On July 26, 2006 the House of Representatives passed the bill titled Deleting Online Predators Act Of 2006 (House resolution 5319). This bill aims to block the use of online chat rooms and social networking websites in schools and libraries, basically federally funded institutions. A website has been started dubbed saveyourspace.org with the goal of collecting one million signatures in hopes of pursuading the senate to vote this bill down. One can only guess which "space" this site is referring to.
Saveyourspace.org claims the American Library Association is opposed to this piece of legislature. All their website has is news article which, at the bottom, has a statement from President Leslie Burger "pointing out that libraries are already required to block content that is 'harmful to minors' under the Children's Internet Protection Act. 'This unnecessary and overly broad legislation,' she added, '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, e-mail, wikis, and blogs."
This may be partially true as the Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006 has not defined the term "commercial social networking websites" nor "chat room." The bill actually states that winthin 120 days after the law is passed, the commission will, by rule, define the terms which is a major downfall of the bill. It will consider the extent to which a website:
`(i) is offered by a commercial entity;
`(ii) permits registered users to create an on-line profile that includes detailed personal information;
`(iii) permits registered users to create an on-line journal and share such a journal with other users;
`(iv) elicits highly-personalized information from users; and
`(v) enables communication among users.'
However, the Children's Internet Protection Act does not provide protection against social networking sites or chatrooms as the law defined "harmful to minors" as:
``(G) HARMFUL TO MINORS.--The term `harmful to minors' means any picture, image, graphic image file, or other visual depiction that-;
``(i) taken as a whole and with respect to minors, appeals to a prurient interest in nudity, sex, or excretion;
``(ii) depicts, describes, or represents, in a patently offensive way with respect to what is suitable for minors, an actual or simulated sexual act or sexual contact, actual or simulated normal or perverted sexual acts, or a lewd exhibition of the genitals; and
``(iii) taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value as to minors.
Although I could argue that some social networking websites fall into this category of pornography, it is not the fault of the website operators. It is the freedom they give to the users in controlling their content.
Few can argue that social networking websites such as MySpace are totally safe for children. There is no age or identity verification required, aside from an email address. There are no stipulations or limitations on the information the user is allowed to post. I have seen users post their phone numbers in a public manner.
But most would argue that it is up to the parents to regulate their children's behavior and I completely agree. But one major argument, a problem this legislation is trying to solve, is parents have no control over what their children do on the internet at places such as schools and libraries.
So many are complaining that it isn't the fault of the website, but complain when something is being done about it. Remember, this isn't outright banning or shutting down any website. This is merely limiting access to sites in which irresponsible adults prey on irresponsible children at federally funded institutions. The worst that could happen is the adult, or child, who is attempting to use a computer at school or at the library, will have to wait until they get home for the immense "educational benefit" of MySpace and AOL chat rooms.