April 17, 2007 3:33 PM PDT

Senator plans to revise Web labeling bill

WASHINGTON--The U.S. senator behind a controversial proposal requiring labels on racy Web sites and limiting access to social-networking sites appears to be backing away from the idea.

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) on Tuesday said he is working with his staff and meeting with interested parties to rewrite his bill, introduced earlier this year and called Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act. He did not indicate when it would be complete, and an aide said the rewrite process remains in the early stages.

"I'm pleased to hear about some new developments in the marketplace since that new bill was introduced," Stevens told attendees at the annual meeting here of the Computer & Communications Industry Association. "Several companies like MySpace have revised their policies and announced new initiatives."

Stevens' bill, introduced with little fanfare in the first days of the new congressional session, includes two proposals that aroused concern among civil liberties advocates, librarians and technology companies last year.

One section would require schools and libraries that receive federal subsidies to certify that they are blocking access to social-networking sites "unless used for an educational purpose with adult supervision." Last summer, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved an identical proposal in the form of a bill called the Deleting Online Predators Act.

Another section of Stevens' bill mirrors earlier proposals, first floated by the U.S. Department of Justice, requiring sexually explicit Web sites to be labeled as such. One such proposal was approved last summer by the Senate Commerce Committee, of which Stevens is the Republican ranking member, as an amendment to a massive communications bill that ultimately died.

Details on the revised effort were scant on Tuesday, but Stevens said he believed the final product would fall "within the scope of the Constitution and not violate the First Amendment." He appeared to be referring to critics of previous Web labeling proposals who said they're riddled with the potential for chilling free speech. Under U.S. jurisprudence, all state and federal laws must comply with the First Amendment's strict anticensorship rules.

But the senator suggested he won't be dropping his focus on the issue, no matter what approach his proposed legislation ultimately takes. "The new social environments we open up on the Internet must be such that they will protect our children from predators and from inappropriate content," he said.

Stevens isn't the only one who has offered a bill on that topic this year. In the House of Representatives, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) in February reintroduced the Deleting Online Predators Act. And just last week, Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) proposed a new effort that would require special tags, which could be used to facilitate filtering, to be embedded in Web pages that the government deems unsuitable for minors.

CNET News.com's Declan McCullagh contributed to this report.

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3 comments

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I'd hate to be the one...
that has to label all those tubes.

Putz.
Posted by starch_y (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Need a more intelligent approch
I am pleased that Senator Stevens has recognized the
insufficiencies in his prior bill. All one has to do to assess the
ineffectiveness of filtering software is Google the following
"bypass Internet filter."

It is very important to start addressing the very real Internet
concerns more intelligently. Yes, there are risks online and, yes,
there are risks associated with social networking sites. But
children and teens also face risks from sharp knives, speeding
cars, bullies at school, drug pushers, and sexual predators in
their neighborhood, school, church, and home.

And the way to prepare them to address these risks is very
simple: protect younger children, prepare teens with an
understanding of the risks and the insight and skills necessary
to prevent themselves from getting into a risky situation, detect
if they are, and respond effectively. The same strategy is
necessary to address online risks. No tools, labeling systems, or
laws will protect our young people better than informed,
engaged parents, and competent, prepared teens.

Many teens are already making safe choices online -- but most
could benefit from more understanding. The current approaches
to Internet safety are far too simplistic (Don't post personal
information online) and many engage in unnecessary fear
mongering (Don't talk to online strangers).

Youth risk online must be viewed from the perspective of
adolescent risk. There are mechanisms in schools to address
youth risk -- primarily through safe schools planning (US
Department of Education Safe and Drug Free Schools Program)
and through the SAMHSA Safe Schools, Healthy Students
program. These approaches are community-based, involving
schools, parents, students, and other community organizations.
The best approach to address these new Internet risks would be
to incorporate a requirement to address youth risk online into
these two successful programs and provide the necessary
funding necessary to schools to support the professional
development and community outreach necessary.

Nancy Willard, M.S., J.D., Author of
Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats, <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://cyberbully.org" target="_newWindow">http://cyberbully.org</a>
Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens, <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://cyber-safe-" target="_newWindow">http://cyber-safe-</a>
kids.com
Posted by nwillard (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"...inappropriate content,"
One should ALWAYS as themselves the following question when
politicians spout these thoughtless statements:
Q: Who decides what exactly "...inappropriate content," is?
A: An unelected (and therefore unaccountable) government
"employee" with a fat pension, trolling adult websites for a
living.

If Mr. Stevens wants to really "protect" our children, stop
spending our country so far into debt (with bridges to nowhere),
that our children will have tax rates in the 70% range to pay off
his personal boondogles (favors?)!

HIPOCRITE!!!!
Posted by robot999 (109 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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