DOPA is a Pretty Dopy Law

Earlier today, the House of Representatives passed the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA). The Senate will probably do the same soon. W will undoubtedly sign it, accompanied by a dose of his uniquely incomprehensible hyperbole.

And then most of them will run off to their election campaigns to boast about how they have protected children from evil on the internet.

The law will do no such thing. Not even close.

DOPA is an update to the federal law that requires all schools and libraries that receive e-rate money to block minors from accessing inappropriate web sites.

The bill expands those filtered sites to include access to “online social networks”, which are defined as any site that

…allows users to create web pages or profiles that provide information about themselves and are available to other users; and offers a mechanism for communication with other users, such as a forum, chat room, email, or instant messenger.

Which is vague enough to cover a large chunk of the web. It takes in MySpace, of course, the primary target of the law. But it could possibly include most Blogger sites, Amazon, and many other sites depending on the judgement of the FCC.

The fact that much of the read/write web could be excluded from use in the classroom is bad enough. Worse, however, is the attitude implicit in laws like this that simplistic laws and electronic blocks can protect kids from doing stupid things.

And that parents and schools are now excused from the responsibility for teaching how to use these new communication tools in an ethical and safe manner.

All thanks to our national nannies.

Update (7/28): Andy Carvin has created DOPA Watch, an aggregation of the blog posts and news stories about this bill. Lots of information about this even-more-cynically-political- than-usual proposal.

dopa, congress, social networks