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!!!!!!!! Search error!  If the URL ends something like .htm/  or .htm# delete the character(s) after .htm and hit return.

Sex and the Internet

A safe "green light" place for kids

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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. 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, this essay's URL is http://www.religioustolerance.org/kids_us.htm 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. "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 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.

The bill obtained near unanimous support in both the House and Senate. President Bush 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 concludeed, the sub-domain was made available for general use.

Sites are limited in many ways. Excluded are:

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 is 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,...lacks serious, literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.
bullet Is not suitable for minors. Suitable information includes material that:
bullet Is not psychologically or intellectually inappropriate for minors; and
bullet Serves: the educational, informational, intellectual, or cognitive needs of minors; or the social, emotional, or entertainment needs of minors.
bullet 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 Provides File Transfer Protocol, telnet, E-mail, gopher and other functionality.
bullet Asks for personal information from children under 13 years of age without parental consent.

Restricted is:

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

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

bullet The 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.
bullet NeuStar charges $250.00 content review fee per year.
bullet If 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." 8

NeuStar arranged with Cyveillance® to routinely scan KINDS.US web sites using 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 is allowed to change 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 still be obtained to a KIDS.US web site even if its name were 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:
bullet  takes "...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 "...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 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." 9
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." 10
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 constantly use resources in other domains such as dot-com, dot-edu, dot-net, and dot-org." 11
bullet Eric W. Anderson posted the following 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. 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." 12
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?" 13

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More recent activities:

The sunrise period for registration of trademarked names in the KIDS.US domain ended on 2003-AUG-15. General registration was activated by Neustar on 2003-SEP-8.

Representatives Fred Upton (R-MI) reported that over 1,700 web sites had been registered on KIDS.US by 2004-MAY-6, some nine months after registration started. 14 However, essentially all of them appear to be parked domains: registered URLs with no actual web site attached. Most were probably purchased on speculation, with the assumption that KIDS.US would be wildly successful.

On 2004-APR-01, the ABC Television Network announced that it will be the first broadcast network to contribute to the KIDS.US domain. Alex Wallau, president of ABC said: "Young people linking to www.ABCKids.kids.us will now have additional access to top-quality Internet fare that represents an extension of ABC’s popular Saturday morning kids’ lineup." 16

As of 2005-JUN-18, there were only 23 live web sites in the KIDS.US ccTLD -- an average of one addition per month. This compares with over 30,000 domains on COM, NET and ORG that contain the word "kids." 15 All are linked to a menu at http://www.kids.us

NeuStar has published a PDF brochure titled: `The Web`s first and only Child Friendly domain, at: http://www.cms.kids.us/

The KIDS.US experiment appears to have largely failed to reach its potential.

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Internet links to sites dealing with cyberbullying and child safety:

  • "A parent's guide to internet safety," Federal Bureau of Investigation, at: http://www.fbi.gov/
  • Take action against cyber bullying with Safetyweb.com's tools for the Internet safety of kids.
  • The Canadian Center for Child Protection has a website for parents, teachers and others concerning http://www.thedoorthatsnotlocked.ca/ It "... raises awareness about all the things kids are doing online, the risks associated, as well as tips and safety strategies to keep them safe."
  • The Cyberbullying Research Center is dedicated to providing up-to-date information about the nature, extent, causes, and consequences of cyberbullying among adolescents. See: http://www.cyberbullying.us/ 

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Books:

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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/
  8. "Safety Patrol readied for Dot-Kids," BizReport, 2003-MAY-28, at: http://www.bizreport.com
  9. 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/
  10. "Domain would shield kids from evils of 'Net," Honolulu Star Bulletin, 2002-MAY-27, at: http://starbulletin.com/
  11. "ISTE Update," 2002-DEC, at: http://www.aztea.org/
  12. Eric Anderson, "Dot-Kids Act," 2002-DEC-06, at: http://www.gigalaw.com/
  13. Ian Betteridge, "Editorial: Safety Catch," MacUser.co,uk, undated, at: http://www.macuser.co.uk/
  14. "News from May 6-10,2004," Newsbriefs, Tech Law Journal, at: http://www.techlawjournal.com/
  15. "FAQ," BulkRegister®, at: http://www2.bulkregister.com/
  16. `The ABC television networkbecomes first broadcast network to partner with KIDS.US, 2004-APR-01, at: http://www.cms.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 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2005-JUN-18
Latest update: 2010-MAY-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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