Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act: DOPA Jr, DOPA Extra, or Just Dopey

Senator Ted Stevens, who last entered our radar screen when he described the internet as a series of tubes, has introduced Senate Bill 49 which appears to encompass everything we objected to about DOPA, plus more. DOPA, after passing with an overwhelming majority in the House then died from stagnation in the Senate with the end of the Congressional session.Though some are calling it DOPA, JR, it might be more aptly name DOPA Extra since it goes well beyond DOPA.

The Bill's stated purpose is, "To amend the Communications Act of 1934 to prevent the carriage of child pornography by video service providers, to protect children from online predators, and to restrict the sale or purchase of children's personal information in interstate commerce." It is broken down into three sections"

Title 1: Requires that those distributing adult online content not include the adult content on their homepage and that each page of the site include a warning that it contains sexually explicit content. It only applies to content producers in the US and does not cover content producers distributing pornography from overseas. So, the thought seems good, the execution may be lacking.

Title 2: Which is very much like DOPA. In fact it is titled Deleting On-line Predators 2007. It limits access to social networks in schools (only those receiving Federal subsidies via the E-Rate Program ) and seems to encompass the same sites as DOPA, everything from MySpace to Wikipedia; additionally the schools would be required to monitor, or perhaps track, the online activities of students if not supervised by faculty. Also included in this section is a mandate for the FTC to set up a site to warn of the dangers of social networking and interactive sites.

My original objections to DOPA still stand: The Internet is a wonderful source of knowledge and learning for children; restricting this will not eliminate on-line predators.

Title 3: Is about protecting the privacy of children. It makes it illegal for anyone to purchase or sell private data about someone they know to be a child. Can't object to that.

As noted previously, MySpace is set to introduce Zephyr, to alert parents about the ages and other information their children are using on their social networking profiles. Although it seems that MySpace has been unable to find the technology to verify ages of users, it seems that Anheuser-Busch has age verification on Bud-TV visitors. Perhaps they should share their toys.

Andy Carvin at PBS who is covering this extensively and impressively points to GovTrack.us, a legistlative website "independently tracking the US government" where you can subscribe via RSS and track it yourself. This is a fascinating site.

Linda Braun at YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) provides in PDF, 30 Positive Uses os Social Networking Compilation plus 1.

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