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learning.now: at the crossroads of Internet culture & education with host Andy Carvin

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April272007

DOPA Jr. Gets a Rewrite - and a Little Sibling

There haven’t been too many headlines as of late regarding the latest incarnation of the Deleting Online Predators Act, which rose from the ashes in January. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t news to report.

Most of you who follow my blog have probably read some of my previous writings about the Deleting Online Predators Act, or DOPA. Just in case, though, let’s recap. Almost one year ago, a group of House Republicans proposed DOPA for the first time, which would require all schools and libraries receiving federal Internet subsidies to block access to interactive websites. “Interactive” was defined loosely, so it basically included every commercial provider of blogs, discussion groups, bulletin boards and social networks. Despite the outcry from many bloggers, educators and free speech advocates, the bill pased almost unanimously in the House, but then died when the Senate didn’t act upon it prior to the expiration of the 2006 congressional session.

Fast forward a few months to January of this year, and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) reintroduces the bill as Senate Bill 49, the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act. It had a new name, but it didn’t take long for people to start calling it DOPA Jr. The bill included the basic content of the previous version of DOPA, plus some other measures, such as requiring “consumer alerts” on interactive websites to warn parents against the dangers of online predators.

Since January, DOPA Jr. hasn’t made that much progress in the Senate. In fact, a recent story from ZDNet suggests that Sen. Stevens is actually getting ready to re-write parts of the bill to make it more likely to pass constitutional muster. He also acknowledged that commercial providers of social networks such as MySpace appeared to be making a good-faith effort to improve online safety measures.

“I’m pleased to hear about some new developments in the marketplace since that new bill was introduced,” Stevens said in a speech to the Computer & Communications Industry Association. “Several companies like MySpace have revised their policies and announced new initiatives.” Stevens also added that the revisions would put the bill “within the scope of the Constitution and not violate the First Amendment.”

Meanwhile, there’s been movement in the House of Representatives as well. Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL) and 12 other members of the House re-introduced the original version of DOPA as the Deleting Online Predators Act of 2007, or HR 1120 as its known. Since then, nearly 30 other members have signed on as co-sponsors, including a dozen or so who joined in earlier this week. Unlike the original DOPA, which was sponsored solely by Republicans, a small number of Democrats have signed onto the 2007 version, including Reps. Jim Matheson [D-UT], Mike McIntyre [D-NC] and Steve Israel [D-NY]. Many more Democrats would probably have to sign on in order for there to be serious movement, so it will be important to watch how many new co-sponsors they get in the coming months.

So what’s going to happen with these two new versions of DOPA? It’s hard to say. Given the large amount of support the legislation got last year in the House, it’s conceivable that it might make inroads in the lower chamber, particularly if more Democratic representatives co-sponsor it. The Senate, though, will probably be trickier, particularly since individual senators have more authority to slow down a piece of legislation than an individual House member typically does. In the meantime, we’ll just have to wait for the rewrite promised by Sen. Stevens. I’m sure there are lots of bloggers - myself included - eager to parse the details. -andy

Filed under : Policy

Responses

What I would like to see is a law mandating that legislators actually know something about what it is they’re trying to regulate and/or police before they dream up these half-baked schemes of theirs.

The same thing applies to the police as well—the Amero case and the literally criminal mismanagement by the UK police and Crown Prosecution Service with respect to Operation Ore merely proves my point.

Anytime that you can whip up protect the children or society hysteria it is amazing what you can pass through the American congress. though i must admit i can think of know academic reason anyone would need to go to myspace. the place has become the internet equivalent of a singles bar.

How is this different from all of the filters currently in place? I agree with technomage that legislators need to get more information before jumping on the bandwagon for change. When I was teaching, most of my students’ parents informed me that they trusted their kids and didn’t monitor their internet usage at home. Students would mock the schools’ computers for being slow and not allowing them on sites they used at home.

This is very tricky. Young people have embraced the social aspect of technology and use it in a totally different way than adults do, and it really scares them. There is a digital generation gap. My feeling is that while really young children may need filtering or guided Internet access, older teenagers need to learn the critical skills to use the Internet wisely the way it is. Legislation of this sort will not help in any way.

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