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 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.”

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “House Rushes Through Bill To Make The Web More Dangerous For Kids”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Jay Fude says:

It's always protect the children

I grew up in the 80’s, with apple ][‘s etc. We didn’t wear seatbelts, we played with BB guns and yard darts. We were taught not to take candy from strangers. Somehow we managed to survive all of this. I really don’t know how millions of us managed to survive it somehow. Must have been a miracle.

PopeRatzo says:

410 to 15 or not, let’s never forget that this is a House controlled by the Republican Party, part of a government controlled by the Republican Party.

This bill first had to get out of a conference which was chaired by a Republican, with a Republican majority that sets the agenda.

It’s important to remember who’s responsible for this mess.

GrumpyOldMan says:

Re: Re:

As a life long blue state kind of guy, I got to say you are as bad as the Republican Gun in your extremism. This was clearly bi-partisan ignorance not just the guys on the right side of the isle. People with your blind partisanship do more harm to our Party than any Bible thumping red stater ever could. As Democrats we need to hold the leaders of our party just as responsible for their actions as we do the Republicans. A bad politician is a bad politician weather he is from the left or right.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“It’s important to remember who’s responsible for this mess.”

You do realize that when idiots post drivel like this, it only serves to HURT the cause you are trying to promote… dont you? Are you posting like that on purpose to make republicans look good by pretending only idiots think they look bad? If so, you just serve to disgust me. (Not that my opinion matters anymore than yours)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You’re right. It’s a little known fact that the Republicans actually have a 410-15 majority in the House. Next time, go ahead and I dunno… think before you open your mouth. BTW, how do people not see this for what it is? We tell our kids not to get into cars with strangers, not to take candy, etc. so why can’t we do the same thing online? Or should we outlaw cars and candy instead?

David Means (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Oh, please! Stop with the party bashing. Did you forget that there are Democrats/Socialist that voted for this too? Are you actually naive enough to believe that they didn’t support this throughout the entire process? If not, then why did they vote for it in the end? Pull your head out of the sand and realize that the bafoons in the Washington are more worried about their free paycheck than actually doing something useful.

DittoBox (user link) says:

Re: Re:

Oh, why yes, those coniving, evil, dumbf**k republicans always make the poor little innocent democrats vote the wrong way.

If the Democrats are that stupid and that unwilling to vote the “right” way, simply because the Republicans have a slim majority they’re just as fubar as the Republicans if not more so.

It’s too bad that here in America I’ve got the crappy choice of Corporate Whores and Zealots or Corporate Whores and ****tards.

And I think anyone can figure out who I’m talking about.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It’s important to remember who’s responsible for this mess.

Yeah, political party’s with special interestes in mind. If you belong to any major political party then you’re part of the entire problem. Try something new in your lives for a change and think independantly, side with issues you agree with and stop pushing your personal belief systems on the rest of us.


Chris says:

Re: Re: poperatzo

No, Politicians are not responsible! Why, because we elected them (Of course I mean anyone who voted, and if you didnt vote shame on you)

The politicians are going to do whatever they think will get them re-elected, which in turn means they are going to pass this bill through both parts of congress. But the blame is not on them, it is on those who voted and even mopre so on those who could vote but didnt

ordan says:

How are we all still alive?

Jay hit it dead on. All these protaect the children initiatives have good intentions, but I think that they are causing us to need more. Kids are growing up with so much protection that they never get to experience life. Do I think that children should not be protected? No, that is not the case at all. They should be protected via education not exclusion.

Simon says:

Re: How are we all still alive?

You forgot a few things. Things like: Riding a bicycle without a dorky helmet; drinking soda from the same bottle as your friends; playing tackle football in the street; kissing a class mate of the opposite sex on the cheek at recess without getting sued or suspended or worse yet playing doctor behind the monky bars (you can’t do that now because someone might fall fromthe monky bars).

The statements often used to justify these ‘protections’ is “they grow up so fast”. That is a true statement. How can kids remain kids when they have to abide by adult rules?

As for my kids, when I finally get aroudn to having them, they will lose thier bicycle privlages should I see a dorky helmet on thier head, they will lose thier skateboard if I see a pad on thier knee, and if they find porn on the internet I will discuss the issue, then examine the data further as they walk to thier room.

Joel Padot (user link) says:

No Comment...

Ok, comment. Why do we need to do this? Why do we need to be talking about it. Long before any of this hit the news, WAY long before, I was explaining to my sister the importance of not sharing details about yourself online. Hello, don’t talk to strangers! The difference is that online you can talk to strangers, but they’re still strangers. Don’t let them know where you live, go to school, etc. People are stupid if they aren’t adapting the “don’t talk to strangers” talk to the environments where kids might meet strangers.

