Monday, May 15, 2006

Sexual Predators Use the Mail, Congress Says, "Hey Let's Close Down the Post Office!"

Tuesday May 9, Congress introduced H.R. 5319 which will restrict access by minors and students to social networking sites on the internet. Sites such as Myspace, Friendster, Facebook, and Essembly would be affected by such legislation as would the potential for internet networking by young people. Such networking has been one of the most exciting events of the past few years, from a political observer standpoint.

What does this have to do with popular culture? Considering that mainstream entertainment sites have been integrating material on to the sites and using them to promote artists and television shows, a great deal. One of the moves Fox was developing was My Network Television which would use MySpace as a promotion and distribution vehicle. In other words, Fox was already viewing social networking sites as alternative/supplemental television networks.

UPDATE: Fox and Burger King are partnering to release episodes of 24, Pinks, and First Hand on MySpace.

The implications of the bill are large and the legislation is being rushed through Congress. This is one of those cases where a real world serious problem, pedophiles stalking children via the internet, might lead to questionable policy outcomes. I have yet to decide my thoughts on the regulation of social networking sites, but I do believe that laws rushed through Congress are often not the best thought out legal documents.

If you are upset by the legislation you can go to Mobilize.org and follow the steps they offer. If you are in favor of the legislation, you can follow their recommendations but with opposing content.

What are your thoughts?

Below is a copy of the legislation, the Thomas link (the official government link) is above.
Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006 (Introduced in House)

HR 5319 IH

109th CONGRESS

2d Session

H. R. 5319

To amend the Communications Act of 1934 to require recipients of universal service support for schools and libraries to protect minors from commercial social networking websites and chat rooms.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

May 9, 2006

Mr. FITZPATRICK of Pennsylvania (for himself, Mr. KIRK, Mrs. MILLER of Michigan, Mr. WELDON of Pennsylvania, Mr. ENGLISH of Pennsylvania, Mr. DAVIS of Kentucky, and Mr. CASTLE) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce

A BILL

To amend the Communications Act of 1934 to require recipients of universal service support for schools and libraries to protect minors from commercial social networking websites and chat rooms.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006'.

SEC. 2. CERTIFICATIONS TO INCLUDE PROTECTIONS AGAINST COMMERCIAL SOCIAL NETWORKING WEBSITES AND CHAT ROOMS.

(a) Certification by Schools- Section 254(h)(5)(B) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 254(h)(5)(B)) is amended by striking clause (i) and inserting the following:

`(i) is enforcing a policy of Internet safety for minors that includes monitoring the online activities of minors and the operation of a technology protection measure with respect to any of its computers with Internet access that--

`(I) protects against access through such computers to visual depictions that are--

`(aa) obscene;

`(bb) child pornography; or

`(cc) harmful to minors; and

`(II) prohibits access to a commercial social networking website or chat room through which minors--

`(aa) may easily access or be presented with obscene or indecent material;

`(bb) may easily be subject to unlawful sexual advances, unlawful requests for sexual favors, or repeated offensive comments of a sexual nature from adults; or

`(cc) may easily access other material that is harmful to minors; and'.

(b) Certification by Libraries- Section 254(h)(6)(B) of such Act (47 U.S.C. 254(h)(6)(B)) is amended by striking clause (i) and inserting the following:

`(i) is enforcing a policy of Internet safety that includes the operation of a technology protection measure with respect to any of its computers with Internet access that--

`(I) protects against access through such computers to visual depictions that are--

`(aa) obscene;

`(bb) child pornography; or

`(cc) harmful to minors; and

`(II) prohibits access by minors without parental authorization to a commercial social networking website or chat room through which minors--

`(aa) may easily access or be presented with obscene or indecent material;

`(bb) may easily be subject to unlawful sexual advances, unlawful requests for sexual favors, or repeated offensive comments of a sexual nature from adults; or

`(cc) may easily access other material that is harmful to minors; and'.

(c) Definitions- Section 254(h)(7) is amended by adding at the end the following new subparagraphs:

`(J) COMMERCIAL SOCIAL NETWORKING WEBSITES- The term `commercial social networking website' means a commercially operated Internet website that--

`(i) allows users to create web pages or profiles that provide information about themselves and are available to other users; and

`(ii) offers a mechanism for communication with other users, such as a forum, chat room, email, or instant messenger.

`(K) CHAT ROOMS- The term `chat rooms' means Internet websites through which a number of users can communicate in real time via text and that allow messages to be almost immediately visible to all other users or to a designated segment of all other users.'.

(d) Disabling During Adult or Educational Use- Section 254(h)(5)(D) of such Act is amended--

(1) by inserting `OR EDUCATIONAL' after `DURING ADULT' in the heading; and

(2) by inserting before the period at the end the following: `or during use by an adult or by minors with adult supervision to enable access for educational purposes' .

(e) Establishment of Advisory Board- The Federal Communications Commission shall establish an advisory board, which shall consist of 8 members appointed by the Chairman of the Commission. Four of such members shall be representative of the private sector and four of such members shall be representative of the Commission, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Crimes against Children Research Center, school boards, and primary and secondary school educators, respectively. The Commission shall provide administrative and clerical support to the advisory board, but members of the board shall serve without compensation. The advisory board shall be terminated at the direction of the Chairman of the Commission.

(f) Publication- After consultation with the advisory board established under subsection (e) and appropriate agencies with experience regarding procedures and actions to prevent minors from being target by adults for predatory behavior, exploitation, or illegal actions, the Federal Communications Commission shall annually publish a list of commercial social networking websites and chat rooms that have been shown to allow sexual predators easy access to personal information of, and contact with, children.

SEC. 3. FTC CONSUMER ALERT ON INTERNET DANGERS TO CHILDREN.

(a) Information Regarding Child Predators and the Internet- Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Federal Trade Commission shall--

(1) issue a consumer alert regarding the potential dangers to children of Internet child predators , including the potential danger of commercial social networking websites and chat rooms through which personal information about child users of such websites may be accessed by child predators ; and

(2) establish a website with a distinctive Uniform Resource Locator to serve as a resource for information for parents, teachers and school administrators, and others regarding the potential dangers posed by the use of the Internet by children, including information about commercial social networking websites and chat rooms through which personal information about child users of such websites may be accessed by child predators .

(b) Commercial Social Networking Websites- For purposes of the requirements under subsection (a), the terms `commercial social networking website' and `chat room' have the meanings given such terms in section 254(h)(7) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 254(h)(7)), as amended by this Act.
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