Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Senator Matt Murphy of Illinois Set to Ban His Own Blog from Libraries?


Senator Matt Murphy from Illinois, the legislator who has introduced the most restrictive ban on social networking sites in the nation, held a very interesting "live chat" online tonight. It took place at 5:30-6:30 p.m. in the comments on his blog at, which is an interesting use of blogging I haven't seen before. There are 69 comments that constitute the discussion, a back-and-forth between Murphy and the commenters.

In the blog post itself, Murphy sounds fairly reasonable and balanced, saying he filed the bill "to raise awareness of the threat predators on these sites pose to our kids" and "to advance a dialogue on how we can minimize this threat." Neither of these reasons really explains why he chose to introduce a full ban on a class of sites he can't even define (nowhere does the legislation explain what is meant by the term), but I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt as I read his responses anyway.

Unfortunately, I got as far as the 12th comment, in which Detective Bob Riordan, who is working with Murphy on this legislation, notes that Blogger is in the list of "top 10 social networking sites."

What site is Murphy's blog on? Blogger. So apparently, Murphy's current bill would ban his own site - where he hosted the "live chat" to discuss banning social networking sites in libraries - from being accessed in libraries, even by adults.

In addition, I got *really* scared by the following statement from the police detective:

"A possible solution to alleviate the problem would be to issue library users a screen name or a PIN number when they initially apply for a library card and monitor the internet content through the predetermined PIN or screen name."
I hope he was failing to articulate a position of filtering based on access level (child versus adult), but that still doesn't justify singling out social networking sites like this and outright banning all children from using them. In fact, I find Murphy's excuse of starting at such a restrictive point in order to "advance a dialogue" troublesome and even irresponsible of an elected official.

Murphy doesn't respond much in the comments, probably because this was a poor format for a chat and it must have been difficult to keep up with the flow. I look forward to hearing how he more clearly and directly responds to the many concerns expressed in the thread. I am particularly anxious to see how he amends his legislation in light of them, especially given that if his current bill is passed, any similar chats he holds in the future would discriminate against school and library users.

No comments: