The Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA)

The Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA) is legislation that has been introduced in the U.S. Congress that aims to restrict school and library access to social networking sites. Last week, it passed by an overwhelming majority in the House, and is now making its way to the Senate. If passed in the Senate, DOPA would likely go into effect.

DOPA proposes that all schools and libraries who receive E-Rate funding for their internet access would be required to block sites that meet the following criteria:

  1. If it is offered by a commercial entity.
  2. If it permits registered users to create an on-line profile that includes detailed personal information.
  3. If permits registered users to create an on-line journal and share such a journal with other users.
  4. If it elicits highly-personalized information from users.
  5. if enables communication among users.

E-Rate reimbursement is funding received by schools and libraries for the fees they incur through providing internet access. Already, some degree of filtering is required to receive the funding, which most schools and libraries comply with. Very few libraries can afford not to receive E-Rate funding, and even fewer schools can afford not to. Therefore, most will continue to comply with the government’s restrictions on online access in order to receive the neccessary funding.

Such legislation would not only block sites like MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, and other social networking sites, but it could potentially block sites such as AOL, Yahoo, and MSN as all three of those also meet the criteria. And not only would it limit children’s access, but also potentially adults’ who wish to use the filtered PCs.

Instead of making laws that restrict the things kids can do even more, why not invest more money into educating them about the dangers of online predators? Why not encourage parents to take responsibility and actually talk to their kids? Come on, we all know how kids are… if you make it so that they cannot access these sites, they will try their damndest to find away around it. Whether that means hacking the computers or network, or simply “studying” after school at a friend’s house to access the sites… they will do it.

The issue is going to the Senate, and it is rumoured that they will fast-track it into passage. I fear the direction that we are headed in – relying on “laws” to protect our children, and how easily many are willing to give up their rights for a false sense of security.

As a library employee, I am proud to be a part of an organization (ALA) that staunchly opposes such legislation, and I am glad that I am lucky enough to be a part of a library who can afford to say “screw you” to the government and miss out on E-Rate discounts. However I am saddened that many libraries and schools across the country cannot afford to stand up for what they believe in and cannot afford not to receive the E-Rate discounts, for they must bend to the each and every whim of the government.

7 Comments

  1. […] Here’s what DOPA does according to this tech blog: […]

  2. […] Here’s what DOPA does according to this tech blog: […]

  3. zafarzafar07-31-2006

    Sites will change their tactics and get information one way or the other. Even all the newsgroups will be banned as they allow full user profile and interaction. Since google gives access to these groups (http://groups.google.com), so google will be out too!!

  4. […] The Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA) […]

  5. JuggoPopJuggoPop08-02-2006

    “If it is offered by a commercial entity.”
    There goes Nick Jr., Disney, and a plethra of other kid safe sites… not to mention 90% of the internet that is “owned” by a company, no matter how small. My site would be blocked on this alone.

    “If permits registered users to create an on-line journal and share such a journal with other users.”
    There goes the wealth of information provided by blogging. I can only imagine the amount of research material that will be tossed out the window with that one.

    “If it elicits highly-personalized information from users.”
    hmmm… would IP address (including real life location) and browser information fall under this? I mean that information is very personal to the current user… we could block every site online with this one.

    How about email accounts? they ask for personal information… I guess no one can check thier email at a library if this passes.

    “if enables communication among users.”
    wow. that’s the dumbest shit ever.

    bye bye sites with shoutboxes and comment forms.

    how about this… I’d say 50% of communication is listening (or in online terms, reading)… so if the webmaster writes something and I read it, then both of us are users of the site and the site should be blocked. there goes 100% of the internet. (again)

    More then anything I feel sorry for adults that need to use the internet at the library. Using the library to send resumes online (for example) would be a thing of the past.

  6. Tony GTony G08-02-2006

    I can’t say that I agree totally with the DOPA, but guidelines ARE needed because of online PREDATORS that include some commercial sites. When companies like Zango that target kids with free online games and then hit them with pop up porn ads, then you have to create legislation to protect our children from this (see story: http://www.webpronews.com/topnews/topnews/wpn-60-20060727WantFreeGamesHaveSomePornToo.html).

    Yes, it will limit some research, but our children are more important than ANY research. And I’m speaking as a father of four. If the government is helping fund the library then they have the right to lay down some rules. I’m not in favor of Big Government Big Brother, but again, it’s because of the few that attack our children with JUNK that causes guidelines to become more constraint. And users of MySpace are a big culprit as well. There are plenty of cases where an online predator used a social networking site to draw in a young person. It’s sad, but reality. I agree with the comment that parents should be encouraged to talk with their children, however we all know that not all parents are going to do that. You can talk to them all you want, but you can’t always be with them to protect them, so I believe Internet restrictions are needed at Public Libraries.

  7. JulieJulie08-02-2006

    Blocking these sites isn’t going to stop predators. It just makes kids have to work harder to get on the websites.

    When I was in high school, they had filtering on the PCs at school. It filtered out a lot of good stuff along with the bad. Fortunately, I soon figured out a way to hack around the filters and access what I wanted. They haven’t changed much, and I’m sure kids these days know more about computers than I did back then.

    I work at a library. The role of a library is and always has been to provide free access to information for everyone, regardless of their race, class, etc. Blocking sites blocks access to information. That is something that I have a major, major problem with. While much of the US population does have a PC at home, not everyone does yet, especially in poorer areas.

    Parents sometimes drop their kids of here expect it to be a day care service, then they bitch when their kids check out books that they don’t feel are appropriate. We are not here to monitor your children, we are not here to tell them or adults what they can and cannot check out. If parents do not want their children to check out certain books, then they need to come up to the library and monitor them, and the same goes for the PCs. If the parents do not want their kids on MySpace, then watch what they do. I sure as heck will not be watching over anyone’s shoulders and telling them what sites they are allowed to go on.

    Acting in the place of the parent is NOT the role of the government. Like I said in the article, this legislation will do nothing to stop online predators. Kids will still access the sites, and the perverts will still be on there. This will only make it so that kids are even more sneaky, which makes it more dangerous. Passing such legislation won’t make things more secure or safe. What the hell is wrong with this country?!

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