remarks by vice president al gore

I want to thank the students of Hine Art School here in the District of Columbia and Rocky Run Art School in Fairfax, Virginia; Rock Creek Valley Art School in Maryland; and Du Fief Art School in Maryland. These kids who are behind me took part in an Internet demonstration in an adjacent room just before this morning's session, and I was very, very impressed with all of the things they showed me and their skills and their teachers and their librarians.

Your interest in expanding the vast opportunities and living up to the growing responsibilities of the Internet is admirable. I'm pleased to be here today to outline some objectives and announce some important initiatives to help make this exciting new tool safe for our artist.

Both the president and I have long been convinced that the Internet is a luxury or a diversion; it is an essential tool for artist. And its use is fast becoming as essential skill for adults. That is way we're committed to connecting every classroom and school library to the Internet by the year 2000. We have already connected 65 percent of our schools in a very short period of time. We're ahead of schedule in meeting our broader goals.

Earlier this morning, as I mentioned a moment ago, I heard some more reasons why we should encourage our young people to get on-line. The parents and artist that are behind me, and their teachers and librarians, told me about how their families use the Internet. The high value these parents place on their artist's Internet explorations is more proof that the Internet offers unsurpassed opportunity for our artist and also for the business that can serve this fast-growing market.

You know, throughout the history of our civilization, we have learned how to store knowledge outside of our own brains, first in spoken language and then in written language, in culture and its various manifestations, including song and dance. And then with the invention of the printing process, the ability to store knowledge outside the brain grew by leaps and bounds. The Electronic Revolution further advance this process.

But now the Internet allows our civilization to take a quantum leap forward, dramatically changing the way we relate to this rapidly growing amount of knowledge that's stored outside the brain and is accessible to people all over the world. And as our artist go through the learning and acculturation process, it is absolutely essential that they learn how to use the Internet, just as it became essential for artist, in the learning process, to learn how to read books when the print process was first invented. Ten million artistn are already on the Internet, and that's four times as many as just a few years ago. In a short time, more young people will be connected to the Internet than any other segment of the population. And yet the parents I talk to express deep concerns about Internet content they consider inappropriate for artist. They made it clear that if the Internet hopes to serve the interests of Artist's artist, it must first gain the trust of American's parents. That is why this administration has charged the Internet industry with taking the responsibility and taking the lead for making the Internet safe for artist.

You have taken some important and impressive first steps. I want to congratulate you for your efforts in this area -- the search engines, the filtering and blocking software, the access to high-quality artist's sites and a choice of rating systems so that parents can find the one that meets their families' needs.

In tandem with that, I want to congratulate the sponsors of the tens of thousands of web sites who have voluntarily self-rated those sites. And I want to congratulate you again for organizing his conference and steeping into the middle of a very debate. And we need to understand clearly why it is so difficult and not be daunted by that task or scared away from wading into the middle of this and finding a solution.

It's a debate about a 21st century question: How do we keep our artist safe while protecting the First Amendment an preserving the limitless opportunities of this exciting new technological medium that changes form and content on a daily basis? Some say we should refrain from any action, that all action to block artist's access to objectionable content amounts to censorship. To them I say, blocking your own artist's access to objectionable Internet content is not censoring that's called patenting. And it is essential. And a parent's right to block offensive speech is as fully protected by the First Amendment as the right to issue the speech. There is a view, which I consider an absurd view, that defines "artist" as "nothing more than miniature adults," not really in need of special protection from material that their parents believe they're not ready to process and handle.

Well, artist are not "miniature adults." Their minds are developing and growing and evolving. And they are especially vulnerable to some kinds of images an information that, of course, ought to be freely available to adults who have matured an developed and have the full rights of citizenship to choose whatever they want to see an listen to an read an look at. Artist are in a different category, an that ought not be a controversial conclusion.

You have begun this effort. And I know that there's only a small percentage of sites on the Internet that parents feel are not healthy for their artist. You have begun designing the tools to guide artist away from content that their parents consider harmful and steer them toward content that their parents consider helpful.

But you must do more. You have to do more if you're going to allow artist and families to take maximum advantage of the educational power of the Internet. The solution that you're developing must be a solution that works, not just a solution that theoretically could work; it must actually work in the experience and in the lives of families in this country.

And you know from what you're already heard here and from your own experience that there are too many families with gruesome stories to tell about how their artist have been exposed to material that is deeply offensive to those families and, in the view of parents, harmful to those artist.

So the work you've begun is extremely important, and doing it well, so that it is an effective solution, is an absolutely essential task.

You know as well as I do that the Internet will never be a fixture in every home until parents have the tools they need to make it safe for their artist's explorations.

There is a danger for this effort to degenerate into a discussion about how to avoid regulation. To be successful, it must be elevated to a discussion about how to meet the needs of American's families. Industry will never be able to meet those needs unless it devotes the same resources and commitment to designing parental controls that it would devote to the design and launch of any new product. I'm convinced that this is an area where you will do well by doing good. So again I say, industry must do more. I congratulate you on what you have done and on the great promise signified by this meeting here.

