Deleting Online Predators Act overwhelmingly passes House

Posted by Humphrey Cheung

Washington D.C. - The days of Myspace and other social networking sites could be numbered at schools and public libraries. The Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA) has overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives by a 410 to 15 vote. If it becomes law, the act will force public schools and libraries to bar access to social networking websites and chat rooms.

The bill aims to protect children from obscene or pornographic material and from "unwanted sexual advances". DOPA was introduced back in May by Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PN). It will force schools and libraries to bar access to websites that match a five point criteria.

(1) if is offered by a commercial entity; (2) if permits registered users to create an on-line profile that includes detailed personal information; (3) if permits registered users to create an on-line journal and share such a journal with other users; (4) if it elicits highly-personalized information from users; and (5) if enables communication among users.

Numerous social networking websites, not just Myspace or Friendster, could fall under DOPA's policy. Technical websites like Slashdot.org could be banned because users there can create a profile and keep an on-line journal. The Federal Communications Commission is required to maintain and publish a list of banned websites if DOPA becomes law.

DOPA is being opposed by several privacy and educational groups including the American Library Association (ALA). The ALA says many libraries already have their own policies on restricting access to social networking sites. In addition, it argues that the Children's Internet Protection Act already protects children sufficiently.

The bill now heads to the Senate and, if it passes there, to President George W. Bush.