The Electronic Frontier Foundation is leading a grass-roots efforts to block passage of the Deleting Online Predators Act. Passed by the House earlier this year, the bill is up for Senate action now that Congress has returned for a final session before the elections.
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."
EFF is offering an online form for citizens to write senators about their objections.
Cutting off social networking's legitimate uses is bad enough, but DOPA would also give the FCC wide latitude to define the block-list. It potentially covers IM, blogs, wikis, discussion forums, and other sites far beyond MySpace. Despite its limited exceptions, DOPA will restrict children's and adults' online research, distance learning, and use of community forums, among other activities.
Two Congressionally commissioned studies say education, not blocking access, is the most effective way to keep kids safe online. What's more, several new surveys indicate that education is already working: online sexual solicitation rates are reportedly dropping (or were overestimated to begin with), while kids typically ignore solicitations or block the offending user. By hampering educators' abilities to teach such basic Internet safety skills, DOPA may put children more at risk.