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Banning Chatroom Websites


John Simkin
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Chatroom websites including MySpace, Facebook and Friendster could be banned in America’s schools and libraries under legislation working its way through Congress. Sites will be banned that permit users to create online profiles and enables communication among members. I suppose this forum falls into this category.

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I suppose this forum falls into this category.

I suppose it does.

On what grounds are such sites being banned from American schools?

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On what grounds are such sites being banned from American schools?

http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/st...1834602,00.html

Julian Borger in Washington

Tuesday August 1, 2006

The Guardian

Chatroom websites including MySpace, Facebook and Friendster could be banned in America's schools and libraries under legislation aimed at sexual predators that is working its way through Congress.

The deleting online predators act (DOPA), which was passed by an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives last week, had been expected to go before the Senate this week, but opponents appeared yesterday to have postponed the battle there until next month. The bill identifies "social networking websites" as hunting grounds for paedophiles, and requires federally funded schools and libraries to limit access to them.

"This legislation is the first of its kind to address the growing use of social networking sites by sexual predators," said Michael Fitzpatrick, a Republican congressman and the bill's sponsor. "My bill will help parents protect their kids when they are not home."

The FBI estimates that one in five of the country's 24 million child internet users have received sexual approaches, and that as many as 50,000 sexual predators are prowling for children online.

The ban is not aimed at particular sites, but defines the kind of sites the Federal Communications Commission would be obliged to ban as: commercial entities that permit users to create online profiles with highly personal information and their own online journal, and which enable communication among users.

Opponents of the bill say it casts the net too wide and could cut young people off from a huge range of websites. There are thought to be as many as 300 social networking sites that could fit the law's description and more than half of all Americans between 13 and 17 belong to at least one.

"We think it is a very unwise bill," said Rick Weingarten, director of information technology at the American Library Association. "The definition that they tried to cobble together covers an enormous range of very beneficial applications. By blocking access to those applications only in libraries and schools what they have done is to block access to those kids who have no other way to get access."

He added: "People join these virtual groups for all sorts of beneficial reasons, including getting information or joining support groups ... You get in a morass every time you try to block technology."

But in both the US and in Britain many schools have already banned the use of online social networks because of fears about the amount of personal information users post online.

Some MySpace users have set up an online petition to rally opposition to the act. The petition, Save your Space, aims to gather more than 1m signatures in a month. The petition says: "Many of our nation's leaders are not intimately familiar with how social networking websites operate, and none of them have had computers and internet all of their life."

That point appeared to be underlined by Senator Ted Stevens, who lectured the chamber last month on the true nature of the web. "The internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a truck," Mr Stevens, the chairman of the Senate commerce committee, explained. "It's a series of tubes."

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Some chat rooms should be banned. My younger daughter had a bad experience when she was studying Spanish at university. She logged into a Spanish language chat room under an alias in order to practise her Spanish. It went OK for a while and then a cyberstalker started to harrass her, continually asking her to reveal her real name and email address, but of course she refused. Then the cyberstalker began to threaten to commit suicide if she did not respond. I didn't know this was going on. When she finally told me and asked for my advice, I said: "Get out of the chat room and let him top himself". She never joined a chat room again.

I can't see that this forum falls into the category of fora that might be banned - although it's had its unpleasant moments, I guess. I know that chat rooms are already banned in many UK schools and a block has been put on blogs and podcasts in some schools, especially those with RSS feed facilities. It's a pity that a few nasty people are spoiling the use of the Internet for education.

One of my elder daughter's (female) friends joined the police and rose to the rank of Detective Chief Inspector. She worked for a while for a department investigating paedophile websites and chat rooms in which paedophiles were known to operate. She would often log in, posing as a child and attempting to trap sexual predators. It was an unpleasant period in her life and she's now glad to be working in a different unit.

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I realise that 'sexual predation' falls outside acceptable behaviour, but....

Isn't this another example of a real issue being used to target a number of freedoms that the political right has a big downer on, ie where the 'common' people (like me!) can articulate ideas that are contrary to the ideas of the elites?

There are a number of examples in the past of 'sound' reasoning behind laws being put to nefarious anti-socialist, anti-collectivist and similar uses.

