Last night the US House of Representatives passed Resolution 5319, or the Deleting Online Predators Act, (DOPA for short), by 410 to 15 votes. While intention behind this act is a good one, (protecting children from online predators), the implementation is horrendous.
The act proposes to “protect” children by cutting off federal funding for schools and libraries that do not block access of minors to a list of websites to be published by the FCC. The FCC is to come up with this list taking into consideration the extent to which each 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.’.
In layman’s terms this means: Blogs, Wikis, Amazon, Yahoo!, Newsvine, Digg, the new Netscape.com, and many other valuable sites. Some sites may be spared because they’re not-for-profit, (Wikipedia perhaps), but you never know.
If this resolution is signed into law and withstands legal challenges, (I’m sure there will be some, and honestly I don’t know as it will stand up), it means that not only will children not be able to access useless time-wasting sites from school, but also an incredible number of very useful and valid resources.
For me it means that if I were to add interactivity to the Ballet it could be banned! Most of my users come from school. In fact the site is used as a reference for some courses.
Children do need some form of protection online the same as they do in the “real” world but this act is not the answer. What should be done is children need to be educated. After all, you don’t forbid your child from ever leaving the house, but you do teach him or her to never talk to strangers.
For an excellent resource, from a teacher who is very web-aware, check out Vicki A. Davis’ blog. She goes through the act and tears apart the good, bad, and the ugly of it.
If you want to do something act fast. This Resolution went from being introduced to passed in just over a month. There is an online petition at saveyourspace.org to try to stop this bill in the senate. If you feel, (as I do), that this bill is wrong, go and sign it and maybe something will happen.