THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Ramstein Air Base, Germany) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release May 5, 1999
REMARKS BY THE VICE PRESIDENT ON THE INTERNET
The Roosevelt Room, The White House
12:40 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much, Betty. And thank you for giving such a vivid illustration of what parents are going through in discovering the vulnerability that children have in using the Internet. And you, as someone well versed in this, know what to do. Many parents have felt even more overwhelmed than you have, and as a result of what the Internet service providers and the related companies in the industry are doing today, 95-plus percent of all Internet users will automatically get a pop-up page every time they go to the Internet that will show them in very easy steps how they can provide their children with the maximum protection. And I'm going to talk about some of the details in just a moment.
But first of all, I want to thank my colleagues here from the Senate. I say colleagues, because I am still a Member of the Senate after a fashion as President of the Senate. But I do want to thank both of them. Pat Leahy talked about the early days of the Information Superhighway. I want you to know that tonight, Senator Leahy will be awarded the prestigious John Peter Zinger Award by the University of Arizona for his leadership as the cyber Senator on Internet freedom issues. So, congratulations. (Applause.)
And I want to especially thank and praise my colleague Ben Nighthorse Campbell. Ben and Linda have been friends to Tipper and me for many, many years. I know him as a man of integrity, who cares about his constituents, and cares about this country. He is a former school teacher and a former deputy sheriff, and a present Harley-Davidson rider -- (laughter) -- and he cares a lot about these issues. And we talked in the aftermath of the tragedy at Columbine about some of the steps that can be taken to solve this problem. And, of course, everybody understands that an industry that steps forward and takes responsibility for its part of the problem shouldn't be seen as the one most responsible. Far from it. There are others who have not come forward. I want to praise the Internet service providers for what you all are doing here today. I'm very, very grateful to you.
And I want to -- and just before this event, I had a conference call with the CEOs of most of the companies that are participating here today, and other representatives, and virtually the entire industry was represented, and virtually the entire industry is represented here today. And I'm grateful for your presence and your attendance here today.
I want to thank, especially, these companies who are part of today's commitment: America Online, AT&T, At-Home Network, Bell Atlantic, Commercial Internet Exchange, Disney Online, Excite Incorporated, Lycos Incorporated, MCI World Com, Microsoft Corporation, Network Solutions, Netscape Communications, MindSpring Enterprises Incorporated, Prodigy Communications Corporation, Yahoo Incorporated. And there are trade groups that have played a key role in this as well, and I want to thank them as a group.
I want to thank Katherine Montgomery who is present, and is co-Founder and President of the Center for Media Education. Katherine, thank you very much. And Assistant Secretary of Commerce Larry Irving -- thank you for your leadership. All of the Members of Congress in both parties, who have worked with the Internet industry and who could not be present here at this event, but who deserve credit for being involved in helping to address this issue.
Laurie Lipper, Director of the Children's Partnership, is here, and thank you, Laurie. And to Betty again, thank you. And I want to acknowledge Betty's husband, David, is here, and her children Brian and Megan are here. Thank you. I'm not sure they'd want to be recognized and singled out (Laughter).
I also want to acknowledge Bob Chase who is President of the NEA. Thank you, Bob. And Bob traveled with me out to the memorial service at Columbine, and we remember Dave Sanders, the teacher there, along with the students who were killed and lost their lives.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, when I was out there at that memorial service with my wife, Tipper, and others who were present, we physically embraced each of the parents and family members of those who lost their lives. I told a group the other day, without using the name of the parent involved, that one of the fathers whispered in my ear during our embrace and said, these children cannot have died in vain. We have to act. Promise me that there will be changes. And he repeated with a tone of urgency that would not be denied. Promise me. And like any of you, my response was, I promise.
And all of us have an obligation as Americans to cross party lines, to pull together public, private partnerships, to pass laws where necessary, and to change our lives in order to honor those who died at Columbine High School. And one of the very first industries to come forward in its effort to keep that promise, is the Internet industry. And there will be time to evaluate how well this works. But I want to say at the outset, I'm very impressed with what this industry is committing to do here today.
Let me emphasize again -- we may never fully understand exactly what happened there, or why. And we all do understand that there are many factors involved. And we don't all agree on what to do about all the factors. I, for example, believe that guns are way too available, and I think that there should be more restrictions. I believe that there's way too much screen violence and media violence on television and in the movies and in video games. I believe that parents need to do a better job, and schools need to do a better job. The national debate that has begun will continue and, I predict, will intensify. Because we know this is real and serious. And we have to respond to it.
