August 01, 2006

"DOPA" and What Is A "Social Networking Website"?

In some "DOPA" discussions, the issue of "what is a Social Networking Website?" gets examined. The legal language is:

(J) COMMERCIAL SOCIAL NETWORKING WEBSITES; CHAT ROOMS- Within 120 days after the date of enactment of the Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006, the Commission shall by rule define the terms `social networking website' and `chat room' for purposes of this subsection. In determining the definition of a social networking website, the Commission shall take into consideration the extent to which a website--

(i) is offered by a commercial entity;
(ii) permits registered users to create an on-line profile that includes detailed personal information;
(iii) permits registered users to create an on-line journal and share such a journal with other users;
(iv) elicits highly-personalized information from users; and
(v) enables communication among users.'.

My contribution: While people can have fun coming up with the most twisted interpretation possible, as a kind of party-game ("it bans all ISP's, because ISP's collect personal info, generally have free webpages, and enable communication among users"), I'm virtually certain that the eventual answer is going to be pretty simple:

A "Commercial Social Networking Website" will be whatever the censorware company puts on the blacklist for "commercial social networking websites". End of story.

Why is this true? Simple. Because that's what happened the last time regarding FCC censorware compliance regulations. They basically amounted to saying that the censorware companies could do whatever they wanted. There's no reason to think it'll be any different this time.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on August 01, 2006 11:59 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

Subscribe with Bloglines      Subscribe in NewsGator Online  Google Reader or Homepage


So, they are going to ban social networking websites and chat rooms but haven't even defined what those terms mean and won't until 120 days after the law goes into action?


That would be like saying no smoking in public places but we won't tell you what constitutes a public place until after we sneak this law through.

Posted by: Mike at August 2, 2006 11:27 AM

Already happened. That's basically the situation now with the censorware blacklists about what's supposed to be "obscenity" and "harmful to minors". Though they have a formal legal definition, the effective definition is whatever the censorware company says it is.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at August 2, 2006 12:32 PM

What you are saying about “definition is whatever the censoreware company says it is “
is fundamentally true but leaves out a very important piece of the equation.

The market place tells the censoreware company what they want the lists to be. It is the end users that ultimately determine the programs list content. The companies largely attempt to accommodate the marketplace.

So not only is it what the censoreware company says it is is also what the market place wants it to be. There is a fundamental relationship there.

Obviously, this is not true in ALL cases. There are some agendized filters notably in the
Religious sectors.

Posted by: Bob Turner at August 2, 2006 02:22 PM