Preston Gralla

U.S. senator: It's time to ban Wikipedia in schools, libraries

February 14, 2007 6:08 PM EST
Here's the newest from Sen. Ted Stevens, the man who described the Internet as a series of tubes: It's time for the federal government to ban access to Wikipedia, MySpace, and social networking sites from schools and libraries.

Early in January, Stevens introduced Senate bill 49, which among other things, would require that any school or library that gets federal Internet subsidies would have to block access to interactive Web sites, including social networking sites, and possibly blogs as well. It appears that the definition of those sites is so vague that it could include sites such as Wikipedia, according to commentators. It would certainly ban MySpace.

The bill is, in part, a rehash of a similar bill introduced last year, the Deleting Online Predators Act, also called DOPA. That bill passed the house, but got bogged down in the Senate.

Many people are calling this year's bill "Son of DOPA" because of its similarity to last year's bill.

There are so many things wrong with this bill, it's hard to count them all. But its greatest irony would be banning Wikipedia -- perhaps the most widely used reference resource in the world -- from libraries and schools. I have plenty of problems with Wikipedia, including how easily it can be manipulated, and the way that student rely on it far too heavily. But ban an educational resource merely because it's interactive? If true, it's bizarre beyond comprehension.

It's easy to characterize Stevens as little more than a buffoon. He's certainly a buffoon, but he's a dangerous one. A law like his passed the House of Representatives last year. We're coming up to a presidential election, which always unleashes a kind of madness among candidates, especially when it concerns anything to do with children. So don't count this law out.