Jay says:

Re: Guess What

Actually I would have to argue against that. At my high school and many others like it I was able to get my A+ cert as well as my CCNA before I graduted from my high school. All of it was payed by the state/school. Many of my other classmate had job offers making 60+ thousand per year before their final year.

ZeroCool says:

What I've been saying...

I’ve been saying it ever since I first heard about schools banning myspace, kids are, plain and simple, smarter than adults, especially dealing with computers and restrictions imposed on them. I know because I speak from personal experience. Put a password on something and you teach a child how to a.) brute force hack b.) use/program keyloggers. While this is good in that aspect, there are downsides to this as well. Once the smart kids find alternate routes to get what they want in a computer system, they inform every moronic imbecile with the information and then a level of secrecy ensues concerning the all the kid’s computer behavior. With this shroud in place parents, who will have completely ignored teaching the idiotic children of the States what not to do online, will have left them more vulnerable than when they started. I grew up just fine and with no restrictions on my internet use; frankly that’s an amazing feat from today’s political view on what will happen to the youngsters if they’re left untethered. For the kids who don’t have the common sense on what not to do online, forcing them to conduct their activies in secret will NOT benefit them in any way.

Aavex Technology says:

Parent and security consultant

I am both a parent of 3 teenage kids and a security consultant who implements url filtering for my customers, some of which are public schools. First of all I am surprised that the teachers and the administrators dont take popular trends such as blogs and develop classes on related to responsible journalism around these types of sites. My two daughters use myspace and xanga regularly. Both my wife and myself have also accounts with these sites and we are able to see what our children are about online. This allows us to guide them when needed, but mostly just watch. It also telkls us what kind of friends they are habging around with since we can read comments from there friends and vist their sites.

I have been asked to block access to these types of sites and do so. It is also pretty easy to see what sites the kids are going to. I can view the urls in real time, check out suspicious sites and block them as needed. This can be time consuming so I usually look at the sites that have been visted every other day or so and can quickly spot the trends. Kids maybe able to get away with a site for a day or two, but not much more. Since I take care of several school districts it is easy for me to spot the trends quickly.

Bob (user link) says:


Funny I don’t think I know of anyone ever getting physically harmed online. Usually the child would have to meet someone first. So, it seems to me that it should be illegal to meet someone under age and have sex with them. Oh wait, it already is. Maybe we should do a better job of enforcing the laws we already have. Besides the law is unconstitutional. Free speech is protected even if it is minor’s speech.

Wyndle says:

Re: Hurt

Funny I don’t think I know of anyone ever getting physically harmed online. Usually the child would have to meet someone first. So, it seems to me that it should be illegal to meet someone under age and have sex with them. Oh wait, it already is. Maybe we should do a better job of enforcing the laws we already have. Besides the law is unconstitutional. Free speech is protected even if it is minor’s speech.

There is a huge difference between protected speech and limiting access to things deemed inappropriate (justly or not). First of all, these are school environments and the students should be concentrating on class instead of messaging each other or posting to myspace or any of the other activities that is taking their attention away from learning. I’m all for teaching computer skills but I can only imagine a few limited things that would require internet access in a non-college school environment. I say close the school network off and require a computer to get permission from a server to access something outside of the network (then you have a username linked directly to the activity – if they know they will be busted immediately they wont go where they know they shouldn’t be without using censorship).

And for those of you pointing fingers at political groups GET OVER IT. This is a blind reaction to look good to the general public and nearly everyone took the easy road on the subject. Our political system is very, very, very far from perfect (or even acceptable IMO). Our country is run by liars who do stupid things like this bill in order to appease the voters (the vast majority of whom are blind to what really goes on in D.C.). The left is clueless and very dangerous, and the right is self-centered and very dangerous. Anyone in the middle gets squished to prevent a change in the status quo. I’d wager that the U.S. would quickly prosper if we were to change to a board of directors who were directly responsible to the shareholders (voters) and there were elections every 6 months (with only 51 board positions instead of however many hundred we have between the Executive and Congressional branches).

Sanguine Dream says:

Suck it up!

Im all for making the world a better place for the kiddies but they have to get knocked around a little to prepare for the real world. Does blocking half the internet really reduce the chances of a kid being victimized by a predator? No. All that does is make the kid try even harder to get to the blocked sites. But if you properly teach them how to avoid the predators the predators won’t have anyone to pray on. But this bill does force parents to put more effort in educating their kids because they will be trying to find more private (i.e. away from adult supervision) locations to get onto the net.

However I dont think this being an election year isnt the only motivation for the politicians. This also lets the government funded school system off the hook if some kid gets attacked. So the next time some 16-yr. old girl is attacked by a guy she met on myspace the school can just plainly say, “We have myspace blocked so she didn’t access it from here,” which is a textbook “cover your ass” defense.

