Online Social Networks

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Social Networking Research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project

See Adam Thierer's report for the Progress & Freedom Foundation, Social Networking and Age Verification: Many Hard Questions; No Easy Solutions (PDF) and an article in Forbes, "Why MySpace Is a Safe Place."


Online Social Networking and Intellectual Freedom (HTML Script; December 7, 2006; Note: The PowerPoint, immediately below, is based on the script, and accompanies the podcast.)

Online Social Networking and Intellectual Freedom (PPT; December 6, 2006)

Online Social Networking and Intellectual Freedom (Links to Podcast; December 1, 2006)

Online Social Networking and Intellectual Freedom is another in an ongoing series of podcasts created by the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom to discuss important intellectual freedom topics. (Audio available only; visuals soon; see also Online Social Networking and Intellectual Freedom (PPT) and Online Social Networking and Intellectual Freedom (HTML Script) Note: The PowerPoint is based on the script, and accompanies the podcast.

Social Networking and DOPA (November 13, 2006)

Teens & Social Networking in School & Public Libraries: A Toolkit for Librarians & Library Workers (October 5, 2006)

Deleting Online Predators Act

On Wednesday, July 28, 2006, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the amended H.R. 5319, the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA), by a vote of 410-15.  The legislation did not make it out of the Senate.

Background information about this issue can be viewed on the ALA Web site located at:

DOPA and the Participation Gap (PDF)

Resolution in Support of Online Social Networks (PDF)

House Misfires On Internet Safety (August 1, 2006)

"If anything, schools and libraries should be encouraging kids to use blogging and social networking services. They have enormous educational potential for such things as writing, interviewing, collaborative research, media literacy, and photography, but even if not used as part of a formal supervised education program, they encourage kids to communicate and reach out to others."—Larry Magid

Why the Delete Online Predators Act Won't Delete Predatory Behavior (August 7, 2006)

""DOPA has another downside, too: It may increase our 'digital divide.' Lower-income kids may have their only Internet access at schools or in libraries. And even through networking sites have risks, they have positive aspects as well: Students can meet other students with similar interests in hobbies, sports and other activities, trade advice about colleges, and discuss issues such as divorce, depression, being a gay teen, and more.

We should think carefully before, in effect, forcing low-income kids alone off social networking sites. MySpace is not supposed to be a gated community—at least in that sense. One of its advantages is that rich and poor kids can mix there.

When we choose how to use our resources to combat online predators, we should focus on two things: Educating kids, and trapping predators. Kids need to know that it's never safe to meet a stranger—even an online 'friend' who says he's a kid—except in a public place, and that if the 'kid' turns out to be an adult, they may be in grave danger. And predators need to know that if they troll for victims, the chances are good that they will meet up with the police or FBI instead."

Why DOPA Is Bad for Libraries

ALA has maintained five key points regarding Deleting the Online Predators Act (DOPA):

1. The terminology used in DOPA is still overly broad and unclear. As written, this legislation would block access to many valuable Web sites that utilize this type of communication, Web sites whose benefits outweigh their detriments.
2. DOPA still ignores the value of Interactive Web applications. New Internet-based applications for collaboration, business and learning are becoming increasingly important, and young people must be prepared to thrive in a work atmosphere where meetings take place online, where online networks are essential communication tools.
3. Education, not laws blocking access, is the key to safe use of the Internet. Libraries and schools are where kids learn essential information literacy skills that go far beyond computer instruction and web searching. Indeed, DOPA would block usuage of these sites in the very environments where librarians and teachers can instruct students about how to use all kinds of applications safely and effectively and where kids can learn how to report and avoid unsafe sites.
4. Local decision making—not federal law—is the way to solve the problems addressed by DOPA. Such decisions are already being made locally, in part due to the requirements of the Children's Online Protection Act (CIPA) for E-rate recipients. This additional requirement is not necessary.
5. DOPA would restrict access to technology in the communities that need public access most. H.R. 5319 still, as presently drafted, would require libraries and schools receiving E-rate discounts through the Universal Service Program to block computer users from accessing Interactive Web applications of all kinds, thereby limiting opportunities for those who do not have Internet access at home.  This unfairly denies the students and library users in schools and libraries in the poorest communities from accessing appropriate content and from learning how best to safely manage their own Internet access in consultation with librarians and teachers.

For the latest news on online social networks, visit the IFACTION Archive  Review IFACTION Archive. For the latest news on legislation affecting libraries, vist the ALA Washington Office's blog, District Dispatch.



