Magazine article American Libraries

Internet Librarian: Dot Kids "R" Us. (Information Technology)

Magazine article American Libraries

Internet Librarian: Dot Kids "R" Us. (Information Technology)

Article excerpt

I was halfway out my office door on my way to grab a quick swim the other day when the phone rang. Fighting the urge to let it ring, I answered it and found myself talking to a woman from a local radio station asking whether I'd be willing to be interviewed that afternoon. President Bush had just signed the legislation authorizing the creation of the new domain (AL, Jan., p. 12), and would I be able to answer a few questions on the air?

Since I'd only heard about the legislation briefly and knew relatively little about it, I hesitated; but not knowing what I'm talking about never stopped me before. So I said yes, took a couple of hours to research it, squeezed in a few laps along the way, and called her back.

I dug up a few news accounts about the new domain, and the more I read, the more questions I had. I had gotten the call because I served as an expert witness in the lawsuit challenging the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) (AL, Aug. 2002, p. 18), and somebody from the university made the connection. I don't profess to be an expert on the filtering issue per se, but I do know just enough to be skeptical about both the technology and the ideas behind legislation such as CIPA--and the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) and the rest.

A kid-friendly domain

The thing sounds like a great idea: Set up a separate domain within .us (the United States' national top-level domain, like Canada's .ca or Japan's .jp) where "kid-friendly" sites could be found. Sites within that domain could only point to other sites, no unmoderated instant messaging or chat would be permitted, and browsers could be configured to only permit access therein.

So far so good. The United States failed to convince ICANN, the people who administer the overall Internet domain space, to create a top-level .kids a few years ago (preferring such more popular favorites as .info, .biz, for the aerospace industry. No kidding). So they went ahead and carved out part of .us.

This plan has a number of unresolved questions: Who is going to make decisions? It appears to be left to the domain-name registrar (Neustar, a private contractor), who is directed to develop standards and processes for decision-making, appeals, and so on. …

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