Congress outlaws email

Had to see this coming: Republican representatives have
introduced a bill that would mandate that schools provide a filter that cuts students off from any website that may cause them to “easily be subject to unlawful sexual advances, unlawful requests for sexual favors, or repeated offensive comments of a sexual nature from adults,” among other things. The target is not email, but “commercial social networking websites” (which might, in effect, lead to distributed, non-commercial, open social networking systems–which might not be a bad thing). Also, it seems to aim to block off chat rooms and IM; in other words, they want students to be passive recipients of information from the web.

They also want a warning label on MySpace. No, seriously. The act would require the FTC to set up a site to warn users of the evils of MySpace, and similar sites. That sounds ridiculous, but, if done right, might be the only sensible part of the proposal. That is, if parents, teachers, and kids are aware of the potential dangers of the online world–just as they are told not to get in cars with strangers–it would allow schools to use the internet to their own benefit rather than cutting off their net to spite their educations.

And congresscritters wonder why they have such low approval ratings? This is just really, really dumb. And DOPA (Deleting Online Predators Act) is pushed by the party that is for personal liberty and small government? The CNet article above suggests that Republicans think this kind of restriction of student access to computing is what will help them keep a large chunk of their seats.

At a time when US businesses are worried that kids are unprepared in science and technology, one wonders what on earth cutting off the interactive pieces of the internet will do to our ability to compete in a global market. From a more practical perspective, if it makes any headway (very unlikely, I hope), it means teachers will have difficulty using sites like Blogger and Livejournal in their instruction.

I don’t want to be accused of being negative. What I would support is a significant grant that would support research into the effects of social networking sites, as well as other uses of internet use, in education. Once the facts were clear, Congress could decide whether legislative action was warranted, or whether a campaign of parent and teacher education was a smarter way to go.

(via Weblog-ed)

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  1. Posted 5/15/2006 at 2:33 pm | Permalink is launching a new campaign in response to Congress’ attempt to censor the communication of our generation. We have created the action alert below and built a website, We are hoping to get as much grassroots action as possible around this important issue, especially from the online community.

    Breaking News:

    Legislation introduced this week will ban social networking, even sites used for educational and professional opportunities. What’s next? HR5319 will censor the communication of our generation and tell us who we can talk to, when and how. Tell Congress that social networking is a movement that we built, a movement that we are going to fight for.

    Visit, take action, tell your friends and get mad.

    The bill blocks the use of these sites in public libraries, which is for many, the only access that they have to a computer. Our hope is to be able to amend the bill to take these facts into consideration. We agree that there need to be safeguards put in place for “sexual predators” and any of other crimes that might occur because of the accessibility of information on these sites, but to ban them in schools (including using school computers afterschool) and public libraries, is for many – banning social networking.

  2. Jeff
    Posted 6/16/2006 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    “in other words, they want students to be passive recipients of information from the web.”

    Erm… no. They want students in school to spend their time learning, rather than goofing off chatting or playing with their myspace page.

  3. Posted 6/16/2006 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    In that case, they should look not at limiting the students access to technology, but making their instruction more effective.

    Oh, and your suggestion is that chatting and playing with their MySpace page is somehow different from learning? It can be, to be sure, but it certainly doesn’t have to be.

  4. Posted 6/23/2006 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure about other school systems, but in Chesterfield County, (located outside Richmond, VA) our schools already have blocked almost all sites with any sort of flash, (fear of students playing games), any type of email, no instant messaging and certaintly no myspace or facebook. I can understand blocking games, but what if the student has something saved in his email, or wants to email a paper in school to his teacher. Sorry not happening, school policy. So in closing, this bill, is already well in effect at other schools.

  5. Posted 6/23/2006 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Wow. It just seems so backward. I get (sort of, I guess) not wanting kids to play games when they should be involved in schoolwork, but it strikes me that the way to do this is to give them challenging assignments, rather than trying to micromanage their attention span.

    Yes, I do recognize that this is a bit idealistic, but I also have taught at the elementary and secondary level (i.e., not a total outside observer), and I think *I* would get bored as a teacher if I *didn’t* give them a bit of freedom in this regard.

    In any case, I am less concerned over individual schools putting up blocks on their system. I mean it kind of sucks that you can’t read my blog from many schools–I’m blacklisted on some filters–but if an individual school wants to set dumb policy, so be it. I just don’t like that the more progressive schools that want to experiment with things like social networking would be blocked from doing so.

One Trackback

  1. […] Will “weblogg-ed” Richardson and Alex Halavais have both posted about a bill under discussion in the U.S. Congress that would require schools to ban any web sites where students might see sexy things and/or be exposed to sexual predators. Apparently, the legislation is targeting sites like MySpace but it’s likely to catch all kinds of other services (wikis, blogs, etc.) in its net. Will and Alex say smart stuff about all this. […]

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