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Congress to Ban Social Network Sites from Schools, Libraries

 7:43 pm on Jul 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

Web sites like Amazon.com and MySpace.com may soon be inaccessible for many people using public terminals at American schools and libraries, thanks to the U.S. House of Representatives.

By a 410-15 vote on Thursday, politicians approved a bill that would effectively require that "chat rooms" and "social networking sites" be rendered inaccessible to minors, an age group that includes some of the Internet's most ardent users. Adults can ask for permission to access the sites.

Source: CNet [news.com.com]



 3:16 am on Jul 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>Adults need to ask for permission? Isn't that backwards? Should we really be treating adults like children?

OMG. No, it is not backwards. I suppose those adults that act like children should be treated like children. Access to those sites will be disabled by default. Permission is too strong a word. They merely need to ask for access.


 3:17 am on Jul 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

And adults that ask for access to those sites will get it.

In a school setting, when teachers should be teaching and preparing lesson plans, I doubt school admininstrators will be granting free passes to use school resources to socialize on Myspace during their planning period.


 3:33 am on Jul 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

Permission is too strong a word.


They merely need to ask for access.

Explain how asking for access is different from needing to ask for permission in this case, in the real world?

Forget what the law finally ends up saying, faster than this thing could be inked into law some power hungry, or just self-righteous "I know best" librarian or educator will be denying "access" to adults because a kid might walk by the monitor, or because they just don't like these types of sites.

Making non-access the default in the childrens computer center is one thing.

Denying access to adults in adult sections of libraries or schools unless the ask for permission to access a category of site is another.


 4:05 am on Jul 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>Explain how asking for access is different from needing to ask for permission in this case, in the real world?

If I must. 'Permission' implies that the privilege might be denied to adults. That isn't the case. If the conditions for access are met, it's not about 'permission' it's about access. In this case, the condition to be met is an age requirement.

>>Denying access to adults in adult sections of libraries or schools unless the ask for permission to access a category of site is another.

My BS meter is currently pegged. I have to ask for access to all sorts of things in libraries. Research materials, rare books, etc. Many libraries set time limits on access to their computers, in effect, denying unlimited access. If I want to look at historical documents, I need to ask for permission.

This potential tempest in a teapot will be forgotten about in a week.

[edited by: digitalghost at 4:13 am (utc) on July 29, 2006]


 4:12 am on Jul 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

'Permission' implies that the privilege might be denied to adults. That isn't the case.

You apparently have far more faith in the people that would be granting "access" than I do.

[I also see access by adults as more of a right than a privilege, but that's probably better left for another thread or time.]


 4:45 am on Jul 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

Don't most libraries have member cards / borrowing cards?

I presume that it would be fairly easy to allow access only to those with a valid adult borrowing card.


 5:18 am on Jul 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

I hate to point out that ANY forum is a social network site by that definition.
(IANAL - thank goodness, but still, it's obvious)
WW meets this definition, so does any active blog that has member registration.

This law will be applied as hard as the prosecutors want to, and they will love it.

It allows them to install monitoring software now to track whomever they want.

Meanwhile the criminals always skip the obvious routes anyway, and probably would use wifi outside some unknown business or residence for whatever they want to do.

The feds demand VOIP monitoring, meanwhile the criminals are using encrypted skype or other software anyway.

USA is getting more than a little crazy. Have you tried to buy a dozen peaches lately or a grill lighter, or extra strength cold medication? Go try. You will most likely be required to not only show ID, it will be entered into the store's system for the "authorities" to use any way they desire.

If all these laws and hassles are preventing crime, I want to see the numbers before they makeup nonsense like this and get free reign. They can't just say look how many pink elephants we stopped from trampling you - there are no pink elephants!


 5:54 am on Jul 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

Friends I have read all the posts on the issue. They make one thing clear. The issue is highly debatable and it has many dimensions than just a federal control.
As a journalist with 26 years of experience, I have seen history in the making. I have my own news website.Internet explosion presents totally different type of challenge.No doubt, technology is complex and even experts in IT know only a peanut when it comes to having insight into technology.
This poses problem of variety of use of technology. In my country,India, with the advent of mobiles and cut throat competition among companiesSTD booths are fastgetting into pages of history like what happened to "xerox" machines.
This certainly poses problem of different uses of technology. Terrorists activity is an area which has caught attention of people worldwide.
I think much more serious is the psychological aspect of this anytime anywhere with any one communication power IT has given use through means like internet and mobile.
Such is the growth,that society has yet to fully realise the other side of the all powerful technology.
And in such a situation, we will need more regulatory measures. No doubt internet has brought us in borderless world, but not in law less. No doubt we do not have adequate laws because we do not know about the problems.
We will have to regulate the flow of power of technology.
Question is who should do it.
At least no one can go for parralel power structure. And so the power of the real world will extend its prowess in the virtual world also.
Politicians are not technology experts. But they know how to make experts work for their own goals. Cyber crime control is best example of this.


