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« Checking in on the iPhone | Main | Lowlight reel »

Jul 25, 2007


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Okay, big, huge question number one: What is a "social networking web site?" Any site that allows for back and forth communication via comments? Edcone.com?

Also challenging, if the verification is only required by parents for their children, how is a web site to determine that a participant is not an adult? How, in practice, will adults be able to access the site without also being verified through a "commercial database?"

I've emailed these questions to the Dalton campaign.


A social networking site probably needs a little more than back and forth communication. The ability to create a profile page and to maintain a friends/contacts list would seem to be important elements. Whether they're thinking along these lines remains to be seen.


I found the bill. Here's how it defines social networking web site:

Social networking Web site. – A Web site on the Internet that contains profile web pages of the members of the Web site containing the name or nickname of the member, photographs placed on the profile web page by the member, and other personal information about the member; contains links to other profile web pages on the social networking Web site of friends or associates of the member that can be accessed by other members or visitors to the Web site; and provides members of or visitors to the social networking Web site the ability to leave messages or comments on the profile web page that are visible to all or some visitors to the profile web page and may also include a form of electronic mail for members of the social networking Web site.

Read that carefully, it describes the type of profile page found on many blogs, thus making any blog that has a profile page a "social networking web site" for the purposes of this bill.

Now, here's the offense:

It is unlawful for the owner or operator of a social networking Web site to allow a minor using a protected computer to become a member or to create or maintain a profile web page on a social networking Web site without the permission of the minor's parent or guardian and without providing the parent or guardian access to the profile web page at all times.

The part relevant to bloggers here is "to become a member." It sounds to me that any site that has a profile page (or pages) and requires any kind of user registration would be subject to this law. Does that describe your blog?

Finally, what would this law require of the operator of such a site?

The identity of the parent or guardian shall be verified by comparing the personal information provided by the parent or guardian against information found in databases containing information aggregated about individuals.

The crime is committed if a site operator allows a minor to register without getting his parents permission and verifying the parent's identity. The only practical way for a site operator to protect himself then is to verify the identity though a "commercial database" of every user.

This bill can (and should) be improved by:

1. A more narrow definition of social networking web site.

2. Letting site operators off the hook if a minor misrepresents himself as an adult to the site operator, perhaps even making such misrepresentation illegal.

John Burns

My understanding is this was Roy Cooper's baby, not Walter Dalton's.

Full disclosure, I support Hampton Dellinger.

Ed Cone

The N&O says Cooper joined with Dalton and other sponsors to propose parental registration, and it's definitely of a piece with Cooper's larger effort, but bills need sponsors and Dalton sponsored this one, as his campaign proudly proclaims, so it seems fair to count Dalton as one of the parents.

Jay Ovittore

Would it not be prudent to impose on the Sex Offender and not the others online? Why not draw legislation that requires registered sex offenders to disclose on their social networking site that they are a registered sex offender? It makes more sense to me to make the criminal/past criminal disclose then to make a minor, parent or site operator have the responsibility placed on them. The innocent should not lose liberties and freedoms because of others wrong doings.


I emailed the Dalton campaign a week ago with two concise and direct questions on this issue. No reply. Impressive.

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