But among all of these many factors, one element that has been brought up and discussed is the role that the Internet has played. And thank goodness, the companies involved with the Internet, for their part, have felt the urgency and have come forward with a response that I think is going to make a big difference. And we understand that the Internet's stunning technology gives children and families access to an incredible world of information. And life, itself -- most of it's great, but there are some dark corners. There are some free-fire zones and red light districts in cyberspace, from which children must be protected.
How do we protect them? That's what today's announcement is all about. It's true that at Columbine, the killers used the Internet to contact messages of cruelty and hate, and to spread them. But it is also true that in the aftermath of the tragedy, the people of Jefferson County, Colorado, turned to the Internet to connect with those who had previously experienced the same kind of tragedy in Paducah, Jonesboro, Springfield, and elsewhere, and they were embraced by the empathy of the whole nation in part through e-mail. So, when it comes to the Internet, too many parents feel now they're faced with a false choice -- between unplugging that computer in the family room, or spending every single moment looking over their child's shoulder to make sure they're not wandering into some dangerous, online alleyway.
We're here today because there is a third choice -- a better way. As a result of intensive, ongoing talks with the Internet industry, Congressional leaders, and public citizens' groups, and others who are concerned about this, the industry is, today, creating a new Parents' Protection Page, which will appear on virtually every Internet starting point automatically by this July -- two months from now. Now, that's action, and that's speed.
From a single place that will pop up automatically on almost every computer screen, parents will be provided the tools to guide their children safely down the Information Superhighway. On the Parents' Protection Page, parents will find easy steps to block out inappropriate content. Parents will be told in simple language how they can filter out the good content from content which they, as parents, decide their children are not ready to handle. They, themselves, would describe it as bad content. Parents can see which websites and chat rooms their children have visited. And children will know that their parents will have access to that information.
Parents will be able to set strict time limits on their children's Internet use. I predict that will be a popular feature, among these others. And parents can restrict their children's e-mail contact to keep the potential predators at bay; purveyors of pornography, and hatred, and violence, and evil. And they can make sure that personal information about their children or about their families will not fall into the wrong hands.
This new Parents' Protection Page will help ensure that children are not surfing into dangerous waters when they surf the Web. By establishing one simple place to block and monitor what children will see, the Parents' Protection Page puts control of the computer keyboard back into the hands of America's parents, where it really belongs.
In addition, this page will help parents steer their children to the very best of the Internet. It will provide links to educational sites, while offering tips for parents on how to best protect their children.
Now, I want to be very clear about the fact that most sites on the Internet are engaging and educational. But parents need strong, new tools to block out the pornography, violence, and hate. A responsible parent would never let a new student driver drive down the Interstate highway without any supervision. And neither should we allow young children to roam unsupervised on the Information Superhighway. And that realization has been slow to dawn on many families. But I hope that one of the aftermaths of the tragedy at Columbine that woke up this country is to make more parents aware that they have to play an aggressive, proactive role in protecting their children on the Internet.
That's one of the reasons why our Administration has worked very hard over the past several years to give parents more of the help they need. Back in 1997, we created this Parents Guide to the Internet, in the Department of Education. And we had a series of meetings back at that time with the industry. And some of the ideas announced today, like the one-click, automatic access, actually came up, first of all, in this room, around a table here in the Roosevelt Room two years ago. This guide requires no technical knowledge. In fact, it walks parents through the basics about the Internet itself, and how to use some of the tools that, up until today, have been admittedly a little hard for some parents to gain access to. You talked about how it was kind of overwhelming, Betty. I think most parents feel that. But having it right there, staring you in the face every time you turn the computer on -- that's going to make it a lot easier.
I urge all parents who would want this written guide to call 1-800-USA-LEARN, and it will be made available to you. I'm also pleased to report that our Federal Communications Commission has a Web site, FCC.GOV, that has a page called Parents, Kids, and Communications that explains the options parents have to control their children's exposure to inappropriate content, which includes not only Internet blocking and filtering tools, but also the V-chip and cable box locks for television, and a 900-number block for the telephone.
Before I close, I just want to summarize by saying that I do believe that all of these efforts will make a big difference. But let us understand that the industry having acted here, this is where a parent's responsibility begins -- not where it ends. These are tools being made available. These are warning signs that have to be heeded. These are guides that have to be followed. And the primary responsibility, after we take all of the other steps that need to be taken -- and I mentioned most of them here -- the primary responsibility still lies with parents.
So I hope the message goes out loudly and clearly. The best protection is an involved parent, taking time to pass on the right values to children. But government and industry do have a responsibility to make it easier and simpler for parents to do so. So, I want to again thank the Internet industry -- 95 percent of which is involved in this, and represented here -- for taking the important steps forward that are being announced here today. Thank you all very much. And thank you Ben, and Pat. (Applause.)
END 12:57 P.M. EDT