 11:13 am on Jul 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

Back when dinosaurs roamed the land wearing wooden underwear...

My Jr. High school was a "pilot" school in our city, with the first fully equipped computer lab, complete with (*gasp* - imagine the computing power of...) 20 Apple II computers.

To access the lab during lunch and after school, you had to have a special pass card. To get a pass card, you had to be in one of the computer classes.

If you got caught playing video games or pirating, you got your pass card suspended for a week.

Now, no one ever got caught pirating. Mostly because our teachers had no idea what software piracy was. And those that DID know, also knew that piracy was pretty much the only way you could get ahold of software - there just weren't the distribution channels back then that there are today.

However, we DID get busted for playing video games all the time (anyone remember Karatika for the Apple II?). Which was no big deal, because all the kids in the computer classes had enough savvy to break into the school's main computer and print themselves off a pile of extra pass cards, in case they had one suspended.

So what's my point? Simple. Put a barrier in front of a 13 year old, and they'll just find a way around it.

Besides, for now, this is just a bill, and it'll have to go through Senate before it goes anywhere, and I'd guess there'll be much debating and amending before that happens.

In the meantime, it might serve us all to hum a little toon by Dave Frishberg [en.wikipedia.org]:

I'm just a bill.
Yes, I'm only a bill.
And I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill.
Well, it's a long, long journey
To the capital city.
It's a long, long wait
While I'm sitting in committee,
But I know I'll be a law someday
At least I hope and pray that I will,
But today I am still just a bill.


 1:53 pm on Jul 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

What a hipocricy. Their big fat old companies that are loosing viewers (TV) and customers (fast food and american automakers), and so they bring the "let's save the kids" motto again. How lovely :)

There are minors in college...

As people in my former country say (and believe me, you have a lot of professors in US colleges from my old country, so those are no drunks): "at 21 we already quit drinking". Stop calling ADULTS (i.e. people over 18) "minors", it is not helping them.


 3:54 pm on Jul 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

Myspace has no business in my kid's elementary school. Log in and the first thing you see is a seductive bikini clad beauty asking for a date. Not to mention the #*$!y content within the majority of personal profiles.
Since my child's school takes Federal money they would be included on the list. Thank God!


 3:55 pm on Jul 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

Have you tried to buy a dozen peaches lately or a grill lighter, or extra strength cold medication? Go try. You will most likely be required to not only show ID, it will be entered into the store's system for the "authorities" to use any way they desire.

I agree with pretty much everything you said, except for this. I don't know where in the US you live, but here in Arizona, nothing of this sort occurs. I can walk into a store, buy any of those things that you mentioned, present my cash, and leave. I imagine it's like that in most places around this country.


 4:28 pm on Jul 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

We need to keep children away from the internet.

They get sticky candy all over its tubes, then you have to get a new internet delivered in the post.


 5:32 pm on Jul 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

That is dumb.

Who decides which sites are social network sites?

Do blogs count? Anything with a message board?

How do you define "social network". The entire internet can be described that way.

Its idiotic.


 5:38 pm on Jul 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>Log in and the first thing you see is a seductive bikini clad beauty asking for a date.

That is a complete exageration.

There are all kinds of legit reasons to be on myspace. If you have not noticed, big corporate media are using myspace as an viril advertising vehicle to reach the youth. Its owned by Fox.


 5:47 pm on Jul 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

As much as I hate Myspace, who am I to decide that one "wastes" time on Myspace and Live Journal. Some of the comments here make it seems like it's a sin to ahem, waste time on the Internet...

I disagree with the whole "need to go out angle." Some people need to go out to meet people to be "adjusted citizens." Some, don't.

