U.S. Bill Returns to Target Social Networking, Blogs

Michael Hayes
WASHINGTON — A bill that could resurrect the Deleting Online Predators Act, which sought to limit access to blog and social networking sites in an effort to thwart online predators, may now have a second life with the introduction of legislation in the Senate dubbed “DOPA Jr.”

In July, the House overwhelmingly and quickly passed DOPA in response to a public outcry about predators using sites such as Friendster and MySpace to find children online. But the bill died a slow death in the Senate while civil libertarians, technical pundits and other online free speech advocates highlighted the bill’s far-reaching implications for Internet media and communications.

At the time, Mark Blafkin, a spokesman for the Association of Competitive Technology pointed out that DOPA would effectively deny access to most media sites, because they employ social networking tools such as blogs, chat rooms and bulletin boards.

While many thought the bill would remain dead after the midterm election results saw a power shift in the capital, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-AK, introduced S.B. 49 at the beginning of the current legislative session. The bill is reported to have identical language to DOPA, with one addition.

According to a report on ZDNet, Stevens added language that had been part of a failed communications bill that required all sexually explicit websites to be labeled as such, or impose prison sentences on website operators who fail to comply.

The same ZDNet report speculates that this time around, Stevens may face fierce opposition to his DOPA Jr. bill.

Stevens introduced the bill to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Although he is the Committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, is the chairman. The committee also includes such tech-savvy Senators as Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

To read the bill, click here.