Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA)

The internet is changing our world. Every country/person tries to find his/her answer. In the US, a technology-unfriendly act popped up and surprised almost everybody.

DOPA (an act to amend the Communications Act of 1934 to require recipients of universal service support for schools and libraries to protect minors from commercial social networking websites and chat rooms) was voted on july 27e 2006 by the U.S. House of Representatives. The goal (protect the minors) will be realised by making “off-limits websites” inaccessible.

What exactly are off-limits websites?

DOPA does not define “chat rooms” or “social networking sites” and leaves that up to the Federal Communications Commission. It does offer the FCC some guidance on defining social networking sites (though not chat rooms):

“In determining the definition of a social networking Web site, the Commission shall take into consideration the extent to which a Web site–

(i) is offered by a commercial entity;

(ii) permits registered users to create an online profile that includes detailed personal information;

(iii) permits registered users to create an online journal and share such a journal with other users;

(iv) elicits highly personalized information from users; and

(v) enables communication among users.” (CNET News.com)

Congress Findings:

(1) sexual predators approach minors on the Internet using chat rooms and social networking websites, and, according to the United States Attorney General, one in five children has been approached sexually on the Internet;

(2) sexual predators can use these chat rooms and websites to locate, learn about, befriend, and eventually prey on children by engaging them in sexually explicit conversations, asking for photographs, and attempting to lure children into a face to face meeting; and

(3) with the explosive growth of trendy chat rooms and social networking websites, it is becoming more and more difficult to monitor and protect minors from those with devious intentions, particularly when children are away from parental supervision.

Conclusion:

The House has approved a bill that could shut MySpace, Amazon.com and other Web giants out of schools and libraries.

Even though politicians apparently meant to restrict access to MySpace, the definition of off-limits Web sites is so broad the bill would probably sweep in thousands of commercial Web sites. Tech lobbying groups and libraries are protesting the measure. (CNET News.com)

It’s true. The internet is changing our world. But I’m not convinced we should make MySpace, blogs, Flickr, YouTube etc. some sort of forbidden fruit for youngsters. Schools and libraries that accept federal funding will “protect” childeren. But what about surfing at home or online access through all those mobile devices that let you surf the internet?

Internet is an important part of our lives. All of us (adults, teachers, minors) must learn how to live with this new world. DOPA is an answer. But a bad one.

(Update 30/07) other sources: Techcrunch, Edwin Mijnsbergen, Wilfred Rubens.
[tags]DOPA, Deleting Online Predators Act[/tags]

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