Panic Over Social Networking

The Moral Panic over Social-Networking Sites

Critics call the Deleting Online Predators Act an election-year stunt that could do lasting damage to youth culture and education.

The social-networking site MySpace has 95 million registered users. If it were a country, it would be the 12th largest in the world (ranking between Mexico and the Philippines). But under a bill designed to combat sexual predators on the Internet, MySpace and similar sites would become countries that young people can’t visit — at least not using computers at schools or libraries.

The Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA), introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in May by Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA), was passed by a vote of 410 to 15 on July 26. It requires, with few exemptions, that facilities receiving federal aid block minors from accessing commercial social-networking sites and chat rooms, where they might encounter adults seeking sexual contact.

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