After consideration of the record, the Commission concludes that the most effective current means of protecting children from content on the Internet harmful to minors include: aggressive efforts toward public education, consumer empowerment, increased resources for enforcement of existing laws, and greater use of existing technologies. Witness after witness testified that protection of children online requires more education, more technologies, heightened public awareness of existing technologies and better enforcement of existing laws.
Government at all levels and the Internet community must unite to provide broadly available education resources to families and caregivers. Voluntary methods and technologies to protect children must be developed, tested, evaluated and made readily available. Coupled with information to make these methods understandable and useful, these voluntary approaches provide powerful technologies for families. As we move forward, it is important that technologies to protect children reflect next-generation Internet systems and the convergence of old and new media. Finally, it is imperative that government allocate increased resources to law enforcement at the federal, state and local level for training, staffing and equipment so that existing laws against child pornography and obscenity are more effectively enforced.
Witnesses appearing before the COPA Commission testified that distribution over the Internet of obscene material, child pornography, and harmful to minors material continues to grow in a troubling manner. Law enforcement resources at the state and federal level have been focused nearly exclusively on child pornography and child stalking. We believe that an aggressive effort to address illegal, obscene material on the Internet will also address the presence of harmful to minors material.
The Internet's global nature presents law enforcement with an additional concern, because a substantial amount of obscene material, child pornography and harmful to minors material originates abroad. While issues of extradition, need for legal assistance from foreign law enforcement, and conflict of law issues make prosecution difficult, these problems have been addressed previously in the narcotics, fraud, and intellectual property areas. US leadership in this area may lead to models of international cooperation.
- Recommendation: Government and the private sector should undertake a major education campaign to promote public awareness of technologies and methods available to protect children online. Public education must be done in a sustainable manner that effectively reaches families both online and offline.
- The campaign should stress the importance of involving caregivers in a child's online activity; the availability of both offline resources and one-click-away Internet technologies; access to child friendly sites; information about the range of technologies available to protect children; and information about testing and assessment of new technologies.
- Public awareness efforts should include an online component, a targeted and cost-effective way to reach those who need help most - families on the Internet. Online initiatives can be a highly effective way to directly access information and technologies, providing families with one-stop shopping where they can get detailed information, report trouble, and be linked to technologies and resources so that they are only "one click away" from assistance.
- Sellers of consumer PCs should be encouraged to stock filtering technologies, parental controls or other user empowerment technologies in a prominent place at the point of sale of consumer PCs to make such technologies easily available to consumers, and operating system sellers should be encouraged to bundle such technologies prominently within the operating systems.
- Government at all levels should devote substantial resources as part of a public-private sector partnership to promote public awareness.
- Public libraries, community centers, schools and PTA's would be essential components of this effort.
- Resources should include information about access to law enforcement and child advocacy organizations.
- Government should provide block grants to states to create materials appropriate for Internet safety curricula. Materials for community and school publications, and libraries should be developed and distributed.
- Recommendation: Government and Industry Should Effectively Promote Acceptable Use Policies. Acceptable use policies refer to stated parameters for use of online systems. They are a non-technological technology or method for protecting children online. Government at all levels and industry should encourage parents and public institutions that offer access to online resources to adopt such policies. Just as we provide children with firm rules for crossing the street and guidelines for dealing with a variety of unfamiliar situations, we need to provide them with rules and guidelines to facilitate their online learning experiences as well as their safety.
- Acceptable use policies should be voluntarily implemented by public institutions that offer access to online resources. An acceptable use policy should disclose to parents what safeguards will be in place in the school and library setting that are designed to permit users to have educational experiences consistent with local or family values.
Consumer and Responsible Adult Empowerment
- Recommendation: The Commission recommends allocation of resources for the independent evaluation of child protection technologies and to provide reports to the public about the capabilities of these technologies. The current lack of information about how well technologies work, and lack of transparency about what they might block, is a major hurdle for their adoption by families or caregivers.
- The Commission recommends that the private sector - industry, foundations, and public interest organizations - provide support for an independent, non-governmental testing facility for child-protection technologies. This facility would provide consumers with objective, well-researched information on the features, effectiveness, prices, search criteria, transparency, flexibility, and ease of use of various technologies.
- Recommendation: The Commission recommends that industry take steps to improve child protection mechanisms, and make them more accessible online.
- Industry should improve filtering and blocking technologies, monitoring technologies, and child-safe "greenspaces." We support fully family and responsible adult decisions to use these Internet technologies.
- Protective technologies, which feature strong visibility and easy implementation, have unusually high use levels. Service providers should make protective technologies more accessible and easier to use.
- In addition, browsers, portals, and popular web sites could display parental control links in prominent locations. This is a low-cost, user-friendly method for bringing these resources to the attention of families and responsible adults.
- Recommendation: The Commission encourages a broad, national, private sector conversation on the development of next-generation systems for labeling, rating, and identifying content reflecting the convergence of old and new media.
- The Commission has determined that rating and labeling may have positive synergistic effects on other technologies, such as filtering. The use of such systems could have a significant impact on consumer empowerment. This dialogue must consider the significant impacts on free speech and consumer privacy.
