The Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA), which was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives last Wednesday, aims to cut down on pedophiles’ access to social networking sites and the children who often populate them; however, the act could potentially ban the kids its seeks to protect from accessing sites like MySpace.com—even Amazon.com—while at libraries or schools, BBC News reports.
Those critical of the act say it is too wide-reaching and could end up blocking children’s access to sites that are harmless, and in some instances, helpful to their academic and personal growth, according to BBC News.
Congressman Michael Fitzgerald (R-Ohio) introduced the act, which covers all federal institutions that take in government funding for computers and Web access under the U.S. E-Rate system, including schools and libraries, BBC News reports.
“The social networking sites have become, in a sense, a happy hunting ground for child predators,” Fitzgerald said, according to BBC News.
The American Library Association (ALA) says that roughly two out of three U.S. libraries take in funding under the E-Rate system, BBC News reports.
Under DOPA, affected entities would have to install safeguards to stop kids from accessing social network sites, or sites where they could be faced with “unlawful sexual advances,” unless they are under adult supervision, according to BBC News.
What sites qualify as social networking locales will be decided by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission—a detail critics say could lead to huge problems with legitimate sites being blocked, because the act suggests that any site that enables users to build personal profiles and converse with other users should be inaccessible to children in specified locations, BBC News reports.
Since retail websites like Amazon.com and blog favorites like Slashdot.org require some form of a profile and some personal information, these sites could be blocked under DOPA.
Leslie Burger, ALA president, told BBC News, “DOPA is redundant, unnecessary legislation,” noting that the Children’s Internet Protection Act currently mandates that libraries keep all potentially harmful Web content away from children, BBC News reports.
The DOPA must be approved by the Senate before becoming official, and a vote could come as early as August, according to BBC News.
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