[Politech] David Burt on DOPA library and school filtering bill [fs]

From: Declan McCullagh (declan@private)
Date: Tue Aug 01 2006 - 07:50:28 PDT

My article last week on the House of Representatives approving DOPA by a 
lopsided 410-15 vote:

As written, DOPA would cover more than chat rooms and MySpace.com; its 
category of "social networking sites" includes ones that permit public 
profiles. Some examples:
The list could include Slashdot, which permits public profiles; Amazon, 
which allows author profiles and personal lists; and blogs like 
RedState.com that show public profiles. In addition, many media 
companies, such as News.com publisher CNET Networks, permit users to 
create profiles of favorite games and music.


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: For Politech: Thoughts on DOPA
Date: Sun, 30 Jul 2006 11:53:22 -0700 (PDT)
From: David Burt <davidburt2000@private>
To: declan@private

Hi Declan.

   While I now work at Microsoft on areas unrelated to Internet access 
and filtering, I thought I'd provde my thoughts on DOPA considering my 
longtime involvement with CIPA, and filtering and public libraries 
generally, and because  I’m a former librarian, filtering activist, and 
filtering company spokesperson.

   I) Legality
   Recall that in the oral arguments on ALA v. U.S., the case that 
decided CIPA, the American Library Association’s attorney conceded that 
it would likely be legal for a library to filter all chat rooms:

   QUESTION: Why isn't that selective access? I -- we don't want chat 
rooms. And it's not a total free-for-all, anybody wants to come in and 
talk. No, we don't want chat rooms.

MR. SMITH: Maybe chat rooms are okay because the question is whether 
that's a content-based exclusion.

   II) Technical issues
   Chat rooms are typically categorized by filtering companies 
altogether in one “Chat” category.  Social networking sites are not as 
clearly categorized, often in categories like “Personal Pages” which 
block Geocities.com, Xanga.com and other sites as well.  The filtering 
companies would need to fine tune “Social Networking” into a new 
category to target this more accurately, and they may already be doing 
this.  (For example, Myspace.com is classified by SurfControl as 
“Personals and Dating” http://mtas.surfcontrol.com/mtas/MTAS.asp and by 
SmartFilter as “Dating/Social” http://www.smartfilterwhere.com

   III) Policy issues
   Blocking chat and social networking sites is probably already 
consistent with most existing school policies.  My recollection from 
working with schools at N2H2 was that most schools were already blocking 
this stuff before CIPA, so there is likely little impact here.

   Libraries are different, since most libraries do allow users to 
access social networking and chat sites, though there are certainly some 
that exclude them.  You have to have some concerns about the impact this 
would have on some teens that are struggling with highly personal 
problems, and using these sites as an outlet.  Many teens don’t feel 
comfortable talking with peers, school counselors, etc. about a lot of 
issues, such as sexuality, drug use, abuse, etc., and these websites are 
likely the only outlet many of these kids have to discuss some of this 

   David Burt

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