What's Wrong with DOPA

There are a lot of folks TALKING about DOPA but not many have read the bill. I want to go on the record and tell you exactly where I have issues. (I feel that I need to do this since CNN and TechCrunch have posted my blogging against DOPA!) Following is the actual text of the Bill and my comments.

Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006 (Engrossed as Agreed to or Passed by House)
2d Session

H. R. 5319


To amend the Communications Act of 1934 to require recipients of universal service support for schools and libraries to protect minors from commercial social networking websites and chat rooms.

Acceptable Use policies handle many of these issues.

Currently, schools have Acceptable Use policies which detail how they expect school computers to be used. This includes instructions that school computers are not to be used for pornography, commercial enterprise, etc. Every school that I am aware of blocks Instant Messaging, Myspace, Xanga, and Facebook.

What will be blocked?
This COULD extend blocking to other commercial social networking websites and chat rooms including:

Blogs - I collaborate on a supportblogging wiki is that is a great resource for educational blogs. All commercial blogs such as blogger (which I use) and wordpress will probably be blocked. Many of the great educational blogs listed on supportblogging will also be blocked.

Wikis - Wikispaces and PB Wiki (Websites used to build educational wikis such as my Westwood Classroom wiki), Although schools have the ability to create internal wikis for their students to use, these: 1) Cost a significant amount of time and potential money to set up (although the software is open source) and 2) Can not be accessed from home. (One note despit what some think, Wikipedia MAY not fall under this since it is non-profit.)

Many other great resources - The SEGA Tech folks have compiled a list of websites that would be blocked which include: the Jason Project Online (real time science website that allows students to chat with scientists), Google Pages (easy free way to set up web pages), Web CT, Blackboard, Moodle, Google Talk (a free chat that many schools use to give teachers their phone messages), many aspects of Google Earth, and probably the Georgia Virtual School and other virtual schools that are being implemented nationwide.

The Have-Nots will have nothing

You'll notice that many things that will be blocked are the free tools. What will result is that the "haves" will have the resources to set up internal systems, the "have-nots" will have nothing.

HR 5319 EH

2d Session

H. R. 5319


To amend the Communications Act of 1934 to require recipients of universal service support for schools and libraries to protect minors from commercial social networking websites and chat rooms.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


    This Act may be cited as the `Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006'.


    The Congress finds that--
      (1) sexual predators approach minors on the Internet using chat rooms and social networking websites, and, according to the United States Attorney General, one in five children has been approached sexually on the Internet;
      (2) sexual predators can use these chat rooms and websites to locate, learn about, befriend, and eventually prey on children by engaging them in sexually explicit conversations, asking for photographs, and attempting to lure children into a face to face meeting; and
      (3) with the explosive growth of trendy chat rooms and social networking websites, it is becoming more and more difficult to monitor and protect minors from those with devious intentions, particularly when children are away from parental supervision.

    Parents aren't supervising kids AT HOME!

    Sexual predators are a problem. However, none of these studies show WHERE children are when they are experiencing the predatory behavior, my guess is most of them are at home! Every school I know of blocks myspace!

    Unfortunately, parents do not supervise their children! They are less educated about online websites and do not even know how to find their child's myspace account. I have spent time teaching parents how to supervise their children on myspace and am writing a book that includes that as a cornerstone.

    Predators go where kids are unsupervised

    Predators congregate where supervision is absent. When I was growing up, it was the mall! The mall was not an evil place, but it was used for evil because parents and responsible adults did not go there.

    Likewise, myspace is not inherently evil. It is inherently unsupervised! Parents need to be involved. Teachers need to be involved. Massive education efforts of parents, teachers, and students need to happen. Instead, we are burying our head in the sand and hoping the problem goes away!

    Is trendy bad?

    I find great offense at the word "trendy" here. I can picture an adult looking at their nose saying "tsk tsk" at these teenagers! Teenagers used to congregate at the hamburger stand or the mall or other places. Now, they congregate online. No amount of legislation is going to change that. We can teach them effective, ethical online interaction skills or not.

    These "trendy" chatrooms, wikis, and blogs are also amazing tools that are helping multinational businesses cooperate. They are an essential backbone the globalization of business. Everywhere we are emphasizing the need to collaborate, cooperate, and eliminate duplicate services. The most valuable collaboration tools in the history of mankind must be taught to our children but through this act, the vast majority of Americans will be ignorant by design.

    We protect children through education, not through ignorance!


      (a) Certification by Schools- Section 254(h)(5)(B) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 254(h)(5)(B)) is amended by striking clause (i) and inserting the following:
            `(i) is enforcing a policy of Internet safety for minors that includes monitoring the online activities of minors and the operation of a technology protection measure with respect to any of its computers with Internet access that--
              `(I) protects against access through such computers to visual depictions that are--

    `(aa) obscene;

    `(bb) child pornography; or

    `(cc) harmful to minors; and

              `(II) protects against access to a commercial social networking website or chat room unless used for an educational purpose with adult supervision; and'.

