Last week, the House passed the Deleting Online Predators Act, a bill requiring public schools to block chat rooms and social networking sites (which Dave Weigel blogged about earlier this month). However much a symptom of moral panic this is, it's probably not a complete disaster in itself if kids can't log in to MySpace at school. What is unsettling is how vaguely defined "social networking site" is. The bill just picks out some general features, such as allowing users to create a profile, soliciting "personal" information, and enabling communication between users—then lets the FCC flesh it out. But that seems as though it could easily cover a pretty huge array of sites. Gmail? IM? Wikipedia? Citizen journalism sites like Fresno Famous? Slashdot? Hell, the whole Internet is arguably about "social networking." And even if it did just cover paradigm cases like MySpace and Friendster, why impose an elaborate and burdensome filtering requirement that isn't actually going to keep anyone off these sites when it would be relatively simple to just teach kids some common-sense online safety practices, which they'll need sooner or later anyway?
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