I was first alerted to this through Will’s blog. Apparently, Michael Stephens noticed an article detailing an Illinois state senate bill that was submitted shortly before the deadline. The bill is called the Social Networking Web site Prohibition Act. Can you guess what it does?

Provides that each public library must prohibit access to social networking websites on all computers made available to the public in the library. Provides that each public school must prohibit access to social networking websites on all computers made available to students in the school. Provides for enforcement by the Attorney General or a citizen.

Well now, isn’t that lovely. A new DOPA, just for Illinois. I wonder if it’s just a coincidence that the bill was submitted by Senator Matt Murphy, a republican, just a few days after Barack Obama (also from Illinois) comes out with a social networking website to support his bid for the presidency. Regardless, the bill is moronic in nature. As a commenter on Michael’s post noticed,

Reading the legislation, I find it puzzling that “administrative unit,” “public library,” “school,” “school board,” and even “computer” are needed to be defined. However, the most nebulous term: “social networking” website, is left to interpretation by those charged with oversight and enforcement.

I know Will says that he thinks things may get worse before they get better, but I did notice something while exploring the Illinois General Assembly website that gives me a little bit of hope. Matt Murphy wasn’t the only one to submit an bill to protect children from the internet that day.

Senator Dan Kotowski also submitted an act, this one titled the Internet Safety Education Act. Sounds good already doesn’t it? It has the word Internet accompanied by ‘Safety’ and ‘Education’. Now, that doesn’t sound as flashy as Deleting Online Predators, or Social Networking Website Prohibition Act, but maybe something good can come of it. Let’s check out the summary.

Creates the Internet Safety Education Act to inform and protect students from inappropriate or illegal communications and solicitation and to require school districts to provide education about Internet threats and risks. Creates the Internet Safety Education Alliance under the authority of the Office of the Attorney General. Amends the State Finance Act to create the Internet Safety Education Fund. Amends the School Code to mandate the provision by every public school of instruction and discussion on effective methods by which students may recognize and report inappropriate, illegal, or threatening communications on the Internet on or before the start of the 2008-2009 school year.

You should really read through the entire bill. There’s quotable gems throughout it. For example, it states that “children have easy access to the Internet at home, school, and public places.” Acknowledging that kids access the internet in locations other than school and libraries is a pretty novel concept. Another favorite is ” Education is an effective method for preventing children from falling prey to online predators and other dangers.” So there’s actually something we can do about this besides just trying to keep our kids off the internet. Incredible!

He calls for the creation of an Alliance composed of teachers, principals, government officials, and representatives from law enforcement that will oversee the development of curriculum for schools. He also calls for a fund to be created to implement these changes.

I’m not going to say that this is a perfect solution to internet safety problems, but I will say that it is the most promising sounding government action, state or national, that I’ve heard yet. I’m not exactly sure how we can support the bill proposed by Dan Kotowski has file but I intend to find out. Or if you have any ideas, please leave them as comments.

Considering how much attention DOPA and other ignorant bills with negative implications have received, I hope that people pass this one along. I’ve read many edu-bloggers mention that maybe we should take a stand somewhere politically and try to make something positive happen. Well, even though this is only at the state level, this sounds like a model that we can all support as an example of positive legislation focusing on education over prohibition.

I rarely ask this of people who read this blog, but please take the time to share this with your own readers. I think it’s important that people find out about it.