Culture

Controversy brews over online kids safety bill

A recently passed House bill proposes to direct $25 million over five years to one provider of online safety materials.

Kids online safety advocates got their hackles up last week after the passage of a House bill that aims to channel $25 million over five years to one provider of online safety materials. Critics say that the measure is unfair to other child safety organizations and could impede competition and promote mediocrity in the field.

The bill, H.R. 4134, was passed by voice vote last week, less than a week after California Democrat Linda Sanchez introduced the legislation, according to National Journal's Technology Daily.

The legislation, which hasn't been introduced in the Senate yet, would grant Carlsbad, Calif.-based i-Safe with $25 million to help educate kids around the country about online safety. The bill will also channel $5 million annually to the Justice Department so that it could run a competitive grant program for other online safety groups.

Still, other kids online safety groups are worried about one group having too much power in Internet safety education.

"There are a number of organizations in this space and it makes no sense for Congress to single out one organization," Larry Magid, co-director of ConnectSafely.org, a nonprofit Internet safety organization, wrote in an e-mail.

"I would prefer specific funding to be handled by a federal agency rather than Congress, which really isn't in a position to evaluate effectiveness or appropriate messages."

According to National Journal article, i-Safe has received $11 million in appropriations since 2002, but the group is not scheduled to receive federal funds after this year. The latest bill is the first to designate a set amount. i-Safe has also received support from Microsoft, Yahoo, Verizon, the American Society of Composers and the Recording Industry Association of America.

Representatives from Sanchez's office did not immediately return a request for comment.