ALA President Leslie Burger on DOPA Passage in House (July 27, 2006)

URGENT ACTION ALERT: Call Representatives TODAY and ask them to oppose DOPA (July 25, 2006)

House Holds Hearings on Social-Networking Websites (July 14, 2006)

The Pandora's Box of Social Networking (May 31, 2006)

"The Internet is changing how we live and interact with one another—it’s enabled great advancements in distance learning and collaborative learning communities. HR 5319 would squash kids’ first attempts at becoming acquainted with applications that will soon be essential workplace tools."—Bernadette Murphy, Communications Director, American Library Association, Washington Office, quoted in this article."

House Bill Would Force Libraries to Block Social Websites (May 9, 2006)

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Frequently Requested Resources

ALA Wiki on Online Social Networking

USA Librarians

Resolutions Supporting Online Social Networks

Resolution in Support of Online Social Networks (PDF)

Contacting Your Legislators

ALA Legislative Action Center

Outside Resources

Deleting the Online Predators Act  (text of DOPA)

For Assistance

For more information on Online Social Networks, contact Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Acting Director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom; Telephone: 800-545-2433, ext. 4224; Fax: 312-280-4227;


Safety Resources for Young People

Resources on young people's safety on the Internet, including cyberbullying, can be found here: Stop CyberbullyingCyberbullying, and Netsafe, developed by the Illinois Library Association, is a resource on how to use the Internet safely.

C-Span videotaped of State of the Net's (January 31, 2007) panel "Child Safety on Web 2.0: Who Should Protect Our Kids?"

See also "Warehousing Consumers' Online Travels to Catch Child Predators and Terrorists: Privacy Implications?" October 5, 2006; "Should Congress Decree Social Networking and Chat Sites Teen-Free Zones?" September 21, 2006; and "Content Ratings for the Web? Legislating a 'Sexually Explicit' Label for Web Sites" September 15, 2006.

See also A collection of one-pagers that details the various NGO and industry efforts to protect children while online, including ALA's Education and the Involvement of Caring Adults Key to Protecting Children Online (PDF).



In her article Technology gives teens myriad ways to torment, Maria Elena Baca notes that "bullying is no longer the domain of the biggest or strongest. In a world of text messaging, picture phones and social networking Web sites, the keypad can be mightier than the fist. Name-calling. Vicious rumor-mongering. Threats of violence. The harassment can spread and persevere online and be printed and passed around."

"School officials say the problem is growing, and that it's difficult to prevent or police because they can't restrict student speech and laws and legal precedents are murky."

For resources addressing this issue, Stop CyberbullyingSafety Resources for Young PeopleFreedom of Expression in Schools, Cyberbullying vs. Free Speech, State Moves Against Cyberbullying but Constitutional Issues Loom, Schools Move to Stop Spread of 'Cyberbullying', Bullies Upload Abusive Tactics Online, Students Seek Law against BulliesNew Frontier: CyberbullyingKat's Learning Post about Technology (primarily on cyberbullying), States Pushing for Laws to Curb Cyberbullying, and In Memory of Ryan Patrick Halligan.

In Chris Crutcher's letter to a school superintendent regarding his short story "A Brief Moment in the Life of Angus Bethune," described by Crutcher to someone who hadn't read the story as being about "a fat kid with gay parents," Crutcher notes:

[W]hen it comes to the question of removing material that addresses homosexuality, maybe there should be some considerations that land closer to home. It makes no more sense to say that stories like "Angus" or "Am I Blue" or any of Brent Hartinger's or Alex Sanchez's stories 'promote' homosexuality than it does to say that Sophocles' Oedipus Rex promotes sexual fantasies about one's mother, or that The Bible promotes crucifying our heroes. Those are simply things that happen in the stories that are up for discussion.

Crutcher wrote that one day we will reflect on "the way we have treated gays and the issue of homosexuality at the opening of the twenty first century, in the same way we now look back at the beginning of the civil rights era and wonder how such large portions of our population could have pandered to such bigotry."

We will look back at ourselves, Crutcher said, and "be forced to say, in the privacy of our own thoughts, whether we were part of the problem or part of the solution."  "If you're an educator, there will be no in-between," he said.

You have teachers in your schools willing to take on these subjects and work with kids on the qualities of understanding and acceptance. Where that is done well, instances of bullying always decrease. Bullying is a top-ten hot button item in schools these days.