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House draws lines for kids online

The House approves a bill that will allow sites designed for children to reside under a special Web domain--if the site operators follow rules designed to protect against pedophiles.

Hoping to create a safe playground for children on the Web, the House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a bill that would gather sites designed for youth under a new Internet domain.

The Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act, which passed 406-1, would set up a special domain where sites deemed child-friendly could reside.

"Parents need to be aware of what Web sites their children are surfing, and this legislation will give them a helping hand," bill sponsor Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., said in a statement. "Libraries have children's book sections. Why can't the Internet have the same type of section devoted to children's interests?"

The measure calls for Washington, D.C.-based NeuStar to oversee, a second-level domain within .us. Sites that use the domain would be required to post material aimed at children.

At the same time, these sites would be prohibited from using many common Web features--including chat rooms, e-mail and hyperlinks--unless they can demonstrate they aren't harmful to children. The ban on such features is designed to protect children from pedophiles. Critics of the dot-kids measure had worried that such a designated haven would be a target for those who prey on children.

The measure would require operators of dot-kids sites to collect detailed contact data. It also would let lawmakers shut down the domain or transfer it to another operator if it isn't being used properly. A similar bill is expected in the Senate.

Supporters of the plan had originally hoped to create a separate .kids domain in the same manner as a .org or .com, but the bodies that oversee Internet addressing systems worried that it would be too difficult and complex to administrate.