    Blocking is happening now!

    Yes, we must block obscene pictures, child pornography, and things harmful to minors. Who would disagree with that?

    I have found, however, that the most difficult thing to block is Google image search. My students are under a strict rule that if they see anything, they are to report it immediately to me. I will then go and block it if possible. I think pornography is terrible.

    Educate kids on the harm of pornography
    I find, however, that educating students about the harm of pornography and the consequences will help them resist it. Unfortunately, if kids want to see pornography, all they have to do is turn on the TV. I'm not sure why Congress is so intent on targeting the Internet when such a poor job is being done on television.

    Yes, block pornography! Yes, block social websites! Yes, block tools that do not educate but only serve to distract!

    I believe, however, that any time you take power out of the hands of local educators that you serve to weaken them. The conduit of communications in the 21st century is the Internet.

    Students must learn how to be responsible, competent net citizens who can protect their privacy and safety, and that of those they will be responsible for as adults.

    Learn from the Middle Ages

    In the Middle Ages, when those in charge did not like the content of books, they had a similar strategy. They had massive bonfires and burned everything! We lost many great works of prehistory and progress was stalled until educators moved forward with reading and education. That is why it was called the Dark Ages.

    We obviously have not learned much. We are simply "throwing the baby out with the bathwater."

    Predators cannot be deleted

    Predators are not something you can press a key and delete! They are there and trust me, they are happy! Happy to have more children online at midnight after the parents have gone to bed. They are happy to have children who are not being taught about online predators. They are happy to have less supervision. They have more victims!

    Education prevents victims

    I am not FOR predators. I am avidly, vehemently against predators. I am FOR education as the only medium for preventing victims!

    Define "adult supervision"

    The words "adult supervision" concern me. To an uneducated offline world, adult supervision means that an educator is "looking over the shoulder" of every student as they post and work. This is unrealistic and impractical.

    RSS is better than "over the shoulder" but who will comprehend it?

    Harnessing the power of the new Internet, I use RSS feeds to monitor every wiki entry and every blog entry made by my students both at school and any of their personal blogs that they tell me about. I am watching!

    I seriously doubt that lawmakers, commissioners responsible for enforcement, or educators understand RSS and will resort to an "over the shoulder" methodology and a "zero tolerance for mistakes" that will totally shut down Internet-based teaching!

    Internet education doesn't mean goof off education!

    It is a misunderstand to think that educators who use the Internet to teach are creating "goof off" kids. Just look at Darren Kuropatwa's math classes or Clarence Fisher's class. These insightful educators are doing amazing things.

    I graduated first in my class from Georgia Tech and use a college level textbook to teach Computer Science. I don't say this to brag but to say that I believe in a great, tough education! Just look at my school wiki and see if you see any "slack" in there. You won't!

    Parents and Teachers raise kids

    Yes, I advocate supervision of children online by parents AND teachers. But just having parents do it is not enough! As their teacher, I need to be involved in the process of educating parents and students!

    I am going to proactively help students "clean up" their myspace account so that they will not limit their scholarships and job hunting. With a significant number of employers Googling their prospects, students need to know that what they create online has significant consequences. I will teach it, but many kids are going to be ignorant in public school classrooms.

        (b) Certification by Libraries- Section 254(h)(6)(B) of such Act (47 U.S.C. 254(h)(6)(B)) is amended by striking clause (i) and inserting the following:
              `(i) is enforcing a policy of Internet safety that includes the operation of a technology protection measure with respect to any of its computers with Internet access that--
                `(I) protects against access through such computers to visual depictions that are--

      `(aa) obscene;

      `(bb) child pornography; or

      `(cc) harmful to minors; and

                `(II) protects against access by minors without parental authorization to a commercial social networking website or chat room, and informs parents that sexual predators can use these websites and chat rooms to prey on children; and'.

      I agree with parent authorization in libraries

      Yes, parents need to authorize access to commercial social networking sites. This is great! If I don't want my child on myspace, I don't want them on it at school or the library. I should be asked and give my consent. I agree!

      We need parent authorization in schools

      I also think schools should require consent for activities at school. If I don't want my child on myspace, I don't want an "over the shoulder" teacher to set them up without my knowledge.

      What is missing? We are informing parents about sexual predators.

      Who is informing students? We are teaching explicit sex in the schools and we can't teach kids how to protect themselves from online predators? We can't teach them that most people in kid chat rooms AREN'T kids? We need STUDENT education! I don't see it!

