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Minutes of the Commission on Online Child Protection (COPA) meeting

Friday, June 9, 2000
Federal Trade Commission (Room 432)
2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The following commissioners were present:

  • Donald Telage, Network Solutions Inc. - Commission Chairman
  • Stephen Balkam, Internet Content Rating Association
  • John Bastian, Security Software Systems
  • J. Robert Flores, National Law Center for Children and Families
  • Donna Rice Hughes, Author, Kids Online/Founder,
  • C. Lee Peeler, Federal Trade Commission
  • William M. Parker,
  • C. James Schmidt, San Jose State University
  • Karen Talbert, Nortel Networks
  • George Vradenburg, AOL

Proxies sat is for the following commissioners: Alan Davidson for Jerry Berman, Center for Democracy & Technology; Kathy Rodi for Albert F. Ganier III, Education Networks of America; Hemanshu Nigam for Michael E. Horowitz, Department of Justice; and Sallianne Fortunato for Gregory L. Rohde, Department of Commerce/NTIA.

2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Don Telage, chairman of the Commission, welcomed the COPA Commissioners and asked for any additions to the meeting agenda. The following items were added to the agenda: media relations and extension of the Commission.

Update on Funding:

Chairman Telage then gave an update on the funding situation for the Commission. He reported that gift and grant language was added to the E-Signature bill that is now being considered in the conference committee. Chairman Telage has been told by congressional staff that the conference report may be approved as early as the week of June 12. Once the gift and grant authority is approved, Telage suggested that the Commission consider creating guidelines for accepting private funding. He reported that he has met with the staff for the Internet Tax Commission and was told that the Commission accepted dollars from a few of the Commission members and once Congress funded the Commission, those members were repaid. Telage also reported that the Largent Amendment, which would give $750,000 to the Commission, was approved as part of the Supplemental Appropriations measure. An amendment which would give the Commission $1.5 million in funding and designate the Department of Commerce as the sponsoring agency is moving through the Senate as part of the Supplemental Agriculture bill. Commissioner Bob Flores stated that he is worried about the gift and grant authority language because many of these large companies are contacted over and over again about giving money to Commissions and it puts non-profit organizations at a disadvantage.

Commissioner Vradenburg asked how much money the Commission really needs?

Chairman Telage responded that the Commission has not been able to do a number of things because of the lack of funding. He cited transcription of hearings and meetings; witness travel; commissioner travel; and buying expert reports as examples.

Commissioner Vradenburg stated that it doesn't sound like that would equal more than $100,000.

Chairman Telage responded that it's closer to $500,000 and above.

Commissioner Vradenburg said that the Commission still needs funding from Congress. He said even if The Commission receives congressional funding, that does not mean that those that contribute money through the gift and grants authority will be repaid. He commented that the Internet Tax Commission members were limited to contributing $50,000 each.

Commissioner Flores said that any offers to provide funding to the Commission must be communicated immediately to the Commission. He discussed setting up a subcommittee to set guidelines for accepting funding.

Commissioner Vradenburg emphasized not spending a lot of money. He suggested using personal staff to help the Commission.

Chairman Telage pointed out that not everyone has personal staff to use.

Alan Davidson sitting in for Commission Berman recommended setting up a subcommittee to come up with criteria for receiving funding.

Chairman Telage established a subcommittee on funding. Members of the subcommittee are: Commissioners Schmidt, Berman, Flores and Chairman Telage. The subcommittee will come up with recommendations on how to accept funding by COB on June 16.

Commissioner Flores commented that the Visa witness didn't seem to want to share numbers. He said that the Commission needs to push to get real data on market and economic issues.

Hemanshu Nigam sitting in for Commissioner Horowitz suggested that the Commission separate the company from the data, and create a survey to elicit responses.

Chairman Telage discussed a need for having an independent third party research some of the data the Commission is seeking.

Commissioner Rice Hughes commented that the Commission needs a validation mechanism for this data.

Discussion and Critique Hearing #1

Commissioner Balkam recommended that there be more diversity at the next hearings. He also said that we should make more of an effort to invite people we don't know to testify.

Alan Davidson for Commissioner Berman added that the Commission needs to hear real life stories from people who can talk about their experiences.

