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Ill. Politician Targets Social Networking Sites

Ill. Politician Targets Social Networking Sites
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Wednesday, Feb 14, 2007    Text size: 
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — State Sen. Matt Murphy has introduced his own local version of the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA). The law would restrict access to social networking sites.

Known as the Social Networking Website Prohibition Act, Murphy’s bill mimics the federal DOPA bill, which made its return this year after the U.S. Senate killed the proposed law late in 2006.

At the federal level, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, introduced S.B. 49, dubbed “DOPA Jr.,” in January. The bill, which restricts access to social networking sites such as MySpace and blogs, uses the same language as the failed DOPA bill, with one key 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.

While Murphy’s bill does not contain labeling language for sexually explicit websites, it does differ from Stevens’ federal proposal insofar as it restricts access to social networking sites from public computers — housed in schools and libraries — for both children and adults.

The Illinois bill also does not define the term “social networking,” effectively leaving the power to decide which sites will be off limits in the hands of the state’s top library and school officials.

The Illinois state attorney general has the power to file suit against those who violate the law.

Michael Stephens, an Illinois-based library and information science professor, came out against the bill on his blog. Expressing disbelief at what he called a “blanket prohibition, Stephens urged his fellow librarians to take action to stop the bill from becoming law.

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