As COPA Goes Down, DOPA Comes Back

from the ropa-dopa dept

But think of the children! It never seems to stop. Just as yet another court has ruled that the COPA law is unconstitutional, some folks in Congress are trying to bring back its sister legislation, DOPA. COPA (the Child Online Protection Act) required websites to block objectionable material. DOPA (the Deleting Online Predators Act) is much more narrowly focused, requiring schools and libraries to put in place filters that block access to social networks. Why? Well, politicians are under the false belief that this somehow stops predators.

There are just two big problems with this reasoning. First, studies have shown that the supposed “threat” of online predators has been blown way out of proportion. Most kids are not targeted by online predators on social networks, and the few who are tend to know enough to deal with them. But you won’t hear the politicians pushing DOPA say that. Instead, they claim: “as more children flock to social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, we’ve seen a corresponding increase of online sexual predators.” According to whom? Over the past few months we’ve pointed to three separate reports showing that the reports of the threat have been greatly overstated.

But, more importantly, even if predators are a threat on social networks, isn’t it a much better solution to let kids use them in schools and at libraries where there can be reasonable oversight, and where educators can teach the kids how to deal with online threats? Banning access from schools and libraries only guarantees that kids will find other ways to get to those social networks when no one’s there to watch them. And, by making it seem like it’s somehow underground, it will seem even “cooler” to make use of those sites. And, at the same time, teachers, parents and librarians won’t feel compelled to teach kids how to use those sites safely, because the use will be totally hidden from view. How is that possibly a good result?

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Comments on “As COPA Goes Down, DOPA Comes Back”

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19 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

… teach the kids how to deal with …

Oh, you must not have kids.

At least this is the “argument” that gets thrown around as soon as you start suggesting that maybe teaching kids how to be safe and deal with something appropriately is a better alternative to blocking the activity completely. At some point kids will have to either learn or be taught how to deal with all kinds of “threats”. If they are taught, and by taught I don’t mean just told to do something, they will be better prepared to handle not only that threat but others also.

But in the spirit of the over-protective, too busy parents let me just say “oh, you must not have kids.”

Tony (user link) says:

Re: Face, Meet Nearest Hard Surface

That definition is what’s been pushed on us for the last maybe 30 years or so. It’s part of the whole mindset that says “Johnny can’t read but you can’t hold him back or he’ll feel bad”.

We’re so damn worried about kids “feeling bad” we don’t want to teach them to deal intelligently with reality.

And, just for the record, I DO have kids.

mobiGeek says:

Re: Re: Re:

Try hanging out at a telco’s booth/store on the weekend sometime. You’ll see plenty of examples of children getting WAY more than you think.

Waiting to change my cable plan recently, I watched at least 4 early-teens talk their parents into a top-of-the-line phone (three BBs and some Sony/Ericsson thingy) along with $90+/mth plans apparently just to get “unlimited texting”.

ECA (profile) says:

1 vs the GROUP

Ok,
if you think about Local gatherings…
If a BAD/Obnoxious person comes into a bar, wont everyone know QUICKLY, even if they are NEW to the bar.

Groups are a good thing.
As if something happens to 1 person, its SPREAD and know thru out the groups.
This is like trying to keep a secret in a small town.
A person MIGHT get away with doing something 1-2 times…but it will be KNOWN very quickly WHO/WHAT/WHEN/…
The problem is UNTRUE RUMORS..THOSE are hard to kill.

I would rather a LARGE group gathering then 1/1 conversations, with NO PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE of what is going on, or WHOM went out with WHO, and someone disappeared..

Some Jerk At The Library says:

They're kids

Not quite sure what to make of this article. There are plenty of loaded statements like “false belief” and “greatly overstated.” It seems to me like the threat could more accurately be described as “nonzero”. Schools and libraries are under no obligation to waste computing resources on students’ entertainment. That, by itself, is sufficient reason in my eyes for schools and libraries to block such sites. Compound this with a nonzero threat for “predators” and you really have no good reason to be getting kids on social networking sites.

The “let them do it where we can see it” is akin to the attempts to provide drug needle centers where people can shoot up without the risk of getting AIDS because nurses are present to sterilize needles. I’m not even going to get into the details of how bad the ratio of adults to students is and how inefficient it would be trying to monitor their activities to “teach” them about social networks and the pedos who troll them. They’re children. There are rules for children and consequences for children breaking these rules. If you find out they’ve been going to their friends’ houses to screw around on myspace against your will, then you withhold privileges that they care about MORE than myspace. You get them one of those phones that can only dial pre-set numbers. You kill their texting plans. “Kids these days” are jerks because parents don’t exercise any control, and this sort of thing is just another example of stuff kids shouldn’t be doing and hand-wringing adults giving them too much freedom.

DanC says:

Re: They're kids

Schools and libraries are under no obligation to waste computing resources on students’ entertainment. That, by itself, is sufficient reason in my eyes for schools and libraries to block such sites.

Except libraries are not solely for children. You are also mistakenly assuming that social networks are only for entertainment.

“Kids these days” are jerks because parents don’t exercise any control, and this sort of thing is just another example of stuff kids shouldn’t be doing and hand-wringing adults giving them too much freedom.

So we’re going to let the government parent your kids for you instead. Hiding a problem doesn’t make it go away.

Same Jerk says:

They're kids

Except libraries are not solely for children.

Libraries on school grounds are different in my estimation from public libraries, where there is no longer an expectation of control. Kids in a public library can (and must, by typical policies) be supervised by their parents or guardians in those situations.

You are also mistakenly assuming that social networks are only for entertainment.

Yeah, and knives are also for eating and spraypaint is for art but you won’t see either of those things allowed on campus. Educators have to make practical decisions about what will be allowed on campus based on their potential and likely uses, as opposed to any number of possible legitimate uses. Sure, a social network could be used to organize extra-curricular activities such as academic or athletic competition, but based on the average interests of children it is obvious looking at it from a practical standpoint that most kids will be looking for shared videos/pictures/movies, some of which would be considered inappropriate for viewing by their parents – the parents whose expectations are for the school to set reasonable rules for children under their care.

So we’re going to let the government parent your kids for you instead. Hiding a problem doesn’t make it go away.

When the school is responsible for your child’s safety and educational well-being several hours out of the day, they need the tools to enforce their rules. I’d rather they dispense with computers on campus entirely if they’re hamstrung to leverage the same amount of control that a parent would have on a home computer.

GrumbleDook (user link) says:

Learn and develop defences.

Sheesh … it doesn’t matter what decision on this is made. It is going to annoy someone.

I am fond of analogies … and my favourite one for online protection comes from martial arts.

I would not stick a 10 yr old newbie / novice straight into a ring with a 25 yr old with 15 years experience of multiple arts and a fondness for slicing people’s heads off with sharp swords.

Instead, the student learns the appropriate lessons to take them up to a level where they can decide how far or hard they want to train / compete, but also giving moral guidance on the use and misuse of their talents and access to weaponry.

But you have to start somewhere … and before anyone says “but you don’t get sociopaths joining martial arts clubs” … perhaps you do and they just don’t become socio-paths because they have had help and guidance.

Blanket bans never work. Blanket access never works either.

We are all going to have to compromise at some point, but it is a solution that has to have society involved, not just trying to get technology to come up with a quick fix.

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