Congressman Seeks Second Life Ban In Schools, Libraries - InformationWeek

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5/7/2008
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Congressman Seeks Second Life Ban In Schools, Libraries

Illinois' Mark Kirk hopes to quash online sex predators lurking around the virtual world by reviving the 2006 Deleting Online Predators Act.

An Illinois Congressman wants to ban Second Life in school and libraries.

U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk said Second Life and social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook have grown increasingly popular, attracting both children and online predators.

"According to a U.S. Department of Justice survey, one-in-five kids have been sexually solicited online," Kirk explained in a news announcement. "As new technologies develop, more disturbing revelations unfold. Sites like Second Life offer no protections to keep kids from virtual 'rape rooms,' brothels and drug stores. If sites like Second Life won't protect kids from obviously inappropriate content, the Congress will."

Kirk is focusing on Second Life as he attempts to gain support for the stalled "Deleting Online Predators Act." He criticized Linden Labs for failing to use an age verification features in its registration process.

Second Life issued a statement saying it takes steps to prevent children from accessing adult locations in the virtual world but the process isn't perfect.

Kirk held a press conference on the issue this week and sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission requesting a consumer alert. He said teens in Second Life are engaging in prostitution, drug use, and other inappropriate behaviors.

"Drug dealers and predators routinely attempt to contact users in the real world once a meeting happens in Second Life," he said.

He introduced the DOPA bill in 2006 to prevent children from accessing social networking sites and chat rooms unless they do so for "legitimate educational purpose" under adult supervision. It would also require the FTC and the Federal Communications Commission to warn consumers about Internet dangers and review social networking sites.

It passed the House by a 410-15 vote but died in the Senate. It now has 91 co-sponsors.

Although MySpace has taken several steps to increase security for youth and improve filters that weed out sex offenders, Kirk took aim at that social networking site as well. He said that children's detailed personal information can easily be accessed on the site.

People under 13 are prohibited from joining the site. People ages 14 and 15 have secure profiles, which prevent adults from viewing personal details and befriending them unless they already have access to the teen users' full names and e-mail addresses.

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