I can imagine that some of the sites mentioned by John go beyond the narrow confines of what George W might deem acceptable 'thought patterns' amongst the youth of America.

In restricting some thinking that many of us might want curtailed, the natural consequence is that those 'on the fringes' begin to restrict their own thinking because they don't want their section of free communication curtailed by the law enforcement agencies. Perhaps Graham's comment (without wishing to condemn or offend Graham) is indicative of the thinking behind this 'self censorship'.

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I realise that 'sexual predation' falls outside acceptable behaviour, but....

Isn't this another example of a real issue being used to target a number of freedoms that the political right has a big downer on, ie where the 'common' people (like me!) can articulate ideas that are contrary to the ideas of the elites?

There are a number of examples in the past of 'sound' reasoning behind laws being put to nefarious anti-socialist, anti-collectivist and similar uses.

I can imagine that some of the sites mentioned by John go beyond the narrow confines of what George W might deem acceptable 'thought patterns' amongst the youth of America.

In restricting some thinking that many of us might want curtailed, the natural consequence is that those 'on the fringes' begin to restrict their own thinking because they don't want their section of free communication curtailed by the law enforcement agencies. Perhaps Graham's comment (without wishing to condemn or offend Graham) is indicative of the thinking behind this 'self censorship'.

I concur with Ed Waller, and feel that the specifics of the issue being discussed are in fact the actual intent of the law as it will become, I will be the first one to admit that there is something outrageous about a pedophile or sexual predator using a chatroom to lure teenage or even younger individuals into sexual encounters, but I also feel that the current administration and Congress itself, have abandoned any concept of what would be called 'judicial restraint,' in other words implementing a legal framework, safeguarding freedom of speech but at the same time maintain an identification sytem where there is no anonymity, add federal monitoring of sites that match the parameters of where such activity occurs [which is obviously already being done] and that pretty much does it.

Unfortunately, there have been other instances of Congressional/Corporate, in effect, alliances that via increased internet usage fee's would in effect 'muzzle the internet' [at least to lower income demographics] that are well known to anyone who can read a blog. One only has to visit senate.gov, to peruse specifics of 'which way the wind is blowing,' in the final analysis, it is about crushing the voice of the people specifically relating to topics covered in books like Rodney Stich's "Defrauding America."

It is not all Blood, Money and Power, it is "Blood, Money, Power and Control."

Edited by Robert Howard
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Re: "self censorship":

I tend to restrict what I say on the Internet because it is too public. It's too easy these days for a nutter who disagrees with you to find out who you are, your telephone number, email address and street and house number. I have read warnings on various school and university websites, for example, about the dangers of setting your email system to send "out of office" replies while you are away. If you subscribe to mailing lists the "out of office replies" can hit the whole list. This is happening right now in one teachers' list to which I subscribe as it is the holiday period in the UK. It is then possible for a criminal to identify roughly where someone lives from some email addresses, e.g. those used by school teachers and university lecturers, which indicate the name of the institution: thus "soton.ac.uk" is clearly Southampton University and it's probable that anyone who uses this address lives within a 30-mile radius of the institution. All you need to do is look up their name in an online telephone directory for the UK (which is organised geographically) and you stand a good chance of finding out their telephone number and address and then you can go round to their house and nick their new plasma screen TV. Search on the Web under keywords such as "out of office burglary" and you'll find that this activity is on the increase.

I can also point to the true story conveyed to me by a friend who told me that she was overlooked for promotion because her head of department disagreed with the controversial views she had expressed in an online forum and which were considered to have painted the school in a poor light. I found references to similar stories on the Web, including one in which a teacher got her own back by reporting the school to a "copyright bounty hunter". The school had installed a number of software packages on its network without purchasing the appropriate licences and was whacked with a substantial fine.

Cruel world, eh?

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I stay in contact with a few people who live in cities.

Apparently there are numerous coffee shops in cities, where yuppies meet daily to discuss the content of the mainstream newspapers and pretend to be intelligent.

Some predators use these establishments to pick up girls. Some even pick up boys.

Even small towns have cafes these days. It's all getting out of control.

Cafes should obviously be banned for public safety.

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