Statement by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
Re: S 97, the Children's Internet Protection Act.
Date: January 19, 1999.
Source: Congressional Record.
Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce The Children's Internet Protection Act, which is designed to protect children from exposure to sexually explicit and other harmful material when they access the Internet in school and in the library. This legislation is substantially similar to the Internet School Filtering Act, which I introduced in the last session of Congress.
This legislation, like its predecessor, comes to grips with one of the more unfortunate aspects of modern life: that the problems modern life don't stop at the schoolhouse door. Societal problems like violence and drugs have become part of the curriculum of life at many schools.
Now, however, we are adding another problem to the list. And this particular wolf of a problem will walk into our schools disguised in the worthiest of sheeps' clothing: the Internet.
Today, pornography is widely available on the Internet. According to `Wired' magazine, today there are approximately 28,000 adult Web sites promoting hard and soft-core pornography. Together, these sites register many millions of `hits' by websurfers per day.
Mr. President, there is no question that some of the websurfers who are accessing these sites are children. Some, unfortunately, are actively searching for these sites. But many others literally and unintentionally stumble across them.
Anyone who uses seemingly innocuous terms while searching the World Wide Web for educational or harmless recreational purposes can inadvertently run into adult sites. For example, when the term 'H20' was typed recently into a search engine, one of the first of over 36,000 sites retrieved led to another site titled 'www.hardcoresex.com.' This site provided the typical warning to those under 18 not to enter--and then proceeded to offer a free, uncensored preview of the pornographic material on the site. And when the searcher attempted to escape from the site, new porn-oriented sites immediately opened.
Parents wishing to protect their children from exposure to this kind of material can monitor their children's Internet use at home. This is a parent's proper role, and no amount of governmental assistance or industry self-regulation will ever be as effective in protecting children as parental supervision. But parents can't supervise how their children use the Internet outside the home, in schools and libraries.
Mr. President, the billions of dollars per year the federal government will be giving schools and libraries to enable them to bring advanced Internet learning technology to the classroom will bring in the Internet's explicit online content as well. These billions of dollars will ultimately be paid for by the American people. So it is only right that if schools and libraries accept these federally-provided subsidies for Internet access, they have an absolute responsibility to their communities to assure that children are protected from online content that can harm them.
And this harm can be prevented. The prevention lies, not in censoring what goes onto the Internet, but rather in filtering what comes out of it onto the computers our children use outside the home.
Mr. President, Internet filtering system work, and they need not be blunt instruments that unduly constrain the availability of legitimately instructional material. Today they are adaptable, capable of being fine-tuned to accommodate changes in websites as well as the evolving needs of individual schools and even individual lesson-plans. Best of all, their use will channel explicit material away from children while they are not under parental supervision, while not in any way inhibiting the rights of adults who may wish to post indecent material on the Web or have access to it outside school environs.
Mr. President, it boils down to this: The same Internet that can benefit our children is also capable of inflicting terrible damage on them. For this reason, school and library administers who accept universal service support to provide students with its intended benefits must also safeguard them against its unintended harm. I commend the efforts of those who have recognized this responsibility by providing filtering systems in the many educational facilities that have already have Internet capability. This legislation assures that this responsibility is extended to all other institutions as they implement advanced technologies funded by federally-mandated universal service funds.