Bush signs bill for child-safe domain names

U.S. President George W. Bush on Wednesday signed the Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act, creating kids.us, a second-level Internet domain designed to create an Internet safe haven for children.

Dot Kids aims to establish child-friendly space on the Internet and to give parents of children aged 13 and under peace of mind by ensuring that kids.us Web sites carry material free from "content harmful to minors" such as pornography.

The .kids domain "will function much like the children's section of the library, where parents feel comfortable allowing their children to browse. This bill is a wise and necessary step to safeguard our children while they use computers and discover the great possibilities of the Internet," Bush said in a signing ceremony in the White House that was also posted on its Web site.

Online chat rooms and instant messaging will be prohibited on .kids Web sites unless they can be certified as safe and the .kids Web sites will not connect a child to other online sites outside the child-friendly zone, Bush said.

Neustar Inc., the company that has been administering the .us domain since March, will be in charge of monitoring sites with the .kids domain for content and safety, and of removing all objectionable material. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will oversee this effort, determining whether Neustar operates in accordance with the mandates of the bill.

The Senate and the House both passed versions of the Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act of 2002 (S. 2537 and H.R. 3833) despite concerns from civil liberties groups.

In September, during the hearing process for the bill, the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) sent a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the subcommittee overseeing the legislation, expressing concern that the kids.us domain would set a dangerous precedent for regulation of the domain name space.

Should Dot Kids become law, it would "inappropriately involve the government in making decisions about what material should and should not be available on the Internet," Alan Davidson, associate director of CDT said in the letter.

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