State Journal-Register

November 16, 2002
 
Congress approves kid-friendly Web area / Special domain will keep content safe

DORI MEINERT
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - Legislation that would create a safe haven for children on the Internet is headed to the White House after Congress gave final approval early Friday. President Bush
is expected to sign the measure.

The legislation would create a kid-friendly area on the Web where children couldn't inadvertently call up a site containing pornography. It would establish a second-level Internet domain ".kids" under the country domain ".us" so that Web sites would end with ".kids.us." Parents could program their computer to limit a child's access to only addresses ending in ".kids.us."

The House in May overwhelmingly approved a bill authored by Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville. The Senate late Wednesday unanimously approved a modified version. The House
accepted the changes early Friday.

"My intent is simple: to have a section of the Internet safe for my children and all children," said Shimkus, a father of three young boys.

Almost 20 percent of the young people who use the Internet regularly were exposed to unwanted sexual solicitations or approaches and 25 percent had been exposed to unwanted online
pornography in the previous year, according to a recent study cited by the bill's supporters.

The "kids.us" domain would restrict the content to material "suitable for minors." The Web sites with a "kids.us" address won't be allowed to link to locations outside that domain.
Chat rooms and instant-messaging features would be prohibited.

The American Civil Liberties Union had objected to Shimkus' bill, saying it constituted government censorship. But Shimkus and other advocates argued that participation would be voluntary for the Web sites and parents.

The Senate version extended the federal government's contract with a private firm that is to run the ".kids" domain. The company had said it would require too much money and effort to operate on a two-year contract. The private firm would be exempt from liability for removing content from the site.

The legislation was supported by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the National Law Center for Children and Families.