Rep. Franks and Rep. Pickering Re-Introduce Filtering Bill

(June 9, 2000) Rep. Pickering and Rep. Franks announced their re-introduction of the Children's Internet Protection Act on Thursday, June 8. The bill would require schools and libraries that accept e-rate subsidies to use filtering technology.

Related Pages
HR 4600, the Children's Internet Protection Act, 6/8/00.
Tech Law Journal Summary of Filtering Bills in the 106th Congress.

Rep. Bob Franks (R-NJ) is already the sponsor of HR 896, which is also titled the Children's Internet Protection Act. Rep. Chip Pickering (R-MS) is a cosponsor of that bill. It was attached, in amended form, to the House Juvenile Justice Bill last summer. However, that bill has yet to become law.

Rep. Pickering explained the reason for re-introducing the bill at a press conference outside the Capitol Building. "This is an effort that has been ongoing with Congressman Franks, from New Jersey, and it is re-introduction of language that we had adopted into the Juvenile Justice legislation, that passed the House, is in conference today. But with that conference uncertain -- the likelihood of it not being completed this year -- we wanted to make sure that we have an opportunity to move this bill as a stand alone bill through the House and through the Senate."

Rep. Chip

"There were modifications made from the effort that we had with Congressman Franks at the beginning of last year that was amended to the House Juvenile Justice Bill. There were modifications in the conference committee. And so we wanted to take the modifications that the House and Senate had agreed upon in the Juvenile Justice Bill, and reintroduce that. And so, the new legislation, HR 4600, the Children's Internet Protection Act, reflects the consensus that we have reached in conference on Juvenile Justice on this legislation," said Rep. Pickering.

A similar bill, S 97, sponsored by Sen John McCain (R-AZ), was adopted by the Senate Commerce Committee last year. However, the full Senate has yet to take action on that bill. Sen. McCain did not attend the press conference.

Also, Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK) has tried in the past to pass a similar measure by attaching it as an amendment to appropriations bills. He sits on the House Appropriations Committee. He has succeeded in the subcommittee; but, these amendments have ultimately been removed before final passage.

Rep. Bob

Rep. Bob Franks (R-NJ), Co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, explained the threat posed by unfiltered Internet access. He stated that the Internet "has a dark and threatening side. The reality is that materials breeding hate, violence, child pornography, and even personal danger, can be waiting just a few clicks or keystrokes away. In addition, hardcore pornography, including vast amounts of illegal child pornography are displayed and traded every day over the Internet."

"Our children don't need to be purposely looking for pornographic web sites to be exposed to dangerous pornographic material," said Rep. Franks.

Rep. Roy Blount (R-MO), Chief Deputy Majority Whip, and another cosponsor of the new bill, also spoke at the press conference. "One of the things that the federal government can do to really help with this whole issue of closing the digital divide is to help provide funds to libraries and schools so that computer equipment, computer access, and Internet access is available at schools and libraries. At the same time, we ought to do that in a way that doesn't endanger children; it doesn't jeopardize families; that eliminates access, as much as it is possible to eliminate access, to child pornography, and endangerment.

"No school, or no library has to participate in this. If they don't want to take the federal money, they don't have to take this restriction. But it is a reasonable restriction. It is the kind of restriction that adults should put on the Internet at their own home with their own children around. And it is the kind of restriction that we can easily add to this funding."

"What we don't want to do, as we eliminate the digital divide, is we don't want to don't want to build a bridge into an even worse chasm of pornography and child endangerment. We can accomplish both of the goals we want to accomplish here."

Rep. Blount also commented on its prospects for passage this year. "It is an important bill. I think we will see it on the House floor this year. I believe it will pass the House floor. And the similar bill that Sen. McCain has in the Senate, can result in successful legislation sent to the White House this year."

Rep. Pickering added: "We will be working to move this bill through the Commerce Committee, a hearing, if not by the end of this month, the first of July. And with the leadership of the House looking to move it as a stand alone, hopefully before the August recess. The Senate has ongoing similar efforts, and we will continue to work across the board to see this done."

Julianna Grunewald, a reporter with Tech Daily, pointed out the previous efforts to pass similar legislation have not succeeded in the past, and asked "What makes you think you are going to be any more successful with this?"

Rep. Pickering responded: "One of the reasons we are doing a stand alone initiative is so the authorizers and the appropriators can be unified, so that we can avoid problems of having these efforts, and similar efforts stripped out of appropriations. If we have the Commerce Committee, on which I serve, act, Senator McCain's committee act, we believe that either in a stand alone measure, or on some other vehicle or appropriation, that we can find the common cause and unified purpose of both House and Senate appropriator and authorizers to get this done."

"With the limited time and busy schedule, we want to have multiple options. What we would hope to do is move it through the committee, move it as a stand alone measure, either under suspension, or some other arrangement. I believe that Senator McCain is looking at either in amendment form, or to move it as a stand alone, on the Senate side as well. But this can only help us have as many different options as possible to get the job done, sent to the President by the end of this year."

He added that the new bill, HR 4600, like it predecessor, HR 896, have been referred solely to the House Commerce Committee. Rep. Pickering and Rep. Blount both sit on that committee.

Rep. Pickering also addressed the role of the Clinton administration. "We do have one missing link, and missing voice in this debate. NTIA, in our earlier hearing, speaking for the administration, opposed this filtering technology, and [is] blocking an effort to protect our schools and libraries. We call on the administration to join with us in this effort."

Several speakers also stated that this bill would not undermine the e-rate. "This is in no way any effort to undermine the e-rate program in bringing Internet technology, and the great opportunities to teach, to our schools and libraries," said Rep. Pickering. "What it is is an effort to make sure that when these tools are used that the material is appropriate, it is good, it is clean, it is safe. It is not harmful; it is not hateful; it is not violent; it is not obscene; and it is not pornographic."

Several groups which support filtering legislation sent representatives to speak about the problems associated with unfiltered Internet access in schools and libraries. These speakers were: