My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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DOPA is back under a new title

While i was off getting my eyes zapped, Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) introduced a new bill into the Senate called “Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act” (S49). It has all of DOPA in it and then some. This time, it’s squashed between some small changes to child porn legislation (upping the fines namely) and restrictions on the sale of children’s personal information for marketing purposes. It’s just as infuriating and i can’t stomach the idea of going through these discussions again. God, i’d make a terrible politician.

As Marianne Richmond says, this DOPA, Jr. is definitely DOPA Extra and just as dopey as the last one. Le sigh.

Anyone have any good ideas on how to make this one go away? When will people realize that this is a bad idea?

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9 comments to DOPA is back under a new title

  • MichikoS

    danah, remember your recent post describing your hurt feelings when you were dismissed by some Alternet critics as callow and shallow? Your take on the legislative process and DOPA Jr. is fuel for the fire, I’m afraid. “I can’t stomach the idea of going through these discussions again.” Really? Welcome to representative democracy. It’s a never-ending process, and you can either suck it up and show some maturity by (1) suggesting ways to respond appropriately and effectively, or (2) contacting your congressperson and making your displeasure known. I sympathize with your feelings of “here we go again,” but not with your apparent political naivete.

  • The bill is currently only sponsored by one member of the minority party. The Democrats control the agenda now, and there is no reason to think this will get any more of a hearing than a bill sponsored by one Democrat would have a year ago. Now, if Democrats come up with their own version, then it is time to worry.

  • Michiko – i’m wimpering because i spent the bulk of the fall talking to politicians about this issue. I spoke twice in DC to rooms full of Hill folks and FTC people. I spent hours with AGs who were unwilling to listen to anything that i said. I talked with congresspeople and senators, aides and state officials. I talked to hundreds of reporters. Perhaps it is immature of me to wimper on my blog about my exhaustion with this topic but i am most definitely heartbroken by having to face this bill again. It took up the bulk of my fall and i felt very alone in that fight. Politics is not my world and i don’t know how to engage with it productively without it tearing me apart.

    The problem with DOPA, as i quickly learned, is that it’s not something that can be fought well on the public stage. Anyone who speaks out against it is seen as pro-predator. That’s why it’s important that it doesn’t go before the house/senate to vote. No politican can vote against it without getting attacked publicly. Thus, the trick is to make sure it doesn’t go to the floor. That’s what i spent my fall working on and it worked. I wasn’t prepared to see a new bill introduced with the exact same words. So now i have to regroup and think about what to do. And i need to find people who can help because i can’t do this again alone.

  • Librarians are fighting this version of DOPA just as hard as the last one. Our lobbying force is pretty strong and hopefully will have an impact if this bill gains legs.

  • I did very little with DOPA the first time (wrote a few letters), and I totally agree with Danah. There is a physical reaction to seeing such utter crap produced by our politicians who should know better. How can you not whimper at seeing this come up again? I’m afraid the Democrats don’t tend to be much better on the censoring scale, so even if your representatives are all Dems, its worth contacting them (again) on this.

    I think the librarians were a great resource last time. It’s really a great group PR wise and seem to have really done some good things for freedom of information in the last few years, so give ’em hell Sarah!

  • Danah, did you know that some study (I lost long ago) did research that showed that being bullied resulted in a physiological response that was very similar to *actually* being punched in the stomach?

    I know this sounds odd, but why don’t you hunt up a lobbyist or politician who you are comfortable with and ask them how they deal with fighting the same battles for decades (because certainly they do, and it’s not something that’s avoidable 100% unless you live in a cave… on an island…).

    It sounds to me like you overran your own boundaries the last time and are warning yourself not to do *that* again!

    Ironically, I was just talking to my son who is studying evolution, who asserted (out of the blue) that martyrdom as an inheritable trait didn’t make any sense. I pointed out that I believe martyrdom is a consequence of highly developed empathy + some other reproductively-useful instinct such as protectiveness, which come together in certain social circumstances and result in some people allowing themselves to be overrun for the good of their “cousins”.

