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Religious Tolerance logo

An attempt to create a safe
place for kids
on the Internet.

Part 2

Child at a computer

child at a computer

Establishing a safe place for kids to surf (Continued):

Another matter of concern to webmasters involves costs of maintaining a KIDS.US web site:

bullet The wholesale price of the domain was $65.00 in U.S. funds per year. This is in excess of ten times the cost of a .COM domain.
bullet NeuStar charged $250.00 content review fee per year.
bullet If a site is ordered off line because of content violations, it cost the webmaster $400 to get back online.

Melinda Clem, Director of Business Development for NeuStar, expected that there would be thousands of registrations. On that basis, she said that the company would be working with "thin, basically nonexistent margins." 1

NeuStar arranged with Cyveillance® -- a company involved in the cyber intelligence industry -- to routinely scan KINDS.US web sites using automated spidering technology. Cyveillance informs NeuStar of any questionable material. NeuStar normally allows the offending webmaster to remove the improper material. In serious cases, NeuStar will immediately shut down the site. For example: NeuStar's regulations call for terminating an offending web site's connection to the Internet if it is found to contain mature content or inappropriate language. Web sites containing hate speech are apparently considered less serious. They allowed to continue spreading hatred online for four hours while the webmaster is given time to change the web site's content.

Shutting down a site is not absolute. Associated with a web site URL is an IP address of the form nnn.nnn.nnn.nnn where nnn is a number between 0 and 255. If the IP address was substituted for the name of the web site, then access could still have been obtained to a KIDS.US web site even if its name had been taken offline.

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Reactions to KIDS.US:

bullet NeuStar was not enamored of the law. On 2002-SEP, a representative suggested to a Senate committee that the bill takes:
bullet  "...the unprecedented step of requiring a government contractor potentially to sustain a significant financial loss on a government contract, without taking into account the effect of that loss on the kids.us space or the .us domain itself...."

bullet "...[It] forces a timeline on the development process that likely will not allow the development of a successful solution that implements the kids.us vision in a safe and sustainable manner. Thus, the bill is unlikely to achieve its policy objectives." 2
bullet

Rob Courtney, a policy analyst at the Center for Democracy and Technology, expressed some concerns: He said:

"Closed space and heavy restriction on the Internet will create a false sense of security. Monitoring thousands of Web pages would be expensive and time-consuming."

He was not convinced that many companies would open KIDS.US web sites. Subsequent developments show that he was right.

bullet Lisa Melsted, an analyst at Yankee Group, an Internet research and consulting company, questioned whether parents will be satisfied with NeuStar's standards of what is appropriate for their children.
bullet

Representative Fred Upton (R-MI), a co-sponsor of the bill explained that KIDS.US:

"...will help parents establish a firewall, so that kids will learn to use the Internet in a safe way, and will be prepared to use it in a responsible fashion as they mature." 3


bullet

Rep. Edward J. Markey, (D-MA), another co-sponsor explained that the bill was:

"... crafted to help organize content suitable for kids in a safe and secure cyber zone where the risk of young children clicking outside of that zone to suitable contents or being preyed upon or exploited online by adults posing as kids is vastly diminished. Organizing kid-friendly contents in this manner will enhance the effectiveness of filtering software and enable parents to set their children's browsers so their kids only surf within the .kids domain." 4


bullet

The International Society for Technology in Education suggested that some:

"...educators expressed concern that the dot-kids domain would soon be overcrowded by commercial rather than educational content. Further, some educators are afraid that the dot-kids domain would be unworkable in a school setting where children ... [have access to] other domains such as dot-com, dot-edu, dot-net, and dot-org." 5


bullet

Eric W. Anderson posted the following comment to the GigaLaw.com discussion list:

"I don't understand why people believe that it's necessary - or acceptable - to impose stronger restrictions on web content than printed [content]. To the best of my knowledge, if an eight year old walks into a public library and asks for the Kama Sutra, they get it. If a .kids.us site is prohibited from linking to a (potentially) questionable site, that seems comparable to saying that children's literature may not legally mention the existence of anything which isn't also a children's book. That strikes me as a profound imposition on the right to free speech as I understand it." 6


bullet Ian Betteridge commented in a forum on the MacUser.co.uk web site:

"The lack of features like chat rooms and instant messaging services mean that sites in this domain space will be unattractive to exactly the audience that it is trying to draw. Children, even more than adults, love the chatting and social aspects of using the Internet, so any service that doesn't provide these is unlikely to be of interest to them. The plan, despite its good intentions, is typical of the kind of half-baked measure intended to protect children that in fact does nothing of the sort. Unless you manage to prevent children accessing every other part of the Internet, it won't work. You might be able to limit Web access on a single machine, but kids will always find another computer to use, unfettered. Rather than control every technology, the answer lies in education. The best way to prevent children from falling into the hands of [abusive] pedophiles is to teach them what is and is not acceptable behavior from adults, to help them understand that the world can be a dangerous place and to show them how to explore it without exposing themselves to dire risk. Have we, as a society, become so addicted to the notion of innocent children not being exposed to any risk that we will fail to arm them with the knowledge they need to survive?" 7

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Safety Patrol readied for Dot-Kids," BizReport, 2003-MAY-28, at: http://www.bizreport.com
  2. "Statement of NeuStar, Inc.," 2003-SEP-12, at: http://commerce.senate.gov/ This is a PDF file.
  3. Anne Ju, "Domain for Kids Nears Approval. House passes bill creating .kids domain, supporters await measure in Senate," PC World, 2002-MAY-22, at: http://www.pcworld.com/
  4. "Domain would shield kids from evils of 'Net," Honolulu Star Bulletin, 2002-MAY-27, at: http://starbulletin.com/
  5. "ISTE Update," 2002-DEC, at: http://www.aztea.org/
  6. Eric Anderson, "Dot-Kids Act," 2002-DEC-06, at: http://www.gigalaw.com/
  7. Ian Betteridge, "Editorial: Safety Catch," MacUser.co,uk, undated, at: http://www.macuser.co.uk/

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Copyright © 2005 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2005-JUN-18
Latest update: 2017-FEB-22
Author: B.A. Robinson
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