House votes to restrict students from MySpace

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

The House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed the Deleting Online
Predators Act,
which would require public schools and libraries to block
student access to commercial social-networking sites such as

The measure passed 410-15 on July 26.

DOPA would require public schools and libraries receiving federal funds for
Internet access to provide a “technology protection measure” for minors to
protect them from harmful material on the Internet, including child pornography,
material that is obscene or harmful to minors, or “commercial social networking
website(s) or chat room(s) unless used for an educational purpose with adult

As applied to libraries, the measure provides that the “technology protection
measure” must protect “against access by minors without parental authorization
to a commercial social networking website or chat room, and informs parents that
sexual predators can use these websites and chatrooms to prey on children.”

According to the factual findings in the bill, sexual predators often
“approach minors on the Internet using chat rooms and social networking
websites” and that “one in five children has been approached sexually on the

“I am extremely pleased that the House moved so quickly to pass this
important legislation,” said the measure’s chief sponsor, Rep. Michael G.
Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., in a press
“This legislation is the first of its kind to address the growing
use of social networking sites by sexual predators. Passage of the “Deleting
Online Predators Act” demonstrates Congress’ commitment to safeguarding
America’s families.”

Not everyone supports the proposed legislation. The American Library
Association expressed disappointment July 26 at the House action.

“This unnecessary and overly broad legislation will hinder students’ ability
to engage in distance learning and block library computer users from accessing a
wide array of essential Internet applications including instant messaging,
email, wikis and blogs,” said ALA president Leslie Burger in a news

“Under DOPA, people who use library and school computers as their primary
conduits to the Internet will be unfairly blocked from accessing some of the
web’s most powerful emerging technologies and learning applications,” Burger
said. “As libraries are already required to block content that is “harmful to
minors” under the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), DOPA is redundant
and unnecessary legislation.”

Mark Uncapher, senior vice president and counsel for the Information
Technology Association of America, also expressed opposition to DOPA.

“We have concerns that the legislation moved quickly without thorough
committee review, particularly given existing law such as the Children’s
Internet Protection Act,” Uncapher said.

CIPA, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld from First Amendment challenge in
States v. American Library Association
(2003), requires public schools
and libraries to adopt an Internet safety policy that protects minors from
online obscenity, child pornography and other material harmful to minors.

ITAA's position is that DOPA provides less flexibility than CIPA and is

“We are concerned that DOPA would micromanage schools and libraries (in
their) management of their E-Rate funded systems,” Uncapher added. E-Rate is a
federal program that makes some technologies more affordable for eligible
schools and libraries.

The question now is whether a similar measure will be introduced for
similarly quick passage in the Senate. Jeff Urbanchuk, Fitzpatrick’s press
secretary, said House supporters were waiting for a companion bill to be
introduced in the Senate. “We do think it will happen,” he said.

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