A new Web domain geared toward children went live this week, just as the U.S. government announced the arrest of an alleged cyber squatter accused of pointing children to explicit material online.
Registration for the kids.us domain opened on Thursday, and live Web sites using the new naming convention are expected to appear next week, said officials at the domain registry, NeuStar Inc.
The opening of the domain comes about nine months after President Bush signed the Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act of 2002 into law that created kids.us as a space for Web sites geared to children younger than 13. It is technically a second-level domain of the U.S. country code domain, .us, meaning the Web addresses will contain two common extensions.
Earlier this week, federal agents arrested John Zuccarini, 53, in Hollywood, Fla., and accuse him of having registered thousands of Web addresses with names similar to popular sites, then pointing unsuspecting browsers—including children—to pornographic sites. He is being prosecuted under a provision of the PROTECT Act, signed into law in April, that outlaws the use of misleading domain names to direct minors to pornography.
“Theres obviously a tremendous amount of Congressional interest in this space, and they have heard from constituents that they wanted something to happen,” said Melinda Klem, director of business development for NeuStar, in Washington, D.C. “So this is a timely and necessary response to a market need.”
Along with opening registration of kids.us, NeuStar this week began its review process for content of registered sites. Part of the process for registering a domain includes having NeuStar review the content to ensure it is suitable for minors before the site becomes active, Klem said.
NeuStar also plans ongoing monitoring of sites once they are live to make sure they comply with its content policy. That policy bans, among other things, content with pornography, violence, hate speech, gambling and inappropriate language as well as the use of interactive features such as instant messaging, chat and message boards or the linking to sites outside the kids.us domain.
To enforce the policy, NeuStar has created three classes of violations. The worst offenses, such as content with pornography, would lead NeuStar immediately to take down a site. For less severe offenses, such as accidentally linking outside the domain, NeuStar would give site operators as many as 12 hours to fix the site before dropping it, Klem said.
Before the open registration process, NeuStar had a 60-day registration period (ending Aug. 15) that allowed trademark holders to reserve Web addresses using their trademarks. So far, more than 1,000 domain names have been registered, Klem said.
“Were very pleased with the registration volume were seeing,” Klem said. “We expect this to be a niche corner of the Internet.”
Next week, NeuStar is planning to revamp its www.kids.us Web site to include a directory of sites for children.
Because it makes use of the U.S. country code, NeuStars kids.us domain falls outside the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers process for new domains. ICANN, the primary overseer of the domain naming system, has added seven new top-level domains since 2000 but none geared exclusively toward children.
Instead, the Congressional act creating kids.us gave the U.S. Department of Commerces National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) the authority to manage the domain. The NTIA contracted with NeuStar, which also is the registry for the U.S. country code.
Fourteen registrars are signing up sites for the new domain, typically charging between $100 a year and $140 a year for an address. Site operators also must pay NeuStar $250 a year for its content review.
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