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Sex and the Internet

Providing a safe place for kids, & a red-light district for adults

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Sponsored link.

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About URLs:

The Internet is a very largely unregulated entity. However, there is an Internet Corporation for Assigning Names and Numbers (ICANN) which has as one of its responsibilities the regulation of  Universal Resource Locaters (URL). URLs are the equivalent to a postal address for Internet sites. For example, this essay's URL is http://www.religioustolerance.org/sex_xxx.htm Entering that URL in your browser takes you to a unique server located in Texas that contains this web site. The final file name (sex_xxx.htm in the above example) takes you to this actual essay.

The ICANN has established many top-level domains (TLD):

BIZ for businesses;
COM for commercial sites;
EDU for educational institutions;
GOV for government entities;
INFO for information-rich web sites;
NAME for personal sites;
NET for Internet-related web sites;
ORG for social service agencies, religious groups and other non-profit entities;
etc.

At least, that is how it is supposed to work in theory. Many organizations adopt domain types that are one would not expect. For example, http://www.godhatesfags.com looks like a commercial URL. However, it takes you to the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) of Topeka, KS, a Primitive Baptist Church that is long on Calvinism and short on acceptance homosexuals. Entering http://www.godhatesfags.org -- a URL that one might expect for the WBC -- you are transferred to http://www.godlovesfags.com, which is a site promoting equal rights for gays and lesbians.

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Establishing a safe place for kids to surf:

During the fall of 2000, several companies that manage URLs asked ICANN to create a new top domain: KIDS. 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. "A House bill forcing ICANN to establish such a domain was debated in 2001, but it proved unworkable." 1

On 2002-MAR, the House Telecommunications Subcommittee approved House Resolution 3833 to create a "KIDS.US" second level domain (a.k.a. country code top-level domain or ccTLD). It states that the domain is to serve children aged 12 and under. They were able to do this without involving ICANN because the proposed domain would 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." 1 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.

The bill obtained near unanimous support in both the House and Senate. President Bush signed the "Dot Kids Implementation and Efficience Act of 2002" into law on 2002-DEC-04. Domains became available on 2003-SEP-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." 2

NeuStar, the company that regulates KIDS.US 3 created an independent committee to set criteria to be met by webmasters who wished to include their sites in the domain. A "sunrise" interval is provided to allow companies to register URLs containing their own trademarks. When that concludes, the sub-domain will be available for general use.

Sites are limited in many ways. Excluded are:

bulletMaterial that is harmful to minors. This includes information that:
bulletThe average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find, taking the material as a whole and with respect to minors, that it is designed to appeal to, or is designed to pander to, the prurient interest;
bulletThe 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
bulletTaken as a whole, the material lacks serious, literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.
bulletMaterial that is not suitable for minors. Suitable information includes material that:
bulletis not psychologically or intellectually inappropriate for minors; and
bulletserves: the educational, informational, intellectual, or cognitive needs of minors; or the social, emotional, or entertainment needs of minors.
bulletSpecific topics, including mature content, pornography, inappropriate language, violence, hate speech, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, gambling, weapons, and criminal activity.
bulletHyperlinks to other web sites that are outside the KIDS.US domain.
bulletProvision of File Transfer Protocol, telnet, E-mail, gopher and other functions.
bulletAsking for personal information from children under 13 years of age without parental consent.

Restricted is:

bullet"Two way and multiuser interactive services" such as bulletin boards.

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

bulletThe wholesale price of the domain is $65.00 in U.S. funds per year. This is in excess of ten times the cost of a COM domain.
bulletNeuStar charges $250.00 content review fee per year.
bulletIf a site is ordered off line because of content violations, it costs $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." 4

NeuStar arranged with Cyveillance to routinely scan KINDS.US web sites using it automated spidering technology. Cyveillance informs NeuStar of any questionable material. NeuStar will normally allow the offending webmaster to remove the improper material. In serious cases, NeuStar will 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 corrects the 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 is substituted for the name of the web site, then access could be obtained to a KIDS.US web site even if it were taken offline.

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Reactions to KIDS.US:

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 confinced that many companies would open KIDS.US web sites.

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.

Representative Fred Upton (R-MI), a co-sponsor of the bill explained 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." 5

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 cyberzone 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." 6

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Creating a "red light" district for sex sites:

ICANN indicated that it will establish an ".XXX domain" for Web sites containing.

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References used:

  1. http://www.stanford.edu/~mgritter/domain-policy/lcs/node12.html

 

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Site navigation:

 Home page > Christianity > Christian history, belief... > Beliefs > Sex > here

or Home page > Christianity > History, practices... > Christian practices > Sex > here

or Home page > Religious Information > Christian practices > Sex > here

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

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