[LINK] Newsbytes - Porn Panel Wrestles With age Verification
Wed, 14 Jun 2000 02:39:23 +1000 (EST)
A story on the Commission on Online Child Protection in the USA from
Porn Panel Wrestles With age Verification
By David McGuire, Newsbytes June 10, 2000
While existing technology could be used to effectively bar minors
from visiting Web sites containing pornographic and sexually explicit
material, implementing such technological solutions would create a
whole thicket of constitutional concerns, witnesses told the
congressionally appointed Commission on Online Child Protection
Credit card verification, digital age certificates and
"biometrics"--a term applied to the science of verifying Internet
users' identities by digitally scanning physical traits--could be
used either singly or in concert to assure that only adults visit
adult-oriented Web sites, a panel of technology experts told the
But by mandating the use of any of those technologies, Congress would
most likely violate constitutionally protected rights to both free
speech and privacy, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
attorney David Sobel testified Friday.
"The problem (lies) in the lack of clarity as to what constitutes
'harmful-to-minors' material," Sobel told the commission. Because
nobody, either in Congress or on the commission has ever bothered to
clarify what exactly harmful to minors means, any discussions of
technologically blocking access to that material treads on thin
constitutional ice, Sobel added.
"There is a serious definitional problem that goes beyond the
technological issues," Sobel said, criticizing the commission for
putting the cart before the horse in its discussions about filtering
and age verification technology.
But commission Chair Don Telage disagrees, arguing that the panel is
taking exactly the correct course - examining the feasibility and
legality of various approaches before making any judgments about what
material should blocked and how.
"Before we consider (making) any recommendations on any issue to this
Congress, what we are going to do is get a real solid understating
and assessment" of what the issues are and what solutions exist to
address them, Telage told Newsbytes.
Congress has charged the commission with the task of identifying
"technological or other methods" to help prevent minors from viewing
harmful material online.
Testifying at Friday's hearing were security and age verification
experts from Intel Corp., VeriSign Inc. and Visa. Also giving
testimony were a handful of biometrics experts who discussed the
quality and availability of technologies that can be used to scan
fingerprints, faces and other physical characteristics.
While controversy surrounded all of the proposals submitted during
Friday's hearing the notion of creating technology that would allow
parents to identify Internet browsers installed on their home
machines as "kids only," appeared to meet with the support of many
commissioners and witnesses.
Under such a scheme, a browser could be designed to send an
electronic signal to Web sites that it is a child doing the surfing.
Adult Web sites could then employ technology to block children using
such identified browsers from accessing their material.
"Empower consumers to tell Web sites the age of their kids,"
commission member Jerry Berman said Friday, adding that Congress
could avoid thorny First Amendment issues by focusing its efforts on
families who use the Internet rather than content providers.
On Thursday, the Child Online Protection Commission discussed the
extremely controversial notion of creating an adults only Internet
domain such as .xxx or .sex.
Minutes of the Commission on Child Online Protection's meetings and
other materials collected by the group are available online at
Reported by Newsbytes.com, http://www.newsbytes.com .
http://movies.yahoo.com.au - Yahoo! Australia & NZ Movies
- Find out what's on at the local cinema with Yahoo! Movies