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The Department of Commerce has chosen NeuStar Inc. to manage the dot-us country code top-level domain. In this role, NeuStar will apply separate treatment to a group of reserved names, including the “kids.us” domain name. NeuStar recently developed proposed guidelines and requirements for kids.us and seeks comments by Sept. 30. Comments can be submitted to [email protected]. NeuStar begins its analysis by noting the tremendous presence of adults and children on the Internet. According to NeuStar, more than 140 million Americans use the Internet; 90 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 17 use computers; and 65 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 13 are online. Moreover, 84 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 9 use computers at home, school or both. Recognizing the scope, complexity and sensitivity of the issue, NeuStar states its desire to receive input from “members of the children’s content community, child advocacy groups, parents, educators, law enforcement organizations, and other individuals” with the objective of facilitating the development of an Internet domain which creates “a friendly and enjoyable environment for children using the Internet.” PROPOSED GUIDELINES AND REQUIREMENTS The current guidelines and requirements proposed by NeuStar are not meant to be all-inclusive. Indeed, NeuStar specifically requests input as to additional issues that should be considered for kids.us. As of now, NeuStar proposes the following: Children under 13: NeuStar proposes that its guidelines and requirements as to content for kids.us be designed for children under the age of 13. Although this notion tracks some existing laws, such as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), an argument can be made that children 13 and older also deserve online content protection. Compliance with existing laws: NeuStar proposes that content posted within kids.us-approved domains must be in compliance with existing laws, widely adopted children’s protection policies and online privacy requirements. Though this is appropriate, further rigorous thought should be applied to create even greater protections for a place on the Internet specifically designed for children. Indecency: The seven profane words identified by the Federal Communications Commission in the case FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, 438 U.S. 726 (1978), would be reviewed for possible deletion from second-level domain names, as now proposed by Neustar. This does not seem too problematical, and perhaps the list of words should be expanded to achieve even greater protection for children. Educational content: For children under the age of 13, Neustar proposes that registrants who seek approval to provide content within the kids.us domain must commit to have some component of educational and informational content for children on their respective domains. This is laudable and is consistent with the Children’s Television Act and the FCC’s implementing rules. But there should also be some regulations requiring online educational content for children over the age of 13. Compliance with COPPA: In a nutshell, COPPA seeks to give parents control over whether and how personally identifying information is collected online from their children under the age of 13. As part of COPPA, Web sites must post privacy policies explaining how they collect information from children, obtain parental consent before collecting certain information, provide access to parents with respect to information collected from their children, and allow parents the opportunity to delete information collected from their children. NeuStar proposes COPPA compliance within kids.us. This notion is a no-brainer, as COPPA already is the law. The real question is whether the protections afforded by COPPA should be extended to children over the age of 13, and there certainly is an argument for such an extension. Compliance with advertising standards: NeuStar proposes that advertising within kids.us be in accordance with the policies of the Children’s Advertising Review Unit of the Better Business Bureau. As such, for any misleading or inaccurate advertising directed at children under the age of 12, efforts would be made at voluntary cooperation so that such advertising would not continue. This is not enough. First, misleading and inaccurate advertising should not be directed to children, no matter the age. Second, efforts directed at voluntary cooperation may not be enough; adding “teeth” to these guidelines should be explored. And third, apart from misleading and inaccurate advertising, thought should be given as to how much advertising is directed at children and how such advertising is foisted upon children (such as “pop-up” ads) within kids.us. Content restrictions: NeuStar proposes the following content restrictions on kids.us Web sites, unless there is a serious educational or other value: sexual acts or conduct, lewd exhibitions of genitals, the seven “dirty” FCC words, revealing attire, the use or sale of weapons, game sites designed for teens or older, legal or illegal drugs, legal or illegal gambling, alcohol consumption, explicit violence against people or animals including hate crimes, and tobacco use. This seems to be a step in the right direction; however, lumping all of these items together for similar treatment may not be appropriate. For example, what one person considers revealing attire, another person may not; plus, revealing attire surely is not in the same category as hate crimes. CONSIDERATION OF OTHER GUIDELINES AND REQUIREMENTS NeuStar acknowledges that it has not made specific bright-line proposals with respect to violent content, links to sites that are not within kids.us, monitoring criminal activity within the Web site, and other important issues. Plainly, NeuStar cannot tackle all issues, nor cannot it on its own guarantee a safe haven for children on the Internet; nevertheless, these are very important issues that should be considered as part of establishing kids.us. GET YOUR COMMENTS IN We all have a stake in the health and safety of our children. The Internet opens up a fascinating world for children, but in that world, there are places where children should not go. Kids.us creates an opportunity to allow children to thrive on the Internet without encountering many of the risks found elsewhere online. Although there is no one right answer regarding its establishment, how kids.us is established is important. Thus, if you have thoughts, please send them in by Sept. 30 to [email protected]. 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.com and his firm’s site is www.duanemorris.com. He may be reached by e-mail at [email protected]

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