President George W. Bush signed into law Wednesday the Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act of 2002, legislation passed in the last few hours in the 107th Congress designed to create a “safe zone” for children on the Internet.
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.
“This bill is a wise and necessary step to safeguard our children while they use computers and discover the great possibilities of the Internet. Every site designated .kids will be a safe zone for children. The sites will be monitored for content, for safety, and all objectionable material will be removed,” Bush said at a mid-morning press conference. “Online chat rooms and instant messaging will be prohibited, unless they can be certified as safe. The websites under this new domain will not connect a child to other online sites outside the child-friendly zone.”
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.
“All of here today share the same goals: We must give our nation’s children every opportunity to grow in knowledge without undermining their character. We must give parents effective tools to help their children learn,” Bush said. “And we must be on the side of our parents as they work hard to raise their children. We must give our parents the peace of mind knowing their children are learning in safety. This act of Congress helps us meet these goals.”
The bill marks the fourth time the government has attempted to create a children-friendly zone on the Web. 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.