Republican bill would ban social networking from schools, libraries

DOPA - the Deleting Online Predators Act - addresses concerns over MySpace by banning a broad range of interactive sites.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

Schools and libraries would effectively have to ban students and patrons from MySpace and other social networking sites if a Republican sponsored bill becomes law, News.com is reporting.

Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican, ... and fellow Republicans, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, on Wednesday endorsed new legislation (click here for PDF) that would cordon off access to commercial Web sites that let users create public "Web pages or profiles" and also offer a discussion board, chat room, or e-mail service.

That's a broad category that covers far more than social-networking sites such as Friendster and Google's Orkut.com. It would also sweep in a wide range of interactive Web sites and services, including Blogger.com, AOL and Yahoo's instant-messaging features, and Microsoft's Xbox 360, which permits in-game chat.

Fitzpatrick's bill is called the Deleting Online Predators Act, or DOPA, and it's part of a concerted effort by Republicans to connect with suburban voters, as polls indicate that Republicans will be punished in the polls in November.

"My bill is both timely and needed and will be very well-accepted, certainly by the constituents I represent," Fitzpatrick said.

Backers of the proposal argue that it's necessary to protect children. Hastert said on Wednesday that it "would put filters in schools and libraries so that kids can be protected... We've all heard stories of children on some of these social Web sites meeting up with dangerous predators. This legislation adds another layer of protection."

Under DOPA libraries, elementary and secondary schools must prohibit "access to a commercial social-networking Web site or chat room through which minors" may access sexual material or be "subject to" sexual advances. Those may be made available to an adult or a minor with adult supervision "for educational purposes."

Editorial standards