You remember the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA)? The bill that passed 410-15 in the House and would effectively ban minors use of (at the very least) social networking sites and chat rooms from federally funded schools and libraries?
It was supposed to be a big tenet of the so-called House Republican suburban agenda. After doing a Nexis search, it clearly isn't. We couldn't find a single reference from a campaigning congressional candidate about the supposed evils of social networking.
There is an obvious two word reason for this: Mark Foley.
The page scandal certainly put the nail in the already closed coffin of the bill getting introduced in the Senate before Congress closes. It also means that Republican House member raising the specter of Internet-enabled child predating might be just a little awkward.
Still, the reality is that I (heart) DOPA buttons were never printed at campaign headquarters before the scandal broke. It makes you wonder if Members brought DOPA home and got yawns or got rational questions on how it actually might work and solve real problems.
This is not to say that MySpace & Co. haven't been brought up. They have by several candidates running for state AG. Below are some examples that leave room for pause when considering the possibility of state-driven rules..
Betty Montgomery, Republican AG candidate, Ohio (Mansfield News Journal, Sept 20)...
"With the Internet now, we just have one big bulletin board, and these perverts can get together. (Popular networking Web site) MySpace and places like that become (auction site) eBay for sexual predators, and the kids don't know any better. You don't want your children to be afraid, but you want them to be aware."
Gunner(!) DeLay, Republican AG candidate, Arkansas (Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Sept. 30)...
DeLay said Friday that he wants to make it easier for police to make arrests under that law, and wants to outlaw "grooming," which he described as the process sexual predators use to "break down the defenses" of their would-be victims. Police can't make an arrest on the Internet stalking law until the suspect has actually set up a meeting, DeLay said. He would allow police to intervene before that.
"Right now, prosecutors have to wait for that magic line to be crossed," he said. Under his proposal, "if someone's engaging in sexually suggestive conversation with a minor, [law enforcement] could then take action." In an effort to protect from online predators children who set up Web pages on social networking sites such as MySpace.com and Facebook. com, DeLay said he wants to require that minors get their parents' permission before opening an account.
Texas Republican and incumbent AG Greg Abbot (Houston Chronicle, Oct 2)..
(Abbot's) focus on the campaign trail is child protection, which he lists as his highest priority. In mid-September, he announced the 500th sex predator arrest under two units he's created since taking office in December 2002. The fugitive unit tracks down and arrests convicted child sex predators who violate conditions of parole, while investigators in the cyber crimes unit enter Internet chat rooms, posing as teenage girls. He said child predators are getting more cunning, no longer resorting to the "playgrounds of yesterday." Now they hunt in cyberspace, including popular networking sites, such as MySpace, which he's asked to increase their efforts to protect children. Meanwhile, he said his teams are stopping predators before they can strike.