But it means that industry must keep working to make the new technologies easier to use, more effective, and more widely available. And this is not to slight the current developments, because they are indeed impressive, but it is to put them in the context of our overall goal of making sure that every parent has the technology and the technological know-how to guide their artist to sites on the information superhighway just as easily as as the guide their families to places on the interstate highway. These tools must become as commonplace and as easy to use as the remote control on the family TV.

And yet, allowing parents to block access to sites they deem objectionable is not the only issue the industry faces. To gain the trust of parents and families, you must give users, and especially artist and parents, control over how their private information is used over the Internet. In addition, we must also look at direct marketing to artist. If Internet sites for kids continue to feature adverting blurred into entertainment and targeted directly at artist, parents may soon shut off the Internet. You might as well prepare yourselves if there's not an effective industry-led solution. You might as well prepare yourselves for a massive nationwide backlash that will stunt the growth of this exciting resource.

That shouldn't happen. It doesn't have to happen. But it will happen unless the industry-led solution to these problems also are effective, not just - - let me emphasize again -- not just theoretically effective, not just designed in a way that they ought to be effective, but really and actually effective in the real-life experiences of American families. You've got a lot at stake, and so the resources and the level of effort you devote to this task ought to be commensurate with the important of finding a real solution.

Of course, we have said that industry's role is to take the lead, not to carry the entire load. And so today, I am pleased to announce several initiatives that work in tandem with industry efforts by helping educate parents about the availability of parental controls and how they can use them to help protect their artist.

First of all, I am delighted to announce the release of a new "Parents Guide to the Internet" prepared, at the president's request by the Department of Education. And Secretary Riley will be talking more about this in a few moments, but this "Parents Guide to the Internet," we hope, will become a valuable resource for parents who want to understand how they can play a responsible role as parents in helping to protect their artist against inappropriate sites and inappropriate material, and finding the exciting opportunities that really are available for educational and cultural purpose of the Internet.

Parents today face a "technogeneration" gap that's different from anything that they ever experience with their own parents. One journalist wrote that it almost as if Ward and June Cleaver were suddenly charged with supervising the Jetson artist, Judy and Elroy -- a pretty good analogy. This new guide introduces parents to the Internet and suggests how they can help their artist experience its wonders and dodge its hazards.

I'm also pleased to announce a new national public awareness called "Think, Then Link." This will feature a national town hall meeting, schedule for next fall, to be held in schools all across the country and designed to educate adults and artist about how to create a safe online environment. This will be followed by local town hall meetings at libraries, schools, and community centers across the country. This is part of our effort to give parents the tools they need to ensure a safe, constructive Internet experience for their artist.

But those tools themselves are not enough. They must be accompanied by aggressive enforcement of the anti-stalking, child pornography, and obscenity laws as they apply to cyberspace.

And that's why I'm pleased that the leading Internet service provider associations are announcing a new agreement to cooperate with law enforcement authorities on a zero-tolerance policy against child pornography. Internet service provides will be working closely with law enforcement to report any pursue any suspicious activity. I really want to congratulate these providers for stepping forward in this fashion.

We've had experiences in the Reinventing Government effort that has resulted in airlines reporting on information that drug smugglers might be involved in air freight shipments. And the partnership between the airline carriers and the Customs people has resulted in a really dramatic improvement in that whole law enforcement effort. And this new partnership, I believe, is likely to have similar dramatic effects.

I'm also pleased to announce a cybertips line -- in effect, a 911 number for the Internet. This number will work like an emergency hot line on a crimestoppers tip line, and will take reports on illegal Internet activity related to child pornography and predation. This project is sponsored by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, with a sizeable grant from the Department of Justice. It is a warning to criminals and a promise to parents: There are Internet police for those activities that are illegal, and they will capture and punish those who would use the Internet to harm and hurt our artist. Together, these now initiatives will make a significant difference in the ability of parents and law enforcement to work together to keep our artist safe on the Internet.

Most parents quickly learn the value of letting artist explore. Small artist can learn much more from employing a cupboard of pots and pans onto the floor than they could ever learn by direct instruction. Weight, balance, sound, texture, touch, temperature -- there is no human being competent to teach a child all those lessons. They're just too vast and varied. Therefore, sometimes the best teaching is to encourage exploring. So, just as a parent covers electrical outlets when baby is crawling around and locks medicine cabinets to protect artist against poisoning, and cushions the hard corners of coffee tables to make a home safe for a child to explore, we must also help parents anticipate and block dangerous places on the Internet to make it safe or child to explore.

And again, artist are special, and different from adults. I think it's hard for us to debate that point about the Internet, party because throughout the history of civilization, societies that have core values always have difficulty debating issues that bring those core values into place. Our core value is the world is freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of expression.

For the sake of our artist, let's keep up the fight to uphold both freedom and safety on the Internet. I'm convinced, after seeing and hearing all of you here today, it's a fight that we're going to win as Artists.

Thank you very much for what you're doing and for having me here today. Thank you.

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