Palatine (IL) – A new bill brought forward by Illinois Senator Matt Murphy (R) outlines a legislation that would force schools and libraries to block access to social networking sites. Murphy considers his bill as a “proactive” move to “protect kids” from potential new threats such as sexual predators looking for victims on sites such as MySpace.
According to the bill, introduced during the 95th General Assembly of the Illinois State Senate, “each public library must prohibit access to social networking websites on all computers made available to the public in the library.” The “Social Networking Website Prohibition Act” further demands that “each public school must prohibit access to social networking websites on all computers made available to students in the school.”
The first draft of a proposed legislation leaves enforcement of the prohibition up to the state Attorney General and the general public. People will be able to force libraries and schools to prohibit social networking sites. Certified letters demanding enforcement must first be sent to the offending library or school, but the citizen can then take action in Circuit Court if initial demands aren’t accepted.
In a conversation with TG Daily, Murphy stated that there was no single incident that prompted him to draft this bill, but he conceded that NBC Dateline’s “To catch a predator” series provided “some motivation” for him. He told us that he had “limited exposure” to social networking sites himself. He does not consider social networking sites “not a bad thing in general,” but believes that there are threats that put children in danger. “We need to protect our kids from people who abuse these sites,” he said.
Murphy said that it is unlikely that the bill will make into law without any changes. “I want to raise awareness and start I dialog between the Police, schools and libraries.” Over the course of the legislative process, he expects changes resulting from feedback from librarians and teachers. For example, he conceded that there could be exemptions, for example, for educational purposes, in which teachers could discuss possible dangers of social networking with students.
Murphy conceded that parents play a significant role in educating children about social networking. But a lack of exposure to social networking often do not provide parents the kind of “Internet smarts” they would need to educate their children. “The problem really is that this is something new. We have not grown up with this kind of threat.” In Murphy’s view, the government needs to be proactive to “keep social networking [and their potential threats] out of schools and libraries.”
If passed, the law would take effect January 1, 2008. The full bill text is available here.