I would be all for teaching these kids the dos and don’ts of the net. Block the sites all during the school day on all PCs except for maybe the classrooms/computer labs that are teaching a computer class. I know it would take some filtering software to pull this off but if the school officals and politicans want to “protect the children” so badly they should be all for it right? And spend a part of the computer class curiculum on defending against predators. Perhaps do something like Dateline does and let the kids make up fake profiles and have teachers make up profiles on the same sight and chat them up for all their info then after a few weeks the teacher comes in and shows the kids and the parents just how much info they got.

Alan MadLeese says:

Re: Suck it up!

This is in response to no particular post but addresses something that curiously is not brought up in most of the talk about MySpace and its inherent dangers for children. That is. who is running the involved social network, what is the caliber of the people who have, in some sense, the welfare of your children in their hands. Nobody has any awareness, apparently, that MySpace was founded by predatory bankers, con-men, an ex-con, connivers and persons lacking one whit of concern about the children whose eyeballs they are monetizing, in the jargon of the people running MySpace. The president of my space is a twit on all evidence. and businer pursuing female sycophants, and the ceo of MySpace is a predatory banler with years of subprime lending activities under his belt, a practice that makes its profit out of the indebted and discarded, and this does not see3m to qualify him for overseeing the affairs of the little eyeballs located somewhat north of their flashing navels. Isn’t it crucial that a social network have a director with some creds for common decency? I would think so, but, shoot, times they are achanging sure enuf.

Yakov (profile) says:

Would somebody think of the children


They are not the future, 20 and 30 somethings are the future. They can’t vote and wrapping the world in bubblewrap will not make it any safer. Just think how much we love to pop bubblewrap. So basically this bill will teach kids how to use a proxy and putty. Good skill. So, hmm I guess in terms of educating little Jenny and Jimmy about the workings of the internet, this bill might do some good, but protecting them from — hmm Facebook, or … those crazy guys at Amazon, it will be useless. PS who do they think will be setting up filters — high school kids working for the district computer tech. So, I’m all for it I was a tech and if we had this bill, maybe I would have been paid more than 6 bucks/hour.

fliptrx says:


Predators come in all ages…I’ve been given the come-on by 14 year old boys in adult chat rooms that pretend they are of age.

Does that mean I can’t go to those chat rooms anymore ? No, it means I need to be damn sure who I’m talkin’ too, and it means that I have to be exceptionally vigilant when I play with those I assume to be adults.

The coin has two sides…

Rafael Cortes (user link) says:

CB Radio-like

When I was a kid, I used to talk to stranger all the time through a CB Radio, so what my parents tought me was not to give any personal information to anyone on the CB Radio (prety much the same applies on the net) and that if I wanted to meet my frinds from the CB it should be a well coordinated CB Meeting, with many people assisting (including parents) in a public place, with security in place (again same applies to the net!). -Just my 2 cents.

Anonymous Coward says:

whats the matter with you!! its for the children~!

i think they should ban the whole internet!! FOR THE CHILDREN!!!

while we are at it we should just shut the whole internet down, otherwise the children could use it from home!!!!!!!

god forbid they are exposed to reality!! THE CHILLDREEEN!!!!!!!!!

fucking retarded congresscritters dont have any clue what they are doing.. ever

i think we should ban congress 😉

IT Bubba says:


…would effectively ban social networks, chat rooms, instant messaging and some blog platforms from schools that took any federal money.

Why do we have to make laws to stop schools from allowing kids to surf those sites? What schools are allowing kids to do this in the first place?

Are children in school to learn or to talk to thier friends online?

George Glass says:

Ban Everything

There is nothing more important than protecting the children, and to that end I suggest that we ban schools altogether. They are attracting predators and this needs to stop! But lets first eliminate playgrounds. It is too dangerous to have children in groups outdoors without armed guards. As any Dictator or Republican will tell you, it is more important to have security than education or freedom.

James Henson says:

PSA re: Facebook

Facebook is hardly a secure network. Anyone can get a high school account at almost any high school w/ facebook, and numerous college accounts can be generated by techies. The illusion of safety that many of you purport only makes it easier for any would-be predators (I’m not aware of any cases, but there is quite a risk.)

But I think the main reason schools would ban such sites is so not to be held legally liable…but in that case it should be the school’s decision not the federal govt.

Sanguine Dream says:

Re: Re:

The problem isn’t what’s wrong with professional blogs but with defining what a professional blog is. I am very certain that the government will have open authority to define what is appropriate and what is not. So expect to see alot of favoritism and outright ignorance when the actually list of banned sites is released…but not to the public at large.

