When the clueless legislate, we get clueless legislation. Just look at the "Myspace law" that the US House passed yesterday, by an overwhelming (410 - 15) margin. This is classic "for the children" legislation that makes no sense. Here's what it purports to do:
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.”
Hmm. I guess USENET and IRC channels are ok then, since they aren't commercial. How do they propose to enforce this, anyway? It's simple enough to block questionable brick and mortar sites from a defined area near a school; you can just walk around. The net has "infinite" space though - and new social networking sites are being born (as others die) constantly. How do you block a category like this? Here's what
Mike Arrington Marshall Kirkpatrick says about it, and I agree completely:
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.”
410-15 was a shocking vote. I write about it here because it has the potential to impact a huge portion of our readership and the companies we profile on this site. Though the viability of enforcing such a law is open to question, web services offering collaboration in education are looking seriously endangered. Secondary collaborative consequences of commercial web sites used in schools aren’t looking good either.
(A few minutes later) Sigh. I actually called my congressman's office on this. They told me "never fear, that's not our intent". A phrase comes to mind: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions". The only way to enforce what this legislation calls for is to cut internet connectivity off in schools and libraries.