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?