And now that I think about it this is only a ban, not a block. So either:

1. Someone (us the taxpayers) is about to pay for filtering software

2. Someone (us the taxpayers) is about to pay for monitoring software. This seems cheaper than option 1. and its a lot more nosey so I’m betting on this one.

Alex says:

I would think that monitoring software is much better than blocking software, because if a kid goes on a site such as myspace or xanga the school can just take disciplinary measures against the child after the act, or maybe even during the act. I dont think that a kid would be able to get in trouble online after one visit to a site. But, in response to school is for learning, kids dont access these sites when theyre in the classrooms. They go on the computers before or after school and during lunch, because the library opens early, and closes late. The librarians are supposed to watch what the kids are doing, but the kids just set up a watchman, and whenever the librarian comes near, they tell their friends and they pull up a school friendly site they had running in the background like a wikipedia page or funbrain. If there was a monitoring software tracking all traffic on the server, then they could tell what computer it was at what time, and at least my school had a login for every kid, so whatever login the site was accessed with gets the punishment.

Anonymous Coward says:

The hard part is...

I’m torn on this issue. While I don’t think the government should have a place with this, most parents (which are generally the ones that are -not- here) are not responsible enough to take an active role in the lives of their children. Beyond that, many parents who do take an active role do not know -how- to do so. “Aavex Technology” showed an example of what to do: don’t smother your kids, but monitor them and (as most posters have mentioned) talk to them.

The problem is that the government is going for a preventative measure that is not going to prevent anything. Similar to Ellis’ story, it did not take us very long to get through blocks in high school. (Hell, we could have access to the admin password of our school network if we wanted to.) Block me at school? I’ll do it at home. Block me at home? I’ll go to a friend’s house and do it.

Bottom line: kids are going to find a way to get around restrictions… it’s become what being a kid is all about. This country has been raising kids that are going to become increasingly more adept at getting around laws… look at how the law and judicial systems work.

Want to make things better for the country’s children? Teach them, encourage them to be involved in other activities. Kids can’t get in as much trouble if they’re playing with their friends, playing sports or [doing?] dance, eating ice cream, going to the beach, etc. There’s always danger but it’s IMPOSSIBLE to shelter kids from life without looking them away.

Justin says:

is anyone surprised?

This is just another example of how our government handles its problems. Run away! Run, run for your lives!

Ok kids, listen up. The “people in charge of our country” now say its illegal for you to go to these sites at school so now you have to go home (where its legal) and spend even more time on the sites and less time on studying and things of the like. Got it? Good.

Please people, give me a break. Doesn’t anyone realize that restricting every aspect of kids lives only makes them more curious? If the government was half as interested in kids’ lives as they want us to believe, they would certainly know that spending a little cash on educating kids about responsible use of the internet will go much further in the long run.

In less than a day kids will find a way around this and then what happens? Kids start getting suspended and self-esteems start getting lower and lower because they’re always in trouble. It will never be the U.S. Government’s fault or News Corp’s fault. It will always fall on little Joey who has to keep causing trouble and pushing the envelope — something every person has done numerous times in their younger days.

What a load of bullcrap this is. But I’ll say again…is anyone surprised?

Chris says:

Oh Nose!!!

First I want to say that Justin is right, regulating the life of kids doesnt help the problem, it just adds fuel to the fire. I know that when my school started blocking and google images I used proxys to bypass their filters, as they blocked one proxy, I switched to another one and so on. People dont seem to realize that we (the kids) are creative and we will find way around stuff. Its like putting a huge brick wall around our house and saying, theres a chance your house could catch on fire and burn you and everything in it so we are not letting you in. We all have been educated that fire can hurt peiople and to not play with matches and for the most part we don’t. But if you keep us away from out house with that brick wall, we will either climb over it, dig under it, or find a hole in it and exploit it. When you figure out your wall isnt working and fix it, we will find another way in and so on. I’m tired of s always trying to protect me. I mean, ok beer is bad, got it, I don’t drink beer and I dont want to. But since the government banned beer and every other alcholic drink for people under 21 what do most teens do? THats right, they drink. Lossen up on the restrictions and go to the root of the problem, education.

MissTeach says:


We neeed to teach our children to be good citizens – how to be responsible to our classmates and schoolmate; how to particpate in the election process to get the best person in office and to communicate with them about legislation that we feel is important to us and how to be a safe digital citzen on the web. As parents and teachers we need to be teaching citizenship on several levels.

ZeroCool says:


No, the politicians are responsible. You said it yourself, they’re going to do whatever they think will get them re-elected. No matter which politician is voted into office, that person is going to do whatever pointless stupid publicity stunt they can to stay in office. Unfortunatly, we only have a choice between a deusch and a turd to vote for so the blame isn’t on us, it’s personally on the deusch or the turd that ends up winning.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...