During the summer, as politicians were gearing up for election season, there was suddenly a flurry of activity from folks in Congress to put forth new legislation to "protect the children."
Of course, you should probably be pretty skeptical any time you hear that phrase, because usually the laws are designed more to protect a politician's job, and will do little (if anything) to protect children. That was the case of the DOPA (Deleting Online Predators Act), which was introduced in May
and quickly rushed through the House
. It picked on an easy target: social networks. MySpace and some of the other social networks had been receiving a ton of negative press coverage over how they could be used by predators preying on children, that they seemed like an easy call for politicians. Of course, the legislation was overly broad, and threw out the baby, the bathwater and the entire damn bathtub. It banned any kind of site that stored a profile from schools and libraries that take federal money. Sure, that includes MySpace and Facebook, but it could also include Amazon.com, Blogger, Yahoo and other sites as well. And, it's not as if kids would stop using these things. Instead, they'd just use them secretly, without any supervision or without any guidance in how to use them safely. That doesn't seem like a good recipe for making kids safer.
However, with the new Congress taking their seats this week, a few people noticed that DOPA never went anywhere
as some folks in the Senate realized how bad it was and moved the bill to the backburner. It also doesn't seem to be on anyone's political agenda just yet. The Representatives who sponsored it were all voted out
in the last election (suggesting their ploy didn't work very well). Of course, things could change pretty rapidly if there are another series of stories about predators on these sites. However, we'd expect that 2007 will probably be a semi-quiet year on that front, as politicians will store up the next batch of "for the children" legislation for the 2008 election cycle.