Deleting Online Predators bill revived

Ironically, the same politicians who want to ban MySpace from schools and libraries can't turn away from the sites massive numbers of young voters.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

After espousing the evils of MySpace, some presidential hopefuls are now busily posting their personal profiles in order to increase their exposure, reports eSchool News.

In spite of last year's vote in favor of forcing libraries and schools who receive federal funding to nix MySpace, Republicans Duncan Hunter of California and Ron Paul of Texas have created personal profiles on a special section that MySpace has dedicated to the 2008 presidential election.

"It is kind of ironic," said Melanie Anderson, the American Library Association's assistant director for government relations. "We do think it's interesting how many of the same politicians who support DOPA are using social-networking web sites in their own campaigns."

The Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA) did not reach a vote in the Senate. The bill would have amended the Communications Act of 1934 to require schools and libraries receiving federal eRate discounts on their telecommunications and Internet services to enforce a policy that prohibits minors' access to commercial social-networking web sites or chat rooms.

The irony is that if DOPA had passed, profiles of candidates couldn't be accessed at schools and libraries.

Walking the tightrope between freedom of speech and public safety, lawmakers are having a tough time legislating the Internet. Never the less, a DOPA clone bill is already in the works. This bill intends to curb online child pornography by calling for stiffer penalties for service providers who fail to report pornography depicting minors.

"The Deleting Online Predators Act ... says to schools and libraries that, as we upgrade protections for kids online in the home, we also do them in public spaces--to consistently and across-the-board deny opportunities to the estimated 50,000 sexual predators who are online at any one time," Kirk said in a recent speech on the House floor.

Critics of DOPA say that it's much more effective to teach students how to use the Internet safely and responsibly, and leave the decision whether to block access to these sites at school to local administrators.

The new proposal does allow use of MySpace and other social-networking web sites "for an educational purpose with adult supervision." But many educators believe this exception means little from a practical standpoint.

"While the educational provision certainly makes the legislation better," said Jon Bernstein, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbyist for education and ed-tech groups, "the real question is, how realistic is it?"
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