Recently passed by the House, the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA) requires public schools and libraries to block access to social networking sites and other communication tools as a condition for receiving certain government funding. Protecting children online is important, but letting federal bureaucrats arbitrarily censor legitimate speech is the wrong way to go.
Cutting off social networking's legitimate uses is bad enough, but DOPA also gives the FCC wide latitude to define the block-list. It potentially covers IM, blogs, wikis, discussion forums, and other sites far beyond MySpace. Despite its limited exceptions, DOPA will restrict children's and adults' online research, distance learning, and use of community forums, among other activities.
Two Congressionally-commissioned studies say education, not blocking access, is a more effective way to keep kids safe online. In fact, by hampering educators ability to teach Internet safety skills, DOPA may put children more at risk.
This isn't the first time Congress has meddled with school and library computers. EFF fought hard against the Children's Internet Protection Act, which required use of Web filtering. If DOPA passes, where might this slippery censorware slope lead next?
DOPA has been referred to the Senate Commerce Committee and is unlikely to move forward until after the August recess. We'll keep you updated and fight to keep DOPA out of schools.