|On Wednesday, July 16, President Clinton and Vice President Gore announced a strategy for making the Internet "family friendly." This strategy is designed to give parents and teachers the tools they need to prevent children from getting access to inappropriate material on the Internet, and to guide them towards high-quality educational resources.|
The President and Vice President believe that the Internet is a powerful educational tool for our children. All over America, students are using the Internet to follow the Pathfinder mission to Mars and conduct research using the Library of Congress. But there is clearly material on the Internet that is not appropriate for children. In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision on the Communications Decency Act, America needs a strategy for protecting children and creating a safe, educational environment on the Internet that is consistent with our First Amendment values.
The President emphasized that government, industry, parents and teachers all have an important role to play in achieving the goal of a family friendly Internet in the following ways:
The Administration will continue to enforce laws to protect children on-line. The Supreme Court's decision on the Communications Decency Act did not affect U.S. laws against obscenity, child pornography, and on-line stalking. The President made clear that the Administration remains committed to the vigorous enforcement of federal prohibitions against the transmission of child pornography and obscenity over the Internet and other media, and the use of the Internet by pedophiles to entice children to engage in sexual activity. Recent steps by law enforcement include:
- FBI has increased its staff committed to combating computer-related exploitation of minors by 50 percent in the last three months, and has established a task force that specializes in computer child pornography and solicitation cases.
- The U.S. Customs Service has used the Internet to crack down on child pornography, and has seen an increase in convictions from 35 in FY1995 to 90 in FY1996.
- The Attorney General's Advisory Committee is providing training for law enforcement and prosecutors around the country, so that they can keep up with the latest computer technology.
Industry will provide blocking, filtering, and labeling technology for parents and teachers that is widely available and effective. Netscape announced that they plan to include Internet filtering technology in the next major release of their "browser" -- the software used to access the World Wide Web. This technology, known as the Platform for Internet Content Selection (PICS), allows parents to choose from a variety of ratings systems to block sites that are inappropriate for children. Microsoft has already incorporated this filtering technology in its browser. Combined, Microsoft and Netscape account for more than 90 percent of the browser market.
All major commercial online services, as well as over 145 regional and local Internet Service Providers in more than 40 states, now offer their customers filtering software either for free or for a small fee. This software allows parents to block objectionable material, and may have other features, such as the ability to limit the amount of time that a child spends online, or prevent a child from typing personal information (e.g. telephone number, street address) in an online chat-room. Major computer manufacturers such as Acer, Apple Computer, Compaq, IBM and Packard Bell are also "bundling" home PCs with filtering software.
Internet directory companies such as Yahoo, Excite, and Lycos which serve as the "yellow pages" of the Internet, agreed to make it easy for Web site developers to rate their sites appropriately. IBM announced a grant to the Recreational Software Advisory Council - a non-profit organization that has developed a content labeling system for the Internet. Major Internet content providers led by the Internet Content Coalition announced their intention to label their sites.
To support these efforts, the President also directed the Office of Management and Budget, working with the Department of Commerce and the Government Information Technology Services Board, to develop policies for labeling Executive Branch web sites.
Industry commitments include the following:
- Over 90 percent of World Wide Web "browsers" will include filtering technology.
- Major PC manufacturers and Internet service providers serving 85 percent of all Internet users will provide filtering software.
- Internet companies are promoting the use of "ratings" for filtering technology.
Parents and educators must do their part as well. The President also challenged parents to get involved with their children's use of the Internet. Technology is not a "silver bullet," and is no substitute for parental involvement. To help parents learn how to make the best use of this technology:
- Non-profit organizations have developed NetParents -- a user-friendly web site for parents
- "Librarians Guide to Cyberspace for Parents and Kids"
By logging on to NetParents (www.netparents.org) -- parents can get information on blocking software that meets their concerns, find out which Internet Software Providers offer this software for free or at low cost, and get tips on child safety on the information superhighway.
The American Library Association launched an effort called "The Librarian's Guide to Cyberspace for Parents and Kids," that will help parents find positive sites for their children.
This problem will not be solved in a single day. It will require the continued cooperation of industry, government, and groups representing parents, teachers, and children. Industry and non-profit organizations are organizing a summit to be held in the fall that will continue the momentum towards a "family-friendly" Internet.
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