Media, Tech

Kids and the Internet

| Tue Jul. 13, 2010 5:57 PM EDT

I wasn't planning to make this Jonah Goldberg day here at the blog, but he and Nick Schulz have a piece in National Review this week so strange that I just have to wonder what they were thinking. The problem they're addressing is the prevalence of porn on the internet, and they concede right off that government regulation ought to be avoided ("There’s something to be said for keeping the Internet out of the hands of progressive planners"). Instead they offer this:

Here is one proposal. Right now, there are many “top-level domains” — .com, .org, .biz, .gov, .edu., etc. We propose the creation of a .kids domain that would be strictly reserved for material appropriate for minors 18 years and under. Most sites would probably be able to mirror themselves on a .kids domain with little to no extra effort. Most corporations, schools, and other organizations have perfectly harmless material that kids and teens can view without causing their parents to stay up at night. The sites of the Smithsonian, McDonald’s, Disney, PBS, and countless other institutions are already perfectly safe for minors. Other websites would need a little tweaking, but not much. Only a relative handful of them — porn, dating services, adult-themed chat rooms, R-rated movie sites, et al. — would be explicitly barred from the .kids domain. The others would simply have to tone down or pare down their offerings.

....Merely creating a new domain wouldn’t create a neighborhood or safe zone for kids. But it would give the private sector the wherewithal to help parents, without handing jurisdiction of content over to the government or requiring parents to rely on notoriously unreliable filters. Programming a browser to recognize only a .kids address would be simple. Devices and software could be designed to make it impossible for kids to wander into bad neighborhoods.

Never has the danger of the passive voice been so thoroughly demonstrated. Who, exactly, would decide what is and isn't acceptable for this domain? Not the federal government, they say, but who then? The private sector? Which part of it? Some souped up international version of the MPAA? The United Nations? And what would they allow? "Heather Has Two Mommies"? Not if the Boy Scouts were in charge. Palestinian textbooks about the Israeli occupation of the West Bank? Not if the ADL gets a vote. Taliban cartoon primers for young girls about their proper role in an Islamic household? Not if NOW has anything to say about it.

I don't even object to this idea. I just don't see how you could make it work on an open, global network like the internet. Surely if you're going to spend 2,000 words on a topic like this, you're obligated to at least mention the single biggest obstacle in its way?

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