Your Brain on DOPA

Yesterday morning the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom sponsored a session titled Your Brain on DOPA.’  The program was designed to give attendees an opportunity to find out:

  • What is happening with federal and state legislation related to social networking (and with technology in general).’  John Morris, General Counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology presented this part of the program.
  • What current research says about child and teen use of online tools in the areas of cyberbullying and predation. Dr. Michele Ybarra, President of Internet Solutions for Kids presented on this topic.
  • How libraries can educate their communities about the positive impact of social networking. This was the portion of the session that I presented.


As I sat on the panel listening to my fellow presenters, what really struck me was what a wide-array of legislation is pending. Also, I realized again, how many misconceptions there are about social networking and it’s impact on the lives of children and teens.’  Here are some points that I noted while listening to the other presenters:

  • Legislators have not been able to define what social networking is because it’s not just one thing/one form of technology.’  As a result social networking legislation tends to be too broad.’  And, related to this, the web already is one big social network and it will only become more this way.
  • CIPA is very different from DOPA.’  CIPA focuses on making sure minors don’t have access to materials that are illegal.’  DOPA is not about access to illegal materials, it’s about access to materials.
  • Laws at both the federal and state levels have recently focused on parental permission.
  • Laws at both the federal and state levels impinge on the privacy and free speech of not just minors but also adults.
  • The new digital divide is focused on where children and teens have access as opposed to if they have access.
  • We need to step back, take a deep breath, and really analyze what’s going on. We need to compare bulying, predation, etc. that occurs outside of the technology realm and compare that with what goes on in the technology realm.
  • It’s important to know how a survey defines harassment.’  The definitions change and data on the topic can be skewed as a result.
  • A majority of young people have positive experiences on the web and are not harassed.
  • When comparing levels of harassment online and off, the numbers are pretty much the same.
  • Young people are more likely to be bullied at school than online.

The information at the presentation got me thinking in a few different ways about how to talk to library customers and librarians about social networking and its impact on teen lives.’  I’m thinking about how those who serve teens in libraries, can take information about current legislation, connect that with the data on what is really going on with teens online, and articulately present to community members why we need to educate about social networking and not simply take it away from teen library users (or potential users.)

You can access slides from the program:

John Morris’ presentation

Dr. Ybarra’s presenatation

My presentation is embedded below:

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.
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2 Comments

  1. This presentation was very timely and informative.

    The stats from Michelle and the social networking knowlege imparted by Linda are particularly useful when advocating for the use of social networking sites in your library. John’s up-to-date information on the state of DOPA is something to be taken seriously by all librarians.

  2. I had a conflict with this meeting but was very interested. Having reviewed the three presentations, it seems as though all I missed was the equivalent of cigarette companies going before Congress and asserting that nicotine was not addictive.

    Our library, like many others, considers the privacy of our patrons (ALA Code of Ethics, article III) and the refusal to advance private interests at their expense (ALA Code of Ethics, article VI) as essential to our mission. In the real world that means we would kick out a business gathering private information from children in our buildings for commercial gain and would do everything possible to insure that any private information released in the course of business in our buildings remained private. We don’t place notices that our security cameras or circulation functions contain private information so patrons should remember to be careful, we eliminate fine archives and refuse access to our camera records without a court subpoena for a specific incident in question. The virtual world is no different in its risks.

    I wonder what responses you would get from kids if you asked children whether a safety course should make them eligible to own firearms, drink, drive, obtain credit cards, or go on school trips unchaperoned? Would a substantial minority say they would be perfectly safe and even be correct that a majority would be safe? It seems that, like the cigarette manufacturers, you all seem to feel that a warning label on the package allows you to promote the use by your branding and turn a blind eye towards the age of participants surrendering their privacy to the world in your buildings with your assistance.

    There have been many metaphors for what the Internet in the library is from a world encyclopedia of information to a public square where opinions are shared, but the truest definition is that it is everything in the world around us including gambling, pornography, identity thieves, con artists, and vast commercial enterprises whose only claim to wealth is the private content they manage to secure and the eyes of the individuals associated with that content.

    Traditionally, the public library brand gained stature as a public institution dispensing quality information from every point of view with no function other than assisting patrons in finding answers in perfect privacy. The commercial and criminal elements had no authorized foothold in its business model. If someone offered to donate a truckload of unseen books with the precondition that everything they offered must be added to the library shelves, they would be turned down. The library staff reserved the right to determine whether the content offered met their collection development goals. Meeting rooms were often limited to nonprofits. No soliciting on library property was allowed.

    Public libraries should be in the vanguard of restricting access to private patron information released in their buildings rather than pimping for businesses seeking commercial gain from control of this data. They should be building the as yet unbuilt privacy infrastructure of the virtual world rather than pretending it is a non-issue and that kids are equipped to judge for themselves if they are warned. History is full of extremely popular destructive elements from patent medicines to the x-rays of feet in shoe shops. What does it say about librarians if they are more interested in pleasing kids to gain their support than they are in respecting the legitimate concerns of their adult community.

    It is highly ironic that commercial entities like movie studios would listen to community concerns and create restrictive labels on their own to avoid federal or state legislation, and public libraries who owe nearly everything to community tax support would cloak their complete disregard for personal responsibility in the guise of intellectual freedom and freedom of information, and be hacked away at by federal and state law. Have the copyright holders of content-labeled movies lost the kids because of their restrictions?

    In the very near future, Internet access in public libraries will be valueless because broadband-enabled PDAs of all kinds will be ubiquitous. Popular content is much more likely to be downloaded or mailed than picked up in a building. Someone will take the lead role in determining new privacy guidelines and ways to protect children and adults from the unwitting exposure.of their private lives. They will be and will deserve to be considered heroes and heroines because of their concern for the public good. Local governments then as now will be constantly reassessing the community good they get out of the departments they fund. Are public libraries still going to be able to market personal and private communication as one of their essential information commodities and a core ethical response that the community should pay to provide?

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