July 28, 2006

Blocking Social Networking in Schools

US House: Schools must block MySpace, many other sites

Marshall Kirkpatrick

Image from Flickr user Hey PaulUS House Resolution 5319, the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA), was passed by a 410 to 15 vote tonight. If the Resolution becomes law social networking sites and chat rooms must be blocked by schools and libraries or those institutions will lose their federal internet subsidies. According to the resolution’s top line summary it will “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.”

Adults will be able to ask for the library’s permission to use such sites. The Resolution will now go to the US Senate for a vote before being offered to the President for signature into law.

The rhetoric from advocates was all about MySpace. For example, Texas Republican Ted Poe says, “social networking sites such as MySpace and chat rooms have allowed sexual predators to sneak into homes and solicit kids.”

An incredibly vague law, DOPA will require schools and libraries to block access to a potentially huge range of sites on the internet. The goal is to protect children from adult predators. Sites that must be blocked include those that allow people to post profiles, include personal information and allow “communication among users.”


It is amazing that those who influence our government can be so short-sighted when crafting and then voting on a law such as this. I haven't dug into the details, but the idea that 1. social networking should be banned and 2. schools could actually stop social networking is just crazy.

In the next few years we will begin to see the power of social software as it applies to learning. As we have seen with most social technologies (i.e. email), the public schools will first try to ban them, then try to manage them, and then finally embrace them for what they are.

I do have some a lot of compassion for our public schools, the responsibility of protecting our nations youth is awesome. On some level they think they might be doing the best thing. However, putting a vague law out that doesn't really address the cause of the problem will not keep adult preditors at bay and scaring our public school personal into thinking that social network sites are so bad they must be banned by law is just over the top.

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  1. Lee, very interesting post. I haven't followed the bill but play to read it after your post. Your commment about the efforts to ban/manage/embrace new technology by schools is very perceptive and also applies to most businesses. We are on the beginning edge of the social networking phase of the internet. An interesting stat that I saw a few days ago was that 60% of the content read by young adults online is content created by their friends and others they network with. This trend will continue and MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, etc. are the examples of this trend.

    One question, what impact does this have on facebook which is sanctioned by schools and requires approval to sign up?

  2. I heard that stat on TWIT the other day. Amazing... I believe it to be true. It has started to play out that way in may own life with my Flickr account and podcasting.

    Good question. I don't see the students stopping that's for sure.

    Thanks for the comment.