House Rushes Through Bill To Make The Web More Dangerous For Kids
from the political-expediency-more-important-than-usefulness dept
Unfortunately, in this election season, it looks like political motivations are trumping any sense of reason up on Capitol Hill again. A few months ago, we mentioned a bill introduced using the ever popular political rationale that it’s need to “protect the children,” that would effectively ban social networks, chat rooms, instant messaging and some blog platforms from schools that took any federal money. As the political season has moved on, and incumbents are worried about their jobs, it seems they decided to rush this one through. After a quick rewrite that doesn’t seem to help (and which it doesn’t appear many politicians read or understood), the bill was approved by the House by an astounding 410 to 15 vote. After all, you’re not going to find many politicians who are willing to have their opponents say they tried to leave kids open to online predators. The Senate is now expected to act quickly on this one as well.
However, this DOPA (Deleting Online Predators Act) doesn’t actually protect children at all. It’s incredibly broad, and would effectively ban things including Amazon.com and LinkedIn from schools — hardly the places where “online predators” hang out. In fact, one of the bill’s sponsors uses Facebook as one of the example sites he’s worried about, despite the fact that Facebook is a closed system that you can’t just sign up for without a school affiliation. Furthermore, this is a “head in the sand” type bill. Do these politicians really believe that by banning these types of sites at school kids won’t use them any more? They’ll either get around the filters or will keep using the same sites in other places where they’re not under the watchful eye of an adult. In other words, this could make them a lot more vulnerable. Instead of trying to hide these services from kids (only making them more attractive to kids), why not fund better education programs that teach kids (and parents!) about the risks of being online so that those kids know how to deal with things if they are approached by an online predator? Pretending those predators don’t exist doesn’t protect the kids half as well as simply teaching those kids how to respond to a questionable approach.
In the meantime, kudos to the 15 politicians who actually seem to recognize this bill won’t do what it claims. Rep. John Dingell’s statement is worth repeating: “So now we are on the floor with a piece of legislation poorly thought out, with an abundance of surprises, which carries with it that curious smell of partisanship and panic, but which is not going to address the problems. This is a piece of legislation which is going to be notorious for its ineffectiveness and, of course, for its political benefits to some of the members hereabout.” Now those other 410 can’t say they weren’t warned — but they’ll be too busy back in their home districts talking up how they’re “protecting the children.”