- Recent advances in metadata may facilitate the implementation of such a rating and labeling system.
- Recommendation: Government should encourage the use of technology in efforts to make children's experience of the Internet safe and useful.
- No particular technology or method provides a perfect solution, but when used in conjunction with education, acceptable use policies and adult supervision, many technologies can provide improved safety from inadvertent access from harmful to minors materials.
- Recommendation: Government at all levels should fund, with significant new money, aggressive programs to investigate, prosecute, and report violations of federal and state obscenity laws, including efforts that emphasize the protection of children from accessing materials illegal under current state and federal obscenity law. Specifically, the Commission recommends that Government at all levels fund aggressive programs to investigate and prosecute violations of obscenity laws.
- This prosecution effort should include an emphasis on minimizing access by children to obscene material.
- Significant new money should be appropriated to this effort to allow the investigation and prosecution of obscenity, child pornography and exploitation; train law enforcement officers, especially forensic investigators and examiners; and retain technical experts by increasing the ability of government to pay competitive salaries and benefits.
- This investigation and prosecution program should supplement the Government's existing effort to investigate and prosecute child sexual exploitation, sexual abuse, and child pornography.
- Such a program should be of sufficient magnitude to deter effectively illegal activity on the Internet.
- Recommendation: The Commission recommends that state and federal law enforcement make available a list, without images, of Usenet newsgroups, IP addresses, World Wide Web sites or other Internet sources that have been found to contain child pornography or where convictions have been obtained involving obscene material. This information may be used to identify obscene materials or child pornography under the control of the ISP or content provider. The Commission recognizes that, consistent with this recommendation, law enforcement will take appropriate steps to limit dissemination of this information to those entities that have a legitimate purpose for accessing such information. Use of this list must remain voluntary.
- Recommendation: The Commission recommends that Federal agencies, pursuant to further Congressional rulemaking authority as needed, consider greater enforcement and possibly rulemaking to discourage deceptive or unfair practices that entice children to view obscene materials, including the practices of "mouse trapping" and deceptive meta-tagging.
- Prosecution should focus on major producers, distributors, and sellers of obscene material that use fraudulent or misleading methods to market their material to children.
- Recommendation: Government should provide new money to address international aspects of Internet crime, including obscenity and child pornography.
- The Federal Government should review and seek to amend or negotiate new international agreements to address extradition and the gathering of evidence in cases involving international distribution of obscenity and child pornography over the Internet.
- Provide new and substantial funding to enable investigation and prosecution of international obscenity and child pornography distributors and producers that use the Internet to distribute or sell said material
- Congress should review federal rules of evidence and procedure to determine its sufficiency to deal with international investigations and prosecutions and make any necessary changes
Internet Service Provider Industry Self-Regulation
- Recommendation: The Commission urges the ISP industry to voluntarily undertake "best practices" to protect minors. These practices should include:
- Voluntarily providing, offering, or enabling user empowerment technologies to assist end-users to protect children from material that is harmful to minors.
- Providing that ISPs, when made aware of violations of best practices, will address them in a timely manner.
- Stating that ISPs reserve the right to take action in good faith to restrict availability of material that violates best practices.
- Increasing awareness among ISPs and promoting timely implementation of their legal obligations to remove child pornography hosted on their own servers when notified of its presence.
- Voluntarily cooperating with local, state, federal, and international authorities in the investigation of crimes involving the use of their service, to the extent practical and lawful.
Adult Industry Self-Regulation
- Recommendation: The Online Commercial Adult Industry Should Voluntarily Take Steps To Restrict Minors' Ready Access to Adult Content. Representatives of the commercial online adult content industry testified to their willingness to take voluntary steps to reduce ready access to online commercial adult content by children. Self-regulatory steps could restrict children's access to commercial online adult content and thus address a substantial portion of the concerns surrounding such materials.
- These efforts should call on members to provide that the public front pages of commercial adult content sites will not contain explicit graphics or text, but be limited to material sufficient to make clear that the site contains sexual material. Teaser pages should be located only beyond the front, public page.
- These efforts should call on members to use the most effective currently available technologies for verifying age, the further development and use of which should be a priority.
- Self-labeling is potentially among the most effective means of empowering parents to limit access to harmful to minors material, especially in concert with other technologies and methods such as filtering. This industry should pursue efforts to encourage web sites to self-label and should provide incentives for them to do so.
- These efforts should call on members to avoid use of metatags that result in their sites being selected by search engines in response to searches seeking information of a nonsexual nature, or in the posting of search engine responses containing sexually-explicit text or graphics. Children entering innocent search requests, or accidentally mis-typing a request, should not be presented unexpectedly with lurid text and graphics. Search engine responses should simply reflect that the content of pages responsive to the request contain sexual material.
- These efforts should call on members to comply with federal and state laws applicable to unsolicited commercial email, and not to use mass, unsolicited emails likely to include addresses available to children to promote adult content. Commercial email promoting adult sites should not contain links directly to adult content. Any commercial email should be targeted only to adults and should contain a prominent disclosure that it promotes sexually explicit sites.