In light of the recent court decision finding, yet again, that the 1998 Child Online Protection Act is unconstitutional, I took a gander through another failed effort to create an internet “safe” for children: the .kids.us domain. The idea here was to create a walled children’s garden with a strict content policy, superintended by the government, that would contain only “appropriate” content for kids.
The biggest problem with it was that nobody came. When Eric Goldman recently listed the 10 worst internet laws of all time in a post at Concurring Opinions, he named the Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act of 2002 to the #3 slot. As he put it:
Not many content publishers saw the value of creating kid-safe websites and housing them under the restrictive rules of the law. As a result, .kids.us is a virtual wasteland, housing less than 20 websites, almost all of which have less-than-compelling content. (You mean to tell me you’ve never been there? Check it out yourself). Not exactly the most enticing destination for Junior. So .kids.us is a ghost-town-like reminder that legislators should stay out of the business of trying to manufacture markets.
But even within the few sites found in this ghost town, most of them abandoned since 2004 or so, there is some content that might not be the best for its target audience of children under 13. I refer you to newyork.kids.us, full of “fun facts” about the Empire State. This is the featured item on the site’s front page (I kid you not):
The enigmatic reference in Philip Hone’s famous diary to “Ida, sweet as apple cider” (October 4, 1838) has been described as an oblique reference to a visit to what had by then become a notorious but cherished civic institution.
The Gentleman’s Directory of New York City, a privately published (1870) guide to the town’s “houses of assignation,” confidently asserted that “in freshness, sweetness, beauty, and firmness to the touch, New York’s apples are superior to any in the New World or indeed the Old.”
Meanwhile, various “apple” catch-phrases — “the Apple Tree,” “the Real Apple,” etc. — were used as synonyms for New York City itself, which boasted more houses of ill repute per capita than any other major U.S. municipality.
As we might say in my home town: Oy vey.