Thursday, August 03, 2006

That's DOPA...

posted by Scott Roche

The House approved the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA) on Wednesday of last week. Their hope (other than making good political hay) is to prevent children from being stalked/harassed/predated on at sites like It would require schools and libraries that receive Federal funding for technology/communication (called E-rate funding) to provide protection from pedophiles.

This is a good thing right? Well protecting children certainly is, but I don't think DOPA will do a very good job of it. What it will do is end up blocking access to sites used for educational purposes. Rather than blocking sites based on content (not a bad idea, but not easy either) it will block them based on technology that the page uses (boneheaded move). This could end up blocking access to things like Wikipedia and school blogs.

Lynne Bradly Director of the Office of Government Relations for the American Library Association wrote this most excellent letter detailing why this is stupid. She said it better than I ever could.

Look parents out there reading this, it's our job as the protectors of our own children to educate them on why putting our address and semi-naked pictures of ourselves out on the internet is asking for trouble. Do that. Don't rely on the government to protect your children. They do a bad job of it. That is all.


At 9:33 AM, Blogger codemorse said...

In law school I wrote my dissertation paper on censorship in school libraries, and the topic was pretty damn fascinating.

Essentially, school students under the age of majority have less of a right to accessing information through school facilities.

If the school provides information (books, sites) and then withdraws that information based on ascertainable and unacceptable personal bias, then it may be unconstitutional, but if the school chooses not to provide the information at the start, or to remove it for "good cause," (and preventing pedophilia is a HECK of a good cause) there isn't much you can do about it except appeal.

The issue of the blocking software operating free of concern for content makes this interesting. If students are prevented from accessing "acceptable" educational sites, the law might be deemed to constrictive for practical purposes and sent back to factor in those concerns.

Awesome letter.


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