Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois would like to ban access to Second Life and all commercial social networking websites and chatrooms. Rep. Kirk previously sponsored similar legislation that had support in the House but failed in the Senate in 2006. Yesterday, Rep. Kirk held a press conference to announce his support of banning access to Second Life and commercial social networking websites at schools and libraries that receive federal aid. The legislation Rep. Kirk sponsored in 2006 was written broadly enough that any website allowing interaction via registered comments could be considered a social networking website. Youtube for example has a commenting system that would fall under this category.
A quick look at Rep. Kirk’s campaign website reveals that he has endorsement videos hosted by Youtube on his campaign website. Under the broad language of Rep. Kirk’s proposal, access to his own campaign website could be blocked at public libraries on the grounds that it contains elements of commercial social networking. Like most politicians seeking election or reelection Rep. Kirk has a Facebook profile. Would Rep. Kirk like to block potential voters and constituents from accessing positive information about himself?
I am certainly not against taking measures to protect students when they’re online, but taking broad stroke measures is not the way to do it. Educating students about avoiding online dangers is far more effective than preventing them from accessing any website that might have potential dangers. Finally, of all websites to single out, why did Rep. Kirk pick Second Life which has better built in protections than many other social networking services and games?