Internet notes: Social networks meet DOPA
By 2006, more intrepid libraries were making MySpace their space in the hopes of attracting young users by bringing service to young people where they “live.”
MySpace and other social networking sites such as Facebook, Friendster and LiveJournal are, generally speaking, online “spaces” where people connect with others who share similar interests. People use them to share thoughts and ideas and to meet others, form communities, organize or make themselves heard. (Social networking tools also have business and educational applications and, because they facilitate collaboration among users, are the basic ingredients of Web 2.0.)
In July, the U.S. House of Representatives, taking note of several high-profile media stories about child predators who sometimes lurk at such online hangouts, overwhelmingly (410–15) approved the Deleting Online Predators Act. The bill, known as DOPA, would “require recipients of universal service support for schools and libraries to protect minors from commercial social networking Websites and chat rooms” by prohibiting users younger than 18 from visiting interactive sites on campus unless the session is for “educational use” or, in a public-library setting, with express parental approval or supervision.
DOPA died in the 2006 session of the Senate, but that chamber is again considering a law that jeopardizes E-rate funding for public libraries that do not limit minors’ use of social networking sites. Meanwhile, legislators in Illinois, Georgia and North Carolina have drafted DOPA-like bills that would restrict access by children and teens to social networking sites.
Most librarians feel that DOPA, as written in the House in 2006, leads to a false sense of security while over-blocking constitutionally protected material. The ALA opposes the billbecause it is overly broad and would unintentionally block access to many valuable Websites; because interactive Web applications are being used for many legitimate purposes by businesses, schools, political organizations, religious institutions and libraries, and young people must learn how to use them effectively and safely; because “there’s no substitute for education when discussing safe use of the Internet,” and DOPA would actually block certain sites that librarians and teachers can use to teach young people about how best to use social networking sites and how to report and avoid unsafe situations; because DOPA offers a sweeping solution to problems that are best handled at the local level; and because DOPA would restrict access to technology in the communities that need public access the most.
ALA opposition to DOPA or similar legislation is led by the Young Adult Library Services Association, the Office for Intellectual Freedom and the Washington Office.
Table of Contents