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Lawmakers want 'kids' domain

By Richard Stenger

(CNN) -- Two U.S. Congressmen have proposed legislation to mandate a .kids domain suffix to provide a safe haven for children to surf the Web. The international body charged with setting standards for the Internet, however, called the measure well meaning but unworkable.

The "Dot Kids Domain Name Act" would require Internet authorities to establish the new top-level domain name before it extends the address system beyond the standard .com, .net and .org, and seven recently approved domains.

The two main sponsors of the bill said they want to make an exclusive domain with material appropriate for children.

"This legislation creates an Internet playground," Rep. Edward Markey told reporters Tuesday. "I think it will be a useful tool to millions of parents and families ... and the private sector as well."

"It creates a positive domain location where companies and organizations can self-associate their content with '.kids' as a suffix and thereby convey material that is sound, healthy, education or entertainingly safe for children," the Democrat from Massachusetts said.

The bill, introduced June 28, would disregard the standard process by which the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers makes decisions.

ICANN oversees the international Domain Name System through an agreement with the federal government. The organization operates autonomously but the Department of Commerce must endorse important policy changes.

ICANN unconvinced of viability

The proposed legislation, if it became law, would make ICANN establish the .kids domain before it created other new domains beyond seven approved in November, which include .biz and .info.

At the time, ICANN had considered the .kids domain but decided against it.

"It's a fabulous idea. What is there not to like," said ICANN spokesperson Mary Hewitt on Wednesday. "But when you get under the wire, how will there be enforcement? And then there is the question of who is liable if something pornographic is placed on the domain."

What makes the measure even more troublesome would be the problem of finding international standards of decency for juvenile materials, Hewitt said.

ICANN was designed to monitor the Internet across the world, not just in one country. What might be considered objectionable for young people in the United States might be deemed harmless in France, she said.

"How do you define a minor in different countries or decide what's appropriate for one country compared to another?"

Markey and the other bill sponsor, Rep. John Shimkus, a Republican from Illinois, hope to hold hearings on the matter in the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. No date has been set.


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