What we as adults think is stupid crap on Myaspace is our judgment alone. We can't judge what the kids do. We all played the bottle as kids. They're just doing it another way.

And about indecent material in social networks, that's why we have parents. It's parents who should be paying a close watch on the crap their kids visit. Not the states. Parents are the best to judge what is acceptable to them and their belief. The state should be taking care of potholes in the streets...

[edited by: Harry at 5:48 pm (utc) on July 29, 2006]


 6:25 pm on Jul 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

Sounds like this will drive rapid adoption of cell phone surfing.


 5:04 am on Jul 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

And proxying.

I'm beginning to think this legislation will have several unexpected good consequences, such as creating a generation of proto-hackers.

If you define hacking as 'sitting in front of the computer typing away till it does what you want it to'.

A lot of us here will have had the "you just can't get the 'elp" problem. Where, no matter how simple the computer task you need an employee to do - they sit there looking at the mouse like it might bite them. A computer is something my generation are largely afraid of because you have to be 'clever' to use one. Deep down inside they all know if they press the wrong button they will start a nuclear war.

The kiddies are different. And if you make enjoyable net access Verboten, they are going to take even greater delight in accessing it in ways they aren't supposed to, and to them, a fear of computers will seem like a very strange thing indeed.

You consider what we are all up against - a ruling class (and I'm including Google in this) who assume they can simply take control of any information flow like in the Old Media days, I'm all for banning access to MySpace. Its excellent training.

When it comes to 'wasting time on computers' I expect 90% of us here have been accused of that. And I have to ask myself "do I need an employee who can recite the names of all the presidents, or do I need someone who can sit at a computer and do as I ask without being crippled with terror?"

[edited by: Alex_Miles at 5:14 am (utc) on July 30, 2006]


 8:44 am on Jul 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

wow.. ..this will sure hurt myspace and lots of myspace related site.


 2:28 pm on Jul 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Oh, come on! Give me a break!

The bill is probably supported by 75% of the parents for the same ole reason - "It's not my fault my kid is a dumb *ss - it's website/peer-pressure/weed/teacher/what-not fault - everybody else, but me shoud be blamed"
It's the "christian" way of rasing children (or should I say amish).

The problem is that the parents dont want to put an effort in educating themselves in the basics of their kids' world. Talk to your kid for God sake. The electrical outlets could kill a kid, but you dont see us banning them...

Internet is a series of tubes, you know...

While we are at it - let's just bring back the inquisition and go hunt some witches ;)


 3:34 pm on Jul 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Let's try to remember that not everyone goes to the public library for work or educational purposes. Some people also go for personal enjoyment. Taxpayer dollars do get spent on teen magazines, trashy romance novels, and stupid movies. Is anyone complaining about that?

My point is that we shouldn't demonize those people who might go to the public library seeking online entertainment - they're no different. I say let public libraries regulate themselves. If they regularly have customers with educational/work needs waiting for computers, let them institute their own policy about time limits and priorities. Instead of becoming an increasingly legalized society, let's try to teach kids, teens and adults common courtesy.


 5:31 pm on Jul 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

When my kids go to the library I go with them when they go to school I do not. I assumed that scool computers had all access to chat rooms, forums, and social network sites blocked anyays. Its a sad state of affairs that the govenment has to regulate on common sense. The kids are in school to learn not chat. I defy anybody to prove to me that young kids on My Space are doing aything educational. Have to seen the blogs the language and the creepy messages. I wont let my kids have access at home I expect them not to have access at school. I do not however agree with the library ban.


 1:39 am on Jul 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

Actually the chat isn't that bad .... I have a chat page for students that is almost always accessed during school hours. So far no problems due to the structure. Members are recommended by their language teachers and the teachers use it as part of the course of instruction. I am concerned that "meddling" by any government agency could affect mine and other similar services.


 2:17 am on Jul 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

It's all nonsense and here's why...

a) The brats should be studying and not playing in the school or the library, period.

b) The little curtain crawlers already use the random CGI/PHP proxy sites of the day to get around all those so-called blocking measures

c) My tax dollars don't need to be used for people acessing MySpace or any other crap site.


 5:56 am on Jul 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

Public profiles? Check.
Forums? Check.
Socializing? Check.

I wonder how many teens will soon no longer be able to access WebmasterWorld.

