crap, filtering bill on the move

Straight form the Center for Democracy and Technology: “The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would force schools and libraries to block chat and social networking sites as a condition of receiving federal E-rate funding.” This bill is also known as DOPA, also known as bad news for libraries. Putting the Federal Communications Commission in charge of what can and can’t be accessed in libraries is total madness. Granted, this is the same as CIPA where only libraries who receive universal service support have to be subjected to it. The phrase “harmful to minors” which is not a legally defined term will be the standard for what gets filtered under this legislation. I guess I have just a few questions

1. If CIPA didn’t fix this problem — and recall, it was supposed to — why will this bill succeed where it failed? Have filters gotten better? Have the “bad guys” gotten dumber?
2. Doesn’t this create a class system of libraries where the ones who can forego federal funding can make choices that the ones who cannot are unable to make? Isn’t this sort of anti-American?
3. Doesn’t DOPA not solve any problem at all if it’s not applied to all schools and libraries and, in fact, the entire Internet, really? Does anyone have any data on where teens access the Internet besides school and the library? Is anyone doing anything about those places?
4. Isn’t having the FCC publish an annual list of chatrooms and social networking sites that “have been shown to allow sexual predators easy access to personal information of, and contact with, children” just creating a how to list for pedophiles and, as such, totally counterproductive?
5. Have any of you Representatives ever used a social networking site or a chat room?

11 thoughts on “crap, filtering bill on the move

  1. You don’t have to use a social networking site in order to know predators hang out on them. And ‘harmful to minors’ might not be a legally defined term but at least Congress can recognize the differences between adults and minors. Who knew politicians were smarter than librarians?

  2. Sadly, I think Greg has inadvertently answered all your questions:

    It doesn’t matter.

    People don’t want to analyze the problem, they just want a “decisive response” that feels like it has “teeth”. People elect Representatives. Representatives pass legislation. Some other people are forced to jump through hoops. The problem continues unabated. Repeat.

    Sorry, that’s glib. But stupidity makes me mad.

    The sad thing is that any resistance to wrong-headed, counterproductive half-measures such as this is perceived as being against fighting the problem… as if we *want* predators to pursue children.

    Sadder still is that wrong-headed, counterproductive half-measures such as this distract people from measures that might actually help the situation.

    Just be glad they didn’t decide to bulldoze all the nation’s parks and playgrounds… after all, predators are known to hunt minors there, too!

  3. Bills like this make me wonder how many bizarre bills were passed when telephone usage hit it big.

    I imagine conversations like this:

    “Oh my lord! Kids can use phones in libraries and public schools to contact evil doers? Someone pass an over-reaching and unhlepful law! Hurry!”

    “But ma’am, there are now pay phones on every street corner. What would be the point?”

    “Help! This evil doer wants to help pedophiles and satanists! Push that law through fast or or evil wins!”

  4. This’ll really help those IM Reference services.

    Need help from a librarian? You’ll have to go home.

    And will this make all Chat Reference illegal?

  5. The problem is that almost every site out there now has a discussion forum, and almost every web e-mail has an integrated chat feature (as per my understanding, both of these would be blocked).

    “Sorry miss, because you could conceivably chat on Gmail, we blocked it.”

    “Sorry about your Monster Magnet forum, sir, but you know, it’s against the law.”

    “Sorry Billy, but if you register with your library card will be blocked and your permissions suspended.”

  6. According to the text of the bill, sites that permit “registered users to create an on-line profile that includes detailed personal information” would be subject to regulation.
    Does anyone have a sense of how this legislation will effect a students’ ability to access and post on WikiPedia?

  7. Sigh… this society (read, our Congress and certain of the people who elected them) will never learn that it’s not possible to legislate desirable behavior.

  8. Sigh…(reading Cheryl’s post). It may not be possible to legislate desirable behaviour (although the US tax code is awash that provide incentives for behaviour considered desirable by the government), but it is certainly possible to legislate against undesirable behaviour. It’s pretty much the basis of our legal system. DOPA may fail in it’s goal, but passing laws is what legislatures do. They’re trying to address a devastating problem, but are in a quandry…How do we say “MySpace” and “Facebook” without saying “MySpace” and Facebook”? Thus, we get overly broad legislation because Congress can’t say precisely what it means.


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