RealTime IT News

Panel to Address Online Protection for Children

The Commission on Online Children Protection, a congressionally-appointed panel, is currently drafting a proposal that will highlight technological alternatives to help shield children from unwittingly finding harmful content.

Commission Chairman Don Telage, who also is executive advisor at Network Solutions, explained the purpose of the commission, which will present its solutions to Congress on Oct. 21, is to "identify technological or other methods that will help reduce access by minors to material that is harmful to minors on the Internet."

"The Commission is comprised of 19 members who are looking for effective ways to protect children from an unintentional Internet environment," he added. "Our members represent government bodies, Web sites and portals, and those who are knowledgeable about the technical aspects of the Web. We are seeking cost-effective legitimate solutions that do not invade privacy, first-amendment rights or personal values."

An ambitious effort, to say the least. Prior to drafting the proposal, the Commission, which has been in place since March, held three two-day open hearings across the country, soliciting public and professional opinion on issues its proposal should address. A fourth, and final, hearing is scheduled for October 4-5 at America Online in Dulles, Va.

Issues being evaluated by the Commission include:

  • A common resource for parents to use to help protect minors
  • Filtering or blocking software and services
  • Labeling or rating systems
  • Age verification systems
  • The establishment of a domain name for posting of any material that is harmful to minors
  • Any other existing or proposed technologies or methods for reducing access by minors to such material.

Although the report is still in draft stage, Telage did share some possible proposals with InternetNews.com.

  • A recommendation that the government become more involved in assisting the private sector with massive educational efforts.
  • A suggestion that an independent laboratory evaluate blocking and filtering tools and provide a synopsis similar to that of Consumer Reports. According to Telage, this will provide a state of understanding for the average parent, improve the tools that are already available and create a competitive marketplace for the suppliers.
  • A proposal that the government enforce existing obscenity laws more strongly. This way, if current laws are supported, there may be a trickle-down effect on what hits the Web.
  • A suggestion that Web sites geared for children end in .kids instead of .com.

Commission members additionally include representatives from the Internet Content Rating Association, Security Software Systems, Center for Democracy and Technology, Evesta.com., Rocky Mountain College, National Law Center for Children and Families, Education Networks of America, Department of Justice, Crosswalk.com, the FTC, Disney's Go.com, Yahoo!, AOL, Nortel Networks, Department of Commerce/NTIA, San Jose State University, and Donna Rice Hughes, who is the author of Kids Online and founder of protectkids.com.