The “Deleting Online Predators Act” or DOPA, is scary, to say the least. Yes, grown-ups should protect kids from bad people. Yes, bad people shouldn’t have access to kids, even in digital form. However, DOPA isn’t the way to do it. Here are a few snippets (taken from here):
“… and `(II) protects against access by minors without parental authorization to a commercial social networking website or chat room …”
OK. That’s like everything these days. That can mean … gee … Amazon, Yahoo, Flickr, Runescape, EVERY forum/chat room, even potentially some library websites (the ones that allow commenting and discussion). That’s bad.
“…Within 120 days after the date of enactment of the Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006, the Commission shall by rule define the terms `social networking website’ and `chat room’ for purposes of this subsection …”
That’s bad too, since Congress thinks “the internets” are made of “tubes.”
“… In determining the definition of a social networking website, the Commission shall take into consideration the extent to which a website– `(i) is offered by a commercial entity; `(ii) permits registered users to create an on-line profile that includes detailed personal information; `(iii) permits registered users to create an on-line journal and share such a journal with other users; `(iv) elicits highly-personalized information from users; and `(v) enables communication among users …”
Again, think of your library’s digital services (ok – not every library is doing these things. But some are, and many others are thinking about and discussing these types of digital initiatives): Flickr access to library programs, the budding Myspace page that’s connecting teens to the library, the communication taking place even within library websites, the online book discussion forums, the teen gaming blogs that allow user-to-user communication, etc, etc. etc. This bill – if it becomes law – has the potential to revert a library’s digital space (the libraries that depend on federal funding, anyway) back into nothing more than a virtual brochure for the library. That’s bad.
DOPA? I say DOPEY. Hopefully the Senate (or at least the Supreme Court) is a bit more intelligent about this issue.