Wednesday, August 02, 2006

"Duck and Cover!"--DOPA Passes House, CNN Redefines Irony

Last Thursday (7/26) the Delete Online Predators Act (DOPA) passed the in the House of Representatives by a margin of 410-15.....kind of had an inkling this might happen when I first read about the aptly-acronymed legislation in May.

DOPA was designed to block social software sites from libraries and schools, thus protecting "our kids" from sexual predators. "Social networking sites such as MySpace and chat rooms have allowed sexual predators to sneak into homes and solicit kids," said Rep. Ted Poe, a Texas Republican and co-founder of the Congressional Victim's Rights Caucus. "This bill requires schools and libraries to establish (important) protections."

Yet as is noted in CNet's write-up of the vote, the legislation so broadly defines social networking sites as to include everything from Slashdot to to any site that allows us to post profiles (including personal information) as well as facilitate "communication among users" in the form of messages, comments, chats, etc.

Therefore, even political sites, sites defending free speech, freedom of religion, etc.--any site that would allow public profiles in order to engage in civic discourse--would be inaccessible from a school or public library anywhere in the U.S.

The only other country that so broadly blocks access to "offensive" websites is China. Although India, another democracy, recently banned/blocked some websites in the name of "national security."

Oddly, no mainstream media outlet--no paper of record covered the railroading of DOPA through the House.

The only outlets where information on DOPA was available was CNet, a couple of tech blogs and a couple of media blogs (Rex Hammock's great comment "You might as well ban oxygen as a means to rid the world of sexual predators" --I'm sure they would if they could. And find a way to sell it back to us. Free Market, you know...)

This isn't a tech or media issue. This isn't a "keeping our kids safe" issue. This is an access to information issue. This is an issue of our ability to have meaningful public discourse, from a public place, over what has become our digital Town Square. Supposedly DOPA will allow libraries to grant adults access to these sites if they ask permission--which could then easily become another way in which Big Brother can monitor where we are going, what we are saying, and to whom we might be saying it.

From Library "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. "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. 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."

Irony Alert: Yet Free Speech is quite liberally granted to those who want to discuss whether or not the sky is falling...On the same day DOPA is passed, CNN broadcasts a discussion with Jerry Jenkins and Joel Rosenberg on whether or not we're living in apocalyptic times. Quoting Rosenberg: "What's interesting is, I was just at the Iraqi prime minister's speech today. You know, the Bible talks, in Jewish theology and Christian, that Iraq will be reborn as a country and be phenomenally peaceful and prosperous. And then a huge dictator, known as the Antichrist, will arrive. "

Ohyeah...the Antichrist's arrived...he's just not in Iraq.

(BTW, for those of you who are wondering, the Bible doesn't speak of one antichrist, but of many antichrists--see 1Jn 2:18, 1Jn 2:22, 1JN 4:3, 2Jn7. "Satan" is Hebrew for "adversary" which is different from "antichrist." Evangelicals like to fudge it on these two terms, but in biblical scholarship, they're not really *that* fudgeable.)

(thnx to Christine for finding that CNN bit.)

troutfishing picks up the story on DailyKos and elaborates

ePluribus Media covers DOPA

Further Thought: Has anyone bothered to look at whether or not kids have met predators on school or library computers? From media stories on the phenomenon, the problem more than likely starts in the home not at the library or at school.

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ilona said...

Great work, Tish. This is the type of thing that must be beaten back. One thing I took away from the Media Giraffe Project is how important it is for us to have *more* voices represented online -- not less.

We need a wider spectrum of voices and attitudes and angles and views and classes and races and ages, etc. This type of legislation will put a chill on that for sure.

Thanks for the heads up on this one (and a great pleasure meeting you and everyone else last month).

Tish Grier said...

Hi Ilona! It was great meeting you, too...

talking with a friend last night, we both mentioned how, when one first gets involved in the internet it seems like a giant mess--a huge cacophany with no one telling you who the authories happen to be...

the thing is, this is conversation, not about authority. and sometimes someone picks up on something that the "authorities" avoid--perhaps for unscrupulous reasons.

btw, this post got linked, with additonal commentary on Daily Kos where there's some great conversation. :-)

Doctor B. said...

Tyranny will always be disguised as "protecting children" or "national security". Look what the Soviets did in the name of "protecting socialism".

Tish Grier said...

good point Doc B....I think that's what freaks me out the most about DOPA, and the acquiescence of so many of both parties to the desire for tyranny...very disturbing.