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Parents rightfully are concerned that their children easily can be exposed to pornography, violence and other distasteful material on the Internet. Congress has attempted to legislate in this area without much success. For example, the Communications Decency Act of 1996 was struck down as infringing on free speech rights. Moreover, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 has been sidetracked by an injunction. However, in a recent development, the U.S. House of Representatives, in an overwhelming 406 to 2 vote, has approved a bill that is hoped to create a space on the Internet for children free of objectionable content. Time will tell whether this most recent effort actually will become law. Even if it does, however, while it would provide some relief, parents still would need to be vigilant to protect their children. THE RECENT HOUSE BILL On May 21, the House voted 406 to 2 in favor of H.R. 3833. This bill would create a place within the dot-us Internet domain only for Web sites deemed acceptable for children under the age of 13. As such, Web sites using a dot-kids.us Web address would certify that they do not provide sexually graphic content, violent material, hate speech or other information inappropriate for minors. Under this regime, the bill would regulate that part of the Internet specifically within U.S. government control. Other commonly used domains, such as dot-com and dot-net, in addition to the remainder of dot-us, would not be regulated. The dot-kids subdomain would be managed by Neustar, a private telecommunications company that was awarded management of the dot-us country code last year. Neustar would be tasked to monitor the dot-kids subdomain to assure that inappropriate content for minors is not available. Neustar in turn would report to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the Commerce Department. If Neustar were to lose money in this venture, it could give management back to the Department of Commerce to find another manager. Web sites within the dot-kids subdomain would not be allowed to link to sites outside the ambit of the subdomain. Likewise, they would not be permitted to set up features, such as instant messaging and chat rooms, that potentially could expose children to risks such as pedophiles. H.R. 3833 is sponsored by Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill. Only Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and Rep. Rob Filner, D-Calif., voted against the bill. POTENTIAL ACTION IN THE SENATE With the momentum gathering from H.R. 3833, it has been reported that similar legislation will be introduced in the Senate by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev. GETTING THE JOB DONE Protecting children from objectionable content is a matter of great importance. Congress should be applauded for paying attention to this issue. Certainly, the motivation behind H.R. 3833 is positive. Still, let there be no mistake, a law such as H.R. 3833 will not by itself get the job done. First, it is not entirely clear that a private operator such as Neustar can vouchsafe that objectionable material does not show up within the dot-kids subdomain. Second, the subdomain is purely voluntary in terms of Web sites that choose to be located there and visitors who decide to Web surf there. Nevertheless, it would be nice to know that there is at least one corner of the Internet where children can go and generally be free of pornography, violence and hate speech. Eric J. Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris, where he focuses on technology and litigation matters. His Web site is sinrodlaw.comand his firm’s site is Duane Morris. Sinrod may be reached by e-mail at [email protected].

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