FC: More on House panel vote Wednesday on .kids -- vs. .kids.us

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Tue Mar 05 2002 - 10:15:51 PST

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    Date: Tue, 5 Mar 2002 12:22:54 -0500
    To: declanat_private
    From: Alan Davidson <abdat_private>
    Subject: Re: FC: House panel vote Wed. on bill forcing ICANN to create .kids
    Hi, Declan -
    As you noted, the .kids bill will be marked-up in subcommittee on 
    Wednesday. The markup is of a *new* bill HR 3833 - which includes two major 
    changes from previous legislation that was the subject of hearings this fall:
    * it calls for creation of .kids.us, not a new gTLD
    * it focuses on kids 12 and under, not 17 and under
    The changes do mitigate some of the problems with reaching a global 
    consensus on .kids, with Congress putting mandates on ICANN, and with 
    thorny issues about what material is appropriate for teens.
    However, concerns remain: How do you come up with a country-wide consensus 
    on what should be in .kids? Will families in New York City and Salt Lake 
    City agree on what is appropriate for kids under 13? How will you enforce 
    such a standard? Are we giving parents false hope about creating a "safe" 
    zone for kids that might not be so safe? And should Congress really be 
    placing these mandates on a registry operator anyway?
    Case in point: The bill limits .kids.us to material "suitable for minors," 
    defined as material that "is not psychologically or intellectually 
    inappropriate for the age of the targeted audience." Who is going to 
    interpret that?
    CDT's letter from last fall on .kids is available online at:
    We expect to put the new bill text up shortly at:
             - Alan
    Alan Davidson, Associate Director            202.637.9800 (v)
    Center for Democracy and Technology          202.637.0968 (f)
    1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 1100                  <abdat_private>
    Washington, DC 
    20006                         <http://www.cdt.org>http://www.cdt.org
    The Honorable Fred Upton
    2333 Rayburn Office Building
    United States House of Representatives
    Washington, DC 20515
    The Honorable Edward J. Markey
    2108 Rayburn Office Building
    United States House of Representatives
    Washington, DC 20515
    October 31, 2001
    Dear Chairman Upton and Congressman Markey:
    The Center for Democracy & Technology is writing to voice its questions and 
    concerns about a proposed Congressional mandate for a ".kids" top level 
    domain.  This issue is raised by H.R. 2417, the ".kids Domain Name 
    Act."  We understand that the legislation is moving away from creation of a 
    ".kids" top level domain, and we are encouraged by this shift.  However, we 
    are writing to highlight concerns about the negative effect that such a 
    mandate could have on efforts to effectively protect children, free 
    expression, and the management of the domain name system.
    The protection of children online is of paramount concern worldwide. CDT 
    has been a leader in seeking ways to preserve free expression online while 
    assuring that children are safe.  CDT was an active participant in the 
    development of GetNetWise, a "one-click-away" resource of information and 
    tools for families seeking to guide their children's online 
    experience.  CDT has also been active in representing public interest 
    perspectives at ICANN and recently co-authored a major study on public 
    participation in DNS coordination.
    Our questions about creation of a ".kids" domain are twofold.  First, it is 
    not clear that creating a ".kids" top level domain would effectively 
    protect children online or satisfy the diverse needs of families around the 
    country and the world who wish to control their children's online 
    experience. Second, creation of the domain may well have unintended 
    consequences that run counter to US interests in free expression and 
    governance of the Internet.
    1. Each American family is unique in its view of what material is 
    appropriate for children. Throughout the United States, parents have widely 
    varying opinions on what material is appropriate for their children, online 
    or off.  Some families greatest concern is about their child's exposure to 
    hate speech; others may wish to keep their child from sexually oriented 
    material; still others may want to avoid violent content.  What is 
    appropriate for a family in New York may not be right for a family in 
    Peoria.  Effective administration of a ".kids" domain would require 
    agreement on a national standard for what is right for children.  Given the 
    diversity of values among American families, it may be impossible to create 
    such an all-encompassing standard.  Doing so could result in many children 
    gaining access to material that their family believes is not appropriate, 
    or being denied access to material their parents may believe is right for 
    2. Similarly, it is not possible to establish a single, global standard for 
    child-appropriateness that reflects the diversity of cultures online. The 
    Internet is a global network that is accessed by every country on 
    Earth.  The diversity of values represented on the Internet makes it 
    impossible to identify a uniform, "one-size-fits-all" standard of 
    child-appropriateness. Some kinds of content that most Americans find 
    inappropriate for children are acceptable abroad, and vice versa. Such a 
    lack of uniformity in standards seriously challenges any attempt to fairly 
    administer a ".kids" domain.
    3. Forced migration of content to ".kids," or to other new domains, could 
    harm free expression values online. While not proposed today, creation of a 
    ".kids" domain raises the fear that other domains could be mandated in the 
    future that might encourage discrimination against certain content.
    4. A ".kids" domain could provide a tempting place for predators to 
    identify and contact children online. As Congress's own Commission on 
    Online Child Protection noted, an Internet domain devoted to children would 
    create a risk that "concentration of children's activities in this area 
    could attract predators."
    5. A US Congress mandate to ICANN to create .kids should be avoided, lest 
    other governments attempt to do the same. While the Internet Corporation 
    for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a U.S.-based organization that 
    manages the DNS system under arrangement with the Department of Commerce, 
    it is designed to serve and be responsive to the global Internet community. 
    A dictum from Congress that ICANN install ".kids" would threaten ICANN's 
    international standing and credibility as an international manager.  It 
    could also encourage other governments to pressure ICANN to help implement 
    their own policy agendas.
    CDT participated as a member of the Children's Online Protection Act 
    Commission, established by the Congress to evaluate the accessibility, cost 
    and effectiveness of technologies and methods to protect children, as well 
    as their possible effects on privacy, First Amendment values and law 
    enforcement.  The Commission heard the testimony of a wide range of experts 
    on the issues, and concluded that the best way to protect children online 
    was through public education, user empowerment, and aggressive enforcement 
    of existing laws. The findings of the Commission indicate that there are 
    many reasons why the creation of a ".kids" top level domain is not a 
    workable solution to the problem of protecting children online.
    We encourage the committee to continue its move away from a mandate for 
    ICANN to create a  ".kids" top level domain.  We would be happy to work 
    with the committee on this issue and to have the opportunity to discuss 
    this issue with you further.
    Jerry Berman
    Executive Director
    Alan Davidson
    Associate Director
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