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July 27, 2006

The House Passes DOPA

The House passed DOPA today by a vote of 410-15.  DOPA, or Deleting Online Predators Act, is the response by Congress to sexual predators using the Internet and social-networking sites to prey on children.  Protecting children is a worthy goal, although critics view the act as poorly written and overly broad to accomplish the task.  The act gives the FCC power to define social networking sites and chat rooms which then would be rendered inaccessible to minors at schools and libraries that receive federal money.  This, of course, does nothing to stop predators from gaining access to social networking sites other than to bring more attention to the fact they are present on the sites.  It will also annoy students who will look for ways using their laptops to gain access anyway while at school, and do nothing to stop them while they are not at school.

Social networking sites such as MySpace, FaceBook, and others are magnets for teens and pre-teens as a way to connect with others like them.  NewsCorp, the owner of MySpace, was taken by surprise at the popularity of the site which has now become one of the most heavily visited sites on the net. Critics charge that the bill is so broad that it could encompass most any web site that allows people to set up public profiles.  This includes sites such as Amazon, Yahoo, and others.  The FCC will have to decide how broadly or narrowly the characteristics of offending web sites, assuming the bill passes the Senate.  As this is an election year and focus groups show that this resonates with suburban voters, there will be pressure.  The text in this bill, in fact, made it to the House floor without even the benefit of a committee hearing.  It would have likely been a different story sans voter accountability.  Congress claims that it doesn't want to see regulations on the net, hence the negative votes on net neutrality.  If there was a way to combine net neutrality concepts with a save the children theme, maybe by claiming that without net neutrality AT&T will speed vile programming from FOX and Comedy Central on demand and at faster online speeds to children....

DOPA is HR 5318.  The story is in CNET.

July 27, 2006 | Permalink

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