    (I don’t martyrdom in some sort of drama-laden way, I really mean self-sacrifice or altruism.)

  • Steve

    I guess this is an appropriate occasion to make a point about MySpace that I have long considered but not articulated. MySpace is essentially a miniature version of the Internet. It has a similar breadth and scope. And like the Internet, it is what one makes of it.

    I can go on MySpace and find content that makes the old usenet asb newsgroup look mild and sedate. Or I can go on the profiles of people I know in real life and find a group of caring, confused, thoughtful, funny, expressive, sad and very human teenagers. Or I can follow my scientific interests and go to myspace forums where I can get in a heated discussion of conventional versus alternative cosmology and epistomology. And those are only what I’ve seen firsthand. It’s like the story of the visually impaired people trying to investigate an elephant. Whatever part of the elephant they touched became, to them, the concept of what kind of beast it was. MySpace and other SNS sites are like that. You find what you look for.

    “Protecting” a kid from SNS is like “protecting” them from the Internet itself (which, of course, some would like to see), Or from TV (now, if I had kids, I’d seriously consider that one, for real!), or the telephone, or Usenet. People like the dopey dopa dopes confuse media with content. (Although, it would be interesting to speculate on what McLuhan would have made of all this. He seemed to have regarded the content/medium distinction as not entirely valid). But, back to my point, there is a legitimate interest in protecting children from certain kinds of *content*. But trying to do this by restricting access to specified classes of *media* is ridiculously overbroad. Like swatting a fly with a sledgehammer.

    So, all the above has been preaching to the choir. My (hopefully) useful suggestion is to put some of these critics face-to-face with the stereotype breaking aspects of MySpace and other SNS. Show them the cosmology forums, show them the poets and artists, show then the design geeks who are swimming upstream to make elegant design on a site that is technically opposed to such activity. (I subscribe to comments from a blog post by Mike Davidson who definitively disobfuscated the process of doing elegant MySpace profiles using CSS. There are well over a thousand people who think he’s God. Just for that.) Whatever utterly wholesome activities you could imagine (and some you surely couldn’t) are available on MySpace. Make people look at these. After all, they far outnumber the prurient activities anyway.

    One almost suspects some of these critics see MySpace as a sexual hotbed because that is their particular obsession. But to anybody fair minded, just let them see what is really out there, and it should be a slam dunk against the dopa dopes.

    Just a thought,
    -Steve

  • Hmm, I wish these were still Eric Redman days when hill staffs weren’t so gargantuan, so maybe I could be doing something more productive this spring than just answering phones. My mom actually stopped by Kerry’s office randomly last week, and told me that the healthcare LA was cool, so I’m hoping anyone involved in tech will similarly be good… since Kerry is chairing a subcomm. on tech & innovation (I think).

    Hang in there, keep fighting the good fight!

  • Danah, I can definitely understand your frustration although I admire the passion and commitment that it took on your part to see it through the first time.

    It strikes me that perhaps some of your frustration stems from the feeling that you are a lone voice in the wilderness. For all the talk I hear in the edublogosphere and elsewhere proclaiming that the wonderful world of Web 2.0 is bringing people together and shrinking the world, we aren’t necessarily walking the walk so to speak. NCLB, DOPA and its progeny are just one example of what can occur when the best of intentions are co-opted by the political machine. Rather than going it alone, what would it take for us to combine and bring to bear the consolidated efforts of our library professionals, education professionals, and affected individuals from around the world. Rather than speaking as individuals, could we instead create a community of practice that cultivates a voice, a very loud and voting voice? Let’s make the web our tool, rather than being tooled ourselves.

    Sorry for the rant but I hate to see someone with the passion you possess succumb to despair. The world requires balance – when the scales tip to one extreme, it is up to us to bring them back around.

    Cheers!

    John
    http://edventures.whitemountaintech.net