So everyone's picking on MySpace. Fine. If I had kids, I wouldn't want them viewing such a site because, well, they might ask "Daddy, is it true that if I have awful coding skills and a horrid design aesthetic, I can own a bazillion dollar company someday?" What kind of example is this for our children? THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

But seriously, as a couple of others have pointed out, there are a TON of thoughtful online communities in which young people can share ideas on the arts, on learning, on traveling, and much more.

It makes me sad that poor kids -- whose only Internet access may be at the public library -- are going to be shut out from networking with and learning from others online, while well-off kids (as usual) will be wholly unaffected by the government's intervention in this context. And sometimes, IMHO, it's the at-risk not-well-off kids who most need to reach out to others online.

Also, without meaning to exacerbate this controvery, there are also "different" kids (read: gay, hispanic, etc.) who might be living in small rural communities who have no one like themselves they can safely talk to in person.

As a society, we broadly cut off communications channels -- even mixed ones -- at our collective peril. And yes, kids are -- or should be -- part of our society.


 8:17 am on Jul 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

Ya know, I hate to sound like a bad guy, but this bleeding heart poor kid stuff doesn't move me at all. A second hand computer and a few FREE internet service like NetZero gives anyone 10 hours a month free, and for $9.95/month unlimited access.

Less than $10, so if Mama can give up 2 packs of smokes or Daddy can do without a couple of 6-packs the kid can have internet access.

Or the kid could do what kids did when I was a kid, sell bottles with deposits and recycle cans for spare change.

Or, here's a concept, mow a lawn, rake a yard, clean a garage to pay for the 'net...

If they want it, it's cheap, and 2nd hand computers are piling up.

Don't need my tax dollars for it and I knew how to get money when I was a kid.

Personally, I'm getting sick of all the coddling mentality, life is hard, you get whatever you want if you work for it, if you don't you get the short end of the stick.

[edited by: incrediBILL at 8:19 am (utc) on July 31, 2006]


 8:43 am on Jul 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

Like mentioned before:
"Other than that, I don't see why libraries of schools need to give kids access to myspace etc."

School is school.. you go there to learn something, not to play with myspace or amazon. We give the kids too many space nowadays on the internet at schools.

You can give them that in Libraries when the school is over.. In their own time.


 8:48 am on Jul 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

once again i am puzzled as to why legislation and bans on stuff are seen as answers. regardless of this, won't this be extremely easy to circumvent using some of the 100's of free proxies floating around?


 9:41 am on Jul 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

i think the federal govt should not get involved. let state govts or local govts or even individual schools decide how to regulate this, if at all.


 2:03 pm on Jul 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

It's easy to pick on kids and say that MySpace is crap and all and bad for them. I give kids more credits - especially those we've got today who understand things much better and faster than we ever did.

My tax dollars are wasted on a magnitude of things already. A lot of stuff I don't approve of. Whether I vote or not, it won't change much. But going after kids is always good to get some cheap votes as if they were all bad and needed to be contained/protected from themselves.

Part of a good democracy is letting kids learn stuff by themselves and giving them some breathing room. I think this new legislation will hurt more than it will do any good on a long term basis. The state is supposed to fix sidewalks, deliver the mail, prevent epidemics, and so on. It's not supposed to tell kids what to do with their free time or at recess, and where to surf. There are bad online neighbourhoods and preventing access to them should be done at the local level and with parents.

Parents should have the ultimate say in what they kids can see or not. I trust them more than any well meaning bureaucrat or politician.

I'm amazed by how people are willing to surrender their freedom for so little gains.

As much as I hate Myspace, I understand why kids need it. And if they don't go to Myspace or other online social networking site, they'll just go elsewhere. Nothing is fixed - as there was no problems before. Just parents who did not do their job and blamed everyone else but themselves.

And if the state thinks that Myspace is bad and influences kids babdly, why don't they just ban them and stop circling the problem?


 4:09 pm on Jul 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

I think where this bill will fall down is in the definition of "social networking". How on earth can you draw the line between that and any other sort of site? And how can you do it in real time, when forums are added to evolving sites all the time? It's a hydra-headed beast.

Do they intend to do this with a whitelist of approved sites, or some sort of blacklist? Either way, a lot will slip through the net and it will be a huge task to maintain any sort of order.

The other problem with this is the idea that user-contributed content is more timewasting than websites that provide content created by webmasters and/or edited content from groups of paid or volunteer writers. This is obviously nonsense.

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