Commissioner Rice Hughes commented that there was overkill with regard to the panel of "one-click-away" resources. She recommended that the Commission devote more time to understanding various technologies. Commissioner Rice Hughes said more time should be given to dig deeper and get recommendations from witnesses. She suggested considering a fourth hearing. Commissioner Rice Hughes added that we only had one legal perspective on the panel regarding age verification. We need to balance that perspective.

Commissioner Schmidt said that it is crucial that whoever is communicating with potential witnesses give them a sharply honed focus on what they are supposed to cover in their testimony.

Chairman Telage agreed and added that the witnesses did not answer the questions that were provided to them by the Commission before they testified.

Commissioner Parker said the Commission needs to admit if we don't have time to do this well.

Chairman Telage then moved up the discussion regarding extending the commission.

Extending the Commission:

Alan Davidson for Commissioner Berman said that the new Congress will want to see the results of the Commission. He recommended not extending past March.

Commissioner Vradenburg said he does not see a need for an extension. He suggested possibly deferring the third hearing and reminded Commissioners that that the Commission does not have the power to extend our life.

Chairman Telage noted that he is concerned about writing this report based on testimony he heard at the first hearing. He said we did not get the quality of questioning we needed.

Commissioner Vradenburg pointed out that we are in the process of digestion after the first hearing.

Chairman Telage noted that the Commission does not have to make the decision now about whether to ask Congress for an extension.

Commissioner Flores pointed out that between now and the next hearing we will know the appropriations situation in Congress. He cautioned putting off this discussion too long and having the decision made for us.

Liza Kessler for Commissioner Vradenburg asked the Commission to weigh in more on witness selection and other topics during the planning process for the next two hearings.

Oral report from Subcommittee Chairpersons on Hearing #2

Commissioner Rice Hughes reported that the hearing 2 subcommittee has the following three working groups:

  1. Logistics
  2. Matrix on Filtering, Labeling and Rating
  3. Witnesses

Commissioner Rice Hughes noted that the second hearing will be held in Richmond, Virginia. Chairman Telage explained that Rep. Bliley had offered a university in Richmond as a venue for the second hearing. He said that a meeting with Rep. Bliley's staff will be scheduled for the week of June 12.

Commissioner Rice Hughes reported that a draft matrix had been e-mailed to the Commission the previous week. The draft matrix also was handed out at the meeting. Commissioner Rice Hughes said the subcommittee needs suggestions from the Commission on the rating and labeling portion of the matrix. The deadline to provide comments to the subcommittee is Tuesday, June 13.

Commissioner Rice Hughes announced that the next conference call to discuss witnesses for the second hearing is June 13. Sallianne Fortunato for Commissioner Greg Rohde reported the dates of the next three conference calls: June 20, July 5 and July 18.

Alan Davidson for Commissioner Berman recommended that the subcommittee circulate the draft witness list earlier to the Commission to allow more input from Commissioners.

Janet Evans for Commissioner Lee Peeler recommended that the subcommittee change the metrix and give witnesses multiple choice answers instead of asking open-ended questions. She said the Commission would receive more responses.

Commissioner Vradenburg reported that the first draft of the witness list and agenda will completed by the Tuesday, June 13 conference call. He encouraged input from other Commissioners. Commissioner Vradenburg suggested having children testify before the Commission on how to avoid adult sites.

Liza Kessler for Commissioner Vradenburg noted that the Commission should hear from tech witnesses more than vendors because Commissioners need to understand the technology. She suggested setting up a technology demonstration over lunch for those who do not testify. Kessler said that would be a way for these different companies to get their information into the record. She cautioned that trying to decide who to invite to testify will be a challenge.

Commissioner Talbert suggested having two computers side-by-side, displaying examples of filtered vs. non-filtered products.

Commissioner Rice Hughes emphasized that the Commission must find a way to evaluate the technologies.

Chairman Telage recommended hiring an independent third party to evaluate the different technologies.

Alan Davidson for Commissioner Berman recommended locating people who can analyze the market.

Commissioner Vradenburg noted that the Commissioner needs to know to what extent is the product being used in the marketplace. He said we need to find out if users use the technology and are they satisfied. He recommended getting teenagers to test products.

Commissioner Flores commented that the Commission could face an attack or defamation suit if we are evaluating technologies.

Commissioner Vradenburg agreed saying the Commission must be careful in how we describe the shortcomings of various technologies. He said AOL would be reticent to discuss competitors but would discuss parental controls broadly.

