Commissioner William M. Parker|
CEO and President
Because there is so much that can be done by Government and industry to improve the protection of our children online, I feel confident that the recommendations that we have made will make a big difference if promptly implemented. They represent a first step.
When I joined this Commission I recognized the threats to our children online, and because of those threats initiated a free filtering alternative on Crosswalk.com to protect children wherever they surfed on the Internet. But as a result of my work on this Commission, I'm even more concerned about the vulnerability of children in cyberspace. Given the dangers, I must say that the time and resources given this Commission for this important task were disappointing. A task scoped to require two years by the statute was hurried to completion in six months, and with no funding. I consider this to be a credit particularly to our chairman, Don Telage, but I feel strongly that our Congress should have provided the needed time and money. Given Congress's lack of attention, or will, in this regard, I sincerely hope that the recommendations of this Commission will not similarly languish.
Furthermore, this Commission could have done much more to assist the Congress given time and money. Although the recommendations of the Commission are sound, more could have been done, and indeed, more needs to be done. The fact that the Commission is not recommending new substantive means to protect children should not be assumed to indicate that new substantive measures should not be taken. The work of the Commission to date has been merely to point out the obvious measures for which there is broad consensus and that should be taken immediately. The Congress should immediately initiate another commission, or reconvene this one, to pursue these possibilities.
I feel that the technology is available, or can be integrated, to effectively protect our children online. I particularly think that first party labeling, combined with other browser filtering technology has the promise to protect children and provide an affirmative defense to COPA, while not violating first amendment rights. The Commission did not have the time or money to effectively pursue this potential alternative or others. Unfortunately, this Commission only progressed to the point of conducting a technology overview. We did not systematically examine technology. We did not effectively consider combinations of technologies. And we did not establish objective criteria for weighing technological approaches or methods against first amendment issues. We relied upon the testimony of vendors regarding their products. We did no testing, and we conducted no analysis of technology integration.
All that being said, there clearly is much action that can be taken now by the Government to make parents and children more aware of online dangers, and to make illegal pornographers and child abusers fearful.
Many parents and children simply are not aware of online dangers. And while many in the Internet industry are fearful of scaring people off the web, a comprehensive program to inform the general public of the dangers of the Internet must be initiated. The dot com advertising blitz is more than sufficient to inform the public of the great promise and opportunity associated with the Internet. The Government cannot remain silent about the clear dangers of this medium, particularly for children, and particularly while there are no current effective safeguards for them. This public awareness campaign must be on a scale with Government campaigns to warn of other dangers, with an objective that every parent be aware of the need to engage to protect children online. This public awareness campaign must be complemented by an education program sufficient to provide those parents (and children) with the information they need for effective protection.
While this is a complex problem, I was appalled at the almost total lack of enforcement of existing obscenity law. The adult entertainment industry is almost boastful about the neglect of law enforcement officials that they currently enjoy. Several witnesses testified that producers of obscene and "harmful to minors" material have no fear of prosecution. There is currently very little funding to pursue violations of current statutes, and there is no coordinated law enforcement strategy (and effort) being pursued by the federal government. Congress must give the Justice Department an aggressive mandate and funding to enforce existing laws.
If the Congress decides to re-establish and fund this Commission consistent with the intent of the statute, I would be honored to serve again as a Commissioner.
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