The passage of DOPA (HR 5319), Deleting Online Predators Act, is
the latest effort on the part of the Congress to manage the unmanageable (and perhaps do some fear-mongering among constituents in this election year?). ALA's objection to the legislation was expressed in Beth Yoke's testimony before the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. The position is predicated on three premises:
1. The legislation will limit access to a broad range of essential interactive web applications in schools and libraries
2. It will exacerbate the digital divide, impacting disproportionately those with no or limited computing resources of their own
3. Education and parental involvement are the keys to keeping children safe and helping them to develop judgment that will help them keep themselves safe.
That this sort of legislation would be passed in an election year is not so surprising -- the Internet has become a favorite whipping boy for legislators hoping to evidence their inclination to save us from dangers real and imagined. Who can argue with keeping children safe from predators? In fact, as Yoke's testimony suggests, preventing access in exactly the places where children might be instructed to use such services safely and responsibly will probably leave children less safe. The magnitude of the rejection of this argument (410 -15) is chilling indeed.
A number of discussions on the subject points to it unenforceability, but this is the sort of legislation that enforces itself... or rather, by threatening the withdrawal of funding, 'encourages' affected institutions to self police -- or else. Lets hope cooler heads in the Senate prevail.
Like it or not, the trajectory of increased connectivity is an immutable trend of social and technological change. It pervades our private lives, education, and business. Vague, blunt, clumsy efforts on the part of mostly privileged, middle-aged, white American males will not stem this change, nor keep our children safe from its side effects. Such efforts can, however, further damage our competitiveness by stifling innovation and complicating local decision making and operations in libraries and educational institutions.
thanks to Marshall Kirkpatrick whose blog post on this topic has links to other interesting commentary on this issue.
image: When I saw this class-rebuild project on display at the Center for Wooden Boats, i wondered... could that be a....? In fact it was... a Herreschoff 12 1/2 foot gaff rigged keelboat, a craft designed by perhaps the greatest arbiter of beauty in sailing lines. If memory serves, E.B. White's life-long passion for 'messing around in boats' was nurtured on the Maine coast in just such a craft. E.B. White's son, Joel White would later channel this love in his own boat designs. More about White's boats in Wood, Water and Light: Classic Wooden Boats.