schools.

"Under DOPA, people who use library and school computers as their primary conduits to the internet will be unfairly blocked from accessing some of the web's most powerful emerging technologies and learning applications," said ALA President Leslie Burger in a statement about the bill.

"We know students fail to engage as fully in learning at school when they are denied the communication tools and channels they use regularly in the world outside of school," said ISTE Chief Executive Officer Don Knezek. "We know, too, that students fail to develop, in school, safe and responsible patterns of technology use for the future when they are denied the opportunity to make decisions using judgment that will be required of them outside of school. H.R. 5319 forces a shortfall in student development by federal mandate."

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