Senate bill 49 - sponsored by Senator Ted Stevens - is an updated version of legislation introduced last year known as the Deleting Online Predators Act - or DOPA. Last year's legislation - and this year's similar Senate bill - look to restrict all institutions that receive federal funding or subsidies for internet access - including most schools and public libraries - to block social networking websites or chat rooms as defined by...
the Commission [which] shall take into consideration the extent to which a website--Now I can't disagree with the other portion of the bill that states that
`(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.'.
(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;but I certainly can disagree with the option of simply blocking all of those sites from the eyes of school children and library users - particularly of library users.
(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.
School children typically are blocked from most of those website already. My school, for example, doesn't block Blogger, but we do block LiveJournal, Xanga, MySpace, Facebook and many other sites. But the blocking of these sites at libraries does mean that adults - typically adults of more limited socio-economic means - will be blocked from performing totally legal actions.
Senator Stevens - from my limited knowledge of him - doesn't seem like a man whose heart is in the wrong place, but he does seem like one who should, perhaps, restrict his actions to areas where he doesn't come off sounding like a complete and total boob.
Of course, it looks like at least one of the folks at Wikipedia are doing something to shift the concept of Wikipedia - a website that many have theorized might fall under the jurisdiction of Stevens's legislation - from one that is editable by anyone anywhere with complete anonymity into a slightly more formally-lead online encyclopedia, something that teachers might even start allowing as a citation for scholarly research.
The new project is called Citizendium.org and will see all content overseen by a series of subject-specific experts. The website is just getting started, and it's at the point where there is little enough information that it's not yet ready to nearly be what it could become, but it'll be interesting to watch as it begins to grow...
Good luck, folks, with your continued use of the magical, tube-filled interweb.