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White House to fight violence on Net

In the wake of the Littleton, Colorado, school shootings, Al Gore is expected to announce the creation of a child safety Web resource dubbed "One Click Away," sources say.

    Following the school shootings in Littleton, Colorado, a White House event tomorrow will focus on ways to block minors from violent content on the Net and how to better hear cries for help online, according to sources familiar with the administration's plans.

    Vice President Al Gore "is going to make an announcement tomorrow about the See related story: Civil liberties online in 1998 Net, violence, and parents," a spokeswoman confirmed. Gore is expected to announce the creation of a Web resource dubbed "One Click Away," which will include links to filtering technologies and sites deemed appropriate for children and will refer Net users to places where they can report online activity that concerns them, sources said.

    Major Net players including AT&T, Network Solutions, America Online, and other portals are involved in the project and will help maintain the site. The One Click Away initiative mirrors the America Links Up Campaign and is being supported by many of the same companies.

    The Clinton administration has held similar summits and promoted the same technologies to quell complaints about the easy availability of online pornography.

    But the renewed effort focuses on curbing minors' access to violent Net content, after news reports and policy makers focused heavily on the suspected Littleton killers' online activity. Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, who witnesses said killed 12 Columbine High School students and a teacher before killing themselves on April 20, both used the Net. Harris reportedly discussed making bombs and committing murder on his AOL site.

    The Littleton tragedy has sparked a nationwide dialogue about a range of issues, from the alienation many teenagers feel to minors' access to guns and violent media. The One Click Away resource is expected to address these topics.

    Not surprisingly, the White House wants to lead the discussion about how to address the issue of youth violence. And it will be Gore, the administration's primary spokesman on high-tech issues, who will set the tone when the debate turns to the Net.

    Other lawmakers already are placing part of the blame for the Littleton carnage on the media. Today, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing, "Marketing Violence to Our Children," which concentrated on video games, music, TV, and the Net.

    "The tragedy in Littleton was a bizarre and complex crime. We should examine this and other school shootings from every angle and not single out one potential cause," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) testified today.

    Still, he fingered violent video games as one contributing fact and added, "I have begun discussions with Internet service providers and computer manufacturers about how to make screening software, which helps parents protect their children from inappropriate material on the Internet, more readily available."

    Hatch plans to attend the White House event tomorrow, his spokeswoman said, but Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), who heads the Senate Commerce Committee, will not be there.

    "He was invited, but he doesn't want to be part of a 'photo op.' He wants to work on the issue," said Commerce Committee spokeswoman Pia Pialorsi.

    Although McCain's grumbles have partisan undercurrents, others also are cynical about Gore's initiative, which will be followed up by President Clinton's summit on violence in the entertainment industry next week. Even some who are involved in the One Click Away project say it is good to give parents tools but dangerous to focus all the attention on the Net.

    "The only true protection for children is diligent parenting," said one executive, who declined to be named.