threat to library access to social networking websites

Americans often laugh at what they see as the over-regulation of, well, just about everything in Europe. Now we can laugh, and cringe a bit, at a new law proposed by Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, in China a Pennsylvania Republican, author of the Deleting Online Predators Act, a bill that would force libraries to ban access to "social networking" sites.

C-Net reports today that Fitzpatrick and "the Suburban Caucus", a group of fellow Republicans including House Speaker Dennis Hastert:

"…on Wednesday endorsed new legislation that would cordon off access to commercial Web sites that let users create public "Web pages or profiles" and also offer a discussion board, chat room, or e-mail service. That’s a broad category that covers far more than social-networking sites such as Friendster and Google’s It would also sweep in a wide range of interactive Web sites and services, including, AOL and Yahoo’s instant-messaging features, and Microsoft’s Xbox 360, which permits in-game chat."

Fitzpatrick’s own website carries a press release about the proposed law:

"The legislation would require schools and libraries to implement security systems to prevent students from being exposed to obscene and objectionable material…Sites like Myspace and Facebook have opened the door to a new online community of social networks between friends, students and colleagues,” Fitzpatrick said. “However, this new technology has become a feeding ground for child predators that use these sites as just another way to do our children harm.”

So wait, we ban students from accessing the sites they want to access whilst they’re under supervision at school or in the library. So what happens next? Fitzpatrick’s website goes on to say that:

"…many parents lack the resources to protect their children from online predators. My legislation seeks to change that.”

Ok, so let me get this straight. Kids want to use social networking sites. Schools and libraries are places where trained members of staff, often with the help of net-nanny software, can provide supervision and guidance to young people. So what’s Fitzpatrick want to do? Make it illegal for libraries and schools to allow young people to access social networking sites and send them home where, Fitzpatrick admits on his own website, many "parents lack the resources to protect their children…"

Great idea.


  1. As Declan McCullagh wrote for CNET: Fitzpatrick’s bill, called the Deleting Online Predators Act, or DOPA, is part of a new, poll-driven effort by Republicans to address topics that they view as important to suburban voters. Republican pollster John McLaughlin polled 22 suburban districts and presented his research at a retreat earlier this year. Rep. Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican, is co-sponsoring the measure.
    The group, which is calling itself the “Suburban Caucus,” convened a press conference on Wednesday to announce new legislation it hopes will rally conservative supporters–and prevent the Democrats from retaking the House of Representatives during the November mid-term election.
    The vast majority of the families polled had been exposed to the moral panic around MySpace — spurred by news reports and efforts of law enforcement. I attended a presentation on “internet predators” given by a local police department. I asked the officer if she saw any benefit to children in participating in social networking. “None. They don’t need it. It [she was speaking of both MySpace and Facebook] should be banned.”
    If that’s the sort of message parents are getting from public safety officials, no wonder the Suburban Caucus are promoting this bill.

  2. is launching a new campaign in response to Congress’ attempt to censor the communication of our generation. We have created the action alert below and built a website, We are hoping to get as much grassroots action as possible around this important issue, especially from the online community.
    Breaking News:
    Legislation introduced this week will ban social networking, even sites used for educational and professional opportunities. What’s next? HR5319 will censor the communication of our generation and tell us who we can talk to, when and how. Tell Congress that social networking is a movement that we built, a movement that we are going to fight for.
    Visit, take action, tell your friends and get mad.

    The bill blocks the use of these sites in public libraries, which is for many, the only access that they have to a computer. Our hope is to be able to amend the bill to take these facts into consideration. We agree that there need to be safeguards put in place for “sexual predators” and any of other crimes that might occur because of the accessibility of information on these sites, but to ban them in schools (including using school computers afterschool) and public libraries, is for many – banning social networking.

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