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2000 to 2012: An attempt to create
a safe place for kids
on the Internet.

Part 1

Child at a computer

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Do kids need a safe place to surf?

On 2002-SEP-12, NeuStar, Inc. a private technology and registry company, testified before the Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation  about the need for a domain where kids can safely surf.

A NeuStar representative testified:

"The question of how we, as a society, can protect children on the Internet has long been a perplexing question for individuals, industry and government. Numerous efforts, including browser filters, legislative mandates, educational campaigns, and rating systems have all met with varying levels of success. By no means, however, has the problem been solved. As with any important matter, if the solution were easy, someone would have fixed the problem long ago."

"In recent years, the concept of a 'kid’s space on the Internet' has developed and gained some acceptance. The idea was focused, in the first instance, on the establishment of a new .kids top-level Internet domain [TLD]. With the reintroduction and expansion of .us, however, efforts shifted to the development of a kids.us space, rather than the creation of a generic TLD...."

As noted by the National Academy of Science (NAS) in its recent report 'Youth, Pornography, and the Internet,' there is no single approach that will, on its own, protect children from online dangers. 1 Thus, a place for children can only be effective if it is accompanied by the many components identified by the NAS, including parental involvement, adult supervision, social and educational support, and publicly available, user-friendly, and cost-effective technology-based tools. 2

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Establishing a safe place for kids to surf:

Ever since the Internet became generally available, Congress has tried to keep children insulated from pornography, hate speech, and other "adult" content on the Internet. They have not been notably successful. Both the Child On line Protection Act (COPA) and the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) clearly violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and were declared unconstitutional by the courts.

The Internet Corporation for Assigning Names and Numbers (ICANN) has as one of its responsibilities the regulation of  Universal Resource Locaters (URLs). These are the equivalent to a postal address for Internet sites. For example:

During the fall of 2000, several companies that manage URLs asked ICANN to create a new top domain called KIDS, as an alternative to the more commonly used .COM, .ORG, .INFO, etc. It would be a safe place on the Internet for children to surf, limited to web sites that are free of sexual content, violence, etc. The idea was rejected because of the difficulty of establishing rules that would apply worldwide. The Library Journal stated:

"A House bill forcing ICANN to establish such a domain was debated in 2001, but it proved unworkable." 3

Getting the entire world to agree on what is suitable material for children is an insurmountable problem. The bill was called HR-2417, the "Dot Kids Domain Name Act of 2001" and was aimed at persons under the age of 17. 4

On 2002-MAR, the House Telecommunications Subcommittee approved House Resolution HR-3833 to create "KIDS.US" -- a second level domain (a.k.a. country code top-level domain or ccTLD). 5 Apparently, in order to increase the likelihood of having the bill passed, the age range was changed from 16 and under to 12 and under. They were able to do this without involving ICANN because the proposed domain would only be a variation of the existing "US" top level domain. Representative Fred Upton (R-MI), a co-sponsor of the bill, said: that KIDS.US would be analogous to "a safe playground with fences around it." 6 The text of the bill likens it to "a children's section within a library." Parents could use Internet censorship software on their home computers to restrict their children's Internet access so that they could only surf web sites with a KIDS.US URL. Unfortunately, this would prevent children under the age of 13 from accessing almost all of the Internet, in which the vast majority of web sites are free of violence and sexual content.

The bill obtained near unanimous support in both the House and Senate. President George W. Bush (R) signed the "Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act of 2002" into law on 2002-DEC-04. This act requires that NeuStar:®

"... as the administrator of the .US country code top-level domain (ccTLD), establish a kids.us domain to serve as a haven for material that promotes positive experiences for children and families using the Internet, provides a safe online environment for children, and helps to prevent children from being exposed to harmful material on the Internet." 6,7

NeuStar created an independent committee to set criteria to be met by webmasters who wished to include their sites in the domain. A "sunrise" interval was provided to allow companies to register URLs containing their own trademarks. When that concluded, the sub-domain was made available for general use.

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Sites on "KIDS.US" were limited in many ways. They were prohibited from including:

bullet Material that is harmful to minors. This includes information, coding or programs that:
bullet The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find, taking the material as a whole and with respect to minors, that it was designed to appeal to, or is designed to pander to, the prurient interest;
bullet The material depicts, describes, or represents, in a manner patently offensive with respect to minors, an actual or simulated sexual act or sexual contact, an actual or simulated normal or perverted sexual act, or a lewd exhibition of the genitals or post-pubescent female breast; and
bullet Taken as a whole,...lacked serious, literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.
bullet Material that Is not suitable for minors. Suitable information that could be shown included material that:
bullet Was not psychologically or intellectually inappropriate for minors; and
bullet Served the educational, informational, intellectual, or cognitive needs of minors; or the social, emotional, or entertainment needs of minors.
bullet Discussion of specific topics, including mature content, pornography, inappropriate language, violence, hate speech, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, gambling, weapons, and criminal activity.
bullet Hyperlinks to other web sites that are outside the KIDS.US domain.
bullet The provision of File Transfer Protocol, Telnet, E-mail, Gopher and other functionality.
bullet The requesting of personal information from children under 13 years of age without parental consent.

Restricted were:

bullet Two way and multi-user interactive services, such as bulletin boards.

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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. Dick Thornburgh & Herbert S. Lin, Ed. "Youth, Pornography, and the Internet," Committee to Study Tools and Strategies for Protecting Kids from Pornography and Their Applicability to Other Inappropriate Internet Content, Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council (May 2002).
  2. "Statement of NeuStar, Inc.," 2003-SEP-12, at: http://commerce.senate.gov/ **
  3. Walter Minkell, " 'kids.us' Domain Looks Good To Go," Library Journal, 2002-APR-15, at: http://www.libraryjournal.com
  4. "Dot Kids Domain Name Act of 2001," 107th Congress HR 2417, at: http://thomas.loc.gov/
  5. "Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act of 2002," 107th Congress, HR 3833, at: http://thomas.loc.gov/
  6. "Amendment of solicitation/modification of contract," U.S. Department of Commerce, 2003-FEB-13, at: http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ **
  7. "Kids.us Content Policies," NeuStar, at: http://www.kids.us/

** These are PDF files. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: 

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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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