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Libraries Fight Limits On Networking Sites

The American Libraries Association is fighting congressional efforts to limit access to MySpace and other social networking tools on the Internet.

A congressional delegation calling itself the Suburban Caucus introduced legislation last week to prevent schools and libraries from allowing minors to log onto MySpace and other social networking sites, saying they have become feeding grounds for sexual predators. The Deleting Online Predators Act is one of several bills aimed at satisfying suburban voters, who ranked child safety and gas prices high on a list of concerns in a recent poll.

The bill would remove federal funding from schools and libraries that allowed children unsupervised access to sites that could reveal objectionable material. The restrictions would apply to all sites that feature user profiles and discussion. In other words, they would prohibit minors' unsupervised school and library access to instant messaging, many e-mail services, chat rooms and social networking sites.

The ALA issued a statement Monday in which its president Michael Gorman described House Rule 5319 as too broad, redundant, and unnecessary. It points out that the Children's Internet Protection Act already requires libraries to prevent children from viewing harmful content.

"Further, the proposed law would block access to some of the Internet's most powerful emerging technologies and learning applications, essentially stifling library users' ability to participate fully in the educational opportunities the Internet offers," he said. "The library community is concerned with the need to protect children from online predators. We know that the best way to protect children is to teach them to guard their privacy and make wise choices. To this end, libraries across the country offer instruction on safe Internet use."

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