RealTime IT News

.Kids Legislation Heads to White House

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a new version early Friday morning of the "Dot Kids" legislation to create a "safe zone" for children on the Internet. The Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act of 2002 previously passed the House and won Senate approval late Wednesday night, but the bill had to go back to the House because of some slight language changes in the Senate version.

On a unanimous voice vote, the House approved the language changes and the bill now heads to the White House, where President George W. Bush is expected to sign the measure.

The bill assigns the Department of Commerce, through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), with the responsibility for overseeing the establishment of a subdomain ".kids," level to the ".us" domain. The bill also requires domain registrar Neustar, which has won the rights to administer the subdomain, to work with the Department of Justice and other federal agencies to prevent children using the area from being targeted by predators.

"Children are clearly not safe on the Internet. The Dot Kids bill is a victory for parents and families," Sen. John Ensign (R.-Nev.), one of the sponsors of the legislation, said. "This bill establishes a children's section of the Internet, where children will be safe from pedophiles, pornography, and violence. Dot Kids will also prevent children from accessing websites outside the .kids.us subdomain or engaging in uncertified instant messaging, e-mail, or chat rooms."

The ".kids.us" space is supposed to only allow access to material that is suitable for children 12 and under, a standard that will be enforced through "constant content monitoring and swift takedown of inappropriate content" as required under the bill. Content providers will have to certify that the material they are providing does not contain sexually explicit material, hate speech, violence or other material not suitable for minors.

"The Dot Kids bill marks the fourth -- and hopefully final -- attempt by Congress to strike a careful balance between safeguarding children on the Internet while not infringing on First Amendment rights," Ensign said.

As part of the 1996 Telecom Act, Congress passed legislation aimed at protecting children using the Internet, but the bill was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, as were two subsequent laws passed by Congress.