        (c) Definitions- Section 254(h)(7) is amended by adding at the end the following new subparagraph:
            `(J) COMMERCIAL SOCIAL NETWORKING WEBSITES; CHAT ROOMS- Within 120 days after the date of enactment of the Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006, the Commission shall by rule define the terms `social networking website' and `chat room' for purposes of this subsection. In determining the definition of a social networking website, the Commission shall take into consideration the extent to which a website--
              `(i) is offered by a commercial entity;
              `(ii) permits registered users to create an on-line profile that includes detailed personal information;
              `(iii) permits registered users to create an on-line journal and share such a journal with other users;
              `(iv) elicits highly-personalized information from users; and
              `(v) enables communication among users.'.

      "The Commission" will decide what websites should be used in education.

      The commission will have to sort through all of the websites out there and determine their benefit. As an entrepreneur, when did the fact that something makes money limit it from being a good thing? Competition and profit have driven our economy! Students should be taught about how to create profiles that do not reveal private information.

      How many members of "the Commission" are qualified educators who understand best practices, core competencies, and emerging technologies?

      Profile Building

      A profile can be nebulous or specific, it is user driven NOT site driven. To prevent children from sharing private information, we should again educate them. I love Think.com a free website done as a service of Oracle. It has the best tools for profanity filtration and privacy flagging I've ever seen.

      Will it be blocked because Oracle makes money? I have seen amazing writing since I have introduced my students to blogging! The possibility of an audience produces amazing works. The interaction fuels excitement. It can be done well, but public school teachers will not have a choice!

      Here's a laptop but don't use it!

      What about all of the laptop schools that use many of the online textbook resources? Whole curriculums could go down the drain. Will the Commission look at every school?

      Behemoth blocking database is in our future

      The maelstrom of subjective analysis that will be required is going to be impossible. I can only guess that it will result in an online behemoth of a database that feeds the blocking program of all public schools and libraries. I see no money to pay for such a thing and the massive server farm that it would require.

      This is not quite as easy as it sounds. It sounds a lot like the centralized Chinese censorship that many Americans have opposed. Very expensive. Very difficult to do. Very communist.

      (d) Disabling During Adult or Educational Use- Section 254(h)(5)(D) of such Act is amended-
          (1) by inserting `OR EDUCATIONAL' after `DURING ADULT' in the heading; and
          (2) by inserting before the period at the end the following: `or during use by an adult or by minors with adult supervision to enable access for educational purposes pursuant to subparagraph (B)(i)(II)' .


        (a) Information Regarding Child Predators and the Internet- Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Federal Trade Commission shall--
          (1) issue a consumer alert regarding the potential dangers to children of Internet child predators, including the potential danger of commercial social networking websites and chat rooms through which personal information about child users of such websites may be accessed by child predators; and
          (2) establish a website to serve as a resource for information for parents, teachers and school administrators, and others regarding the potential dangers posed by the use of the Internet by children, including information about commercial social networking websites and chat rooms through which personal information about child users of such websites may be accessed by child predators.
        (b) Commercial Social Networking Websites- For purposes of the requirements under subsection (a), the terms `commercial social networking website' and `chat room' have the meanings given such terms pursuant to section 254(h)(7)(J) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 254(h)(7)(J)), as amended by this Act.

      Passed the House of Representatives July 26, 2006.

      Section 4 is a winner!

      I really like section 4 and the idea of a website. That is a great start!

      What is not included in this legislation:

      • Education of children about privacy and online safety
      • Education of parents about how to supervise their children online
      • Opportunities for students to use social networking to further their education
      • Opportunities for commercial businesses to provide needed conduits for education (How about a myspace for education with profanity filters, and privacy blockers?) It would make a lot of sense financially.
      • Education of students on Internet teamwork skills.
      • Opportunities for American students to interact in global projects using existing websites
      • Funding for implementation
      • Funding for schools to set up internal wikis and blogs for teaching
      • An online mechanism for reporting predators that kids and adults can used.
      • Steeper penalties for online predatory behavior.
      • More law enforcement resources to handle the problem.
      Good concept, poor implementation

      As you can see, I agree in concept, just not in implementation.

      We'd never stop farming because we had bugs

      I grew up on a farm. Every year we battled bugs and fungus so that we could have a good crop. We never considered not planting in our field because of the bugs and fungus. We took steps to fight them, but it was part of producing a crop.

      Likewise, as we progress to an Internet world, we will have bugs and fungus. We must aggressively take steps against these predators, identity thieves, and unscrupulous business people, but that is part of producing a crop of well educated, Internet savvy children.

      Doing the wrong thing
      Congress needs to do something! But doing the wrong thing is worse than doing something when it will create more victims. Educators are already firing up to teach children, give them the tools, responsibility, mission and resources. Don't keep them from doing their job!

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