It all started with the U.S. House of Representatives passing a bill on July 26, 2006, requiring schools and libraries receiving E-rate funds (a federal initiative providing discounts to public libraries and schools on telecommunications services, Internet access, and other closely related costs) to block access to social networking sites, such as MySpace, as well as access to a wide array of other content and technologies, such as instant messaging, online e-mail, wikis, and blogs. The Deleting Online Predators Act, or DOPA, was the name given to H.R. 5319, which passed overwhelmingly in the House by 410 to 15. (The U.S. Senate never considered the bill.)
As is often the case, libraries found themselves in the crosshairs between legitimate concerns regarding “online predators” and access to information. In October 2006, The Illinois Library Association (ILA) carried an article in its magazine entitled, “DOPA and the Participation Gap,” sharing concerns about the disproportional effect of the legislation on lower income communities. The article offered alternative measures, such as “Basic Rules on Online Safety for Teens,” and talking points for librarians and others to use with the media, elected officials, and concerned citizens.