Commissioner Talbert agreed that children are a good test of products. She recommended having an anonymous panel of children to test products and breaking the filtering section into two categories: software based filters and server-based filters.

Commissioner Balkam noted that the Commission must clarify who the users are. He said parents buy the products and the children are affected based on the parents decision.

Commissioner Talbert emphasized that filter-based products are reluctant to disclose their subscriber base.

Commissioner Schmidt said there is a definite distinction between software filtering devices and server filtering devices--some target the server and others target the ISP.

Commissioner Vradenburg recommended giving an overview regarding the range of products and their users—products that are currently in use and those coming down the pike. He asked the Commission to think of people who could give such an overview at the next hearing.

Chairman Telage emphasized that the Commission should not be discussing specific products.

Commissioner Vradenburg said the role of the Commission is to be educators not product promoters.

Oral Report from Subcommittee Chairpersons on Hearing #3:

Commissioner Balkam reported that focus will be a challenge for the third hearing. He emphasized that time is short. He listed the categories that he envisions being covered by the third hearing.

Focus: Other kinds of existing or proposed technology tools and methods To include: client-based monitoring software; children orientated search engines; subscription services orientated towards children; time limiting tools; personal information filters; "green space" or "child safe space"; email, chat and "whisper" mode monitoring; acceptable use policies New and proposed technologies: wireless; push technology; broadband; convergence; ubiquitous/always on access.

Kathy Rodi for Commissioner Ganier announced that there will be a conference call for the third hearing on June 21 at 11 a.m. EST.

Commissioner Balkam reported that the subcommittee is planning to hold the third hearing in San Jose or another California location. He recommended holding a technology demonstration at this hearing as well.

Commissioner Bastian asked if the third hearing has to address issues that were not wrapped up in the first two hearings.

Chairman Telage answered no. He said these first three hearings might be a first round, an orientation and acclamation on the issues because the Commissioners aren't experts on all these technologies and we don't have the resources or time. Chairman Telage said that an extension of the Commission might make sense.

Commissioner Rice Hughes seconded extending the Commission. She recommended holding a fourth hearing to dip deeper into the issues and technologies. She said that the Commission has a great opportunity and a challenge to come up with a report of real value for our kids and the future of the Internet.

Commissioner Vradenburg said the Commission needs a clearer work plan to get from here to the final report that is due November 30. He recommended moving the third hearing into September. Commissioner Vradenburg noted that the first and second hearing are more informational, but that the Commission must dig deeper in the third hearing.

Alan Davidson for Chairman Berman said that hearing 3 will be more than a catchall for the other two hearings. He recommended that issues such as greenspaces etc… must be covered.

Approval of final Scope and Timeline/Technologies and Methods Documents

The Commission voted to put the Scope and Timeline document and the Technologies and Methods document on the COPA Commission web site with the caveat that these documents are subject to change.

Establish Commission Report Drafting Subcommittee:

Chairman Telage recommended creating a subcommittee to draft guidelines to writing the report to Congress. He emphasized that the report should stand alone and support the recommendations of the Commission. Chairman Telage issued a charge to the subcommittee to: 1) draft an annotated outline and 2) develop a methodology that balances quality and efficiency. The Commission will use this methodology to deal with different sections of the report.

Subcommittee members will be: Commissioners Vradenburg, Berman, Schmidt, Flores, Rohde and Chairman Telage. The subcommittee to provide initial recommendations by COB Friday, June 30.

Commissioner Rice Hughes requested that other Commissioners be able to provide input.

Discussion of Media Relations

Commissioner Balkam discussed the need to communicate to Capitol Hill and the public about the potential impact of the Commission's work. He suggested proactive media relations and the development of a question and answer document.

Commissioner Schmidt reported that he has had calls from the press and in each case he refers reporters to Chairman Telage who speaks for the Commission.

Commissioner Flores said he speaks to the press as to what his role is and what he expects from the Commission, but that he understands Chairman Telage speaks for the Commission.

Chairman Telage agreed saying that the Commissioners should be able to speak as Commissioners but not on behalf of the Commission. It was decided that the Commissioners would review the current question and answer document and send comments to Kristin Litterst.

Commissioner Rice Hughes recommended that all Commissioners use their individual public relations opportunities to talk about the importance of the Commission.

Kristin Litterst for Chairman Don Telage asked the Commissioners to distribute any media materials, including hearing advisories, to their press lists.

The meeting concluded at 4:00 p.m.

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