Feeds

US chat sites ban could hit all kinds of sites

Catch-all

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

The US House of Representatives has voted by an overwhelming majority to ban social networking sites in schools and libraries. Critics have warned that the ban could apply to a wide variety of sites, some of them of vital educational value.

The House passed the Deleting Online Predators Act by 410 votes to 15. The Act forbids publicly funded organisations, such as schools and libraries, from allowing young people to access sites that have chat rooms or 'social networking' elements. Under the proposed law, adults in such institutions can ask for permission to access the sites.

Opponents argue that the definitions in the law are so vague that they could take in a vast array of existing commercial websites and damage the business potential of those sites and the research capabilities of schools and libraries.

It will be left to the Federal Communications Commission to decide what sites come under the control of the Act. Civil liberties groups are arguing in other legal disputes that the communications regulator already wields too much power.

"The social networking sites have become, in a sense, a happy hunting ground for child predators," said Republican congressman Michael Fitzpatrick before the vote. The Act prohibits the publicly funded bodies to give children access to sites where they might receive "unlawful sexual advances".

The move was condemned by the American Library Association (ALA). "ALA is disappointed by the House’s passage of DOPA," said ALA president Leslie Burger. "This unnecessary and overly broad legislation will hinder students’ ability to engage in distance learning and block library computer users from accessing a wide array of essential Internet applications including instant messaging, email, wikis and blogs."

"Under DOPA, people who use library and school computers as their primary conduits to the Internet will be unfairly blocked from accessing some of the web’s most powerful emerging technologies and learning applications. As libraries are already required to block content that is 'harmful to minors' under the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), DOPA is redundant and unnecessary legislation," said Burger.

The proposed law will now pass to the Senate where a vote is expected early this month.

The law suggests that the FCC consider as social networking sites any site that allows users to edit a profile, chat to users or post personal data.

Under that loose definition a very large number of sites would qualify, including Amazon.com, which allows users to post lists of preferences and create profiles of authors, Ebay, in which each user has a profile which changes as they shop, or any number of major news sites, where users can discuss stories online.

Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Hey, Scots. Microsoft's Bing thinks you'll vote NO to independence
World's top Google-finding website calls it for the UK
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Apple CEO Tim Cook: TV is TERRIBLE and stuck in the 1970s
The iKing thinks telly is far too fiddly and ugly – basically, iTunes
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Huawei ditches new Windows Phone mobe plans, blames poor sales
Giganto mobe firm slams door shut on Microsoft. OH DEAR
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
OECD lashes out at tax avoiding globocorps' location-flipping antics
You hear that, Amazon, Google, Microsoft et al?
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.