Especially precious is the answer at the very end on whether White House
staffers would ever access porn from work...
For Immediate Release
July 16, 1997
PRESS BRIEFING BY
MIKE MCCURRY AND DON GIPS,
DOMESTIC POLICY ADVISOR TO THE VICE PRESIDENT
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to our
briefing today. Just an update. Earlier today I was not quite certain
whether the President would drop by the working meeting the Vice President
had with some of the industry leaders and representatives of the industry,
parents groups and others who are working together in a strategy to create
a family-friendly Internet. He did. He clearly enjoyed it a great deal. I
think you can probably tell from his remarks.
And I've asked Don Gips, who is new on the staff of the Vice President, his
chief Domestic Policy Advisor, who's been working on this issue, to be here
in case you had some questions about what the President is working on.
Q I have a couple of Internet related things. The ACLU is complaining that
they weren't invited to the meeting today. You guys were obviously aware
that civil libertarians, civil liberties groups had concerns about the
positions the administration has taken on this. Why weren't they included?
MR. GIPS: The ACLU was invited, and I believe they actually did attend the
Q Do you know who was there, the name of the person?
Q When were they invited?
MR. GIPS: Yesterday. I don't know the name.
Q Were there people from any of the religious organizations who have been
active in promoting the CDA -- were they involved, or invited as well?
MR. GIPS: This was a first set of meetings. We will have continuing
meetings which clearly will involve them. They've been involved in some of
the conversations with groups who are at these meetings, and this will be
an ongoing process and they definitely will be involved.
Q But they weren't invited to this meeting?
MR. GIPS: I don't believe that there were any religious groups at the meeting.
Q Did the President drop by?
MR. GIPS: The President did drop by the early meeting.
Q Did he have anything to say?
MR. GIPS: Yes, he heard what the meeting -- people had gone through. He
asked question of the people, how to use the technology, and as he said,
the industry came back and challenged him to get on line and be a tester
for some of the software to see if he could make it work.
Q And did he?
MR. GIPS: He said he would accept the challenge.
Q There was a lot of talk on how this replaces or acts kind of as a V-chip
for computers. Is there still a plan underway or being considered here for
a V-chip type set-up for computers.
MR. GIPS: What this is, is a virtual toolbox. The Internet is different
than television and you need a whole set of tools to address the issues
that CDA originally enacted to address. The announcement today was about
creating a virtual toolbox, and another way of thinking of it is sort of
digital doorways -- some you want to lock up so that your children can't go
there, and others you want to open so that your children can go to the good
stuff on the Internet.
So what we're really talking about is sort of a two-part strategy here --
figure out how to lock off the bad stuff and figure out how to direct
parents and children to the good stuff that's on the Internet.
Q What part of this would exist anyway if the White House didn't get
involved in this, and what part is new?
MR. GIPS: Industry has been working on some of this in the past. The new
announcements today were Netscape announcing that they're going to add this
picks technology, which is the underlying technology that allows you to
rate, to their browser in their next addition. That will mean that 90
percent -- over 90 percent of the browsers out there on the market will
In addition, the search engines, which are like the Yellow Pages on the
Internet, have all said that they're going to incentives rating so that
anybody who rates -- any new content that's put on the Internet will be
incentivized to rate.
In addition, there were numerous other announcements that some of the
companies made. American Library Association talked about how they're going
to put out on their Web site ways to get to good content. The Center for
Democracy and Technology and other nonprofits created a Web site,
WWW.NETPARENTS.org, that is a one-stop shop for parents to go to find out
about all the things that are out there to help steer their children on the
Q But wouldn't they have don't that anyway?
MR. GIPS: This is something we've been working with them on to try and
Q So you're saying without any prodding -- did they decide to do this?
MR. GIPS: You know, the industry here wants to try and find a solution.
We're working with them. I don't want to take credit for tall this. I think
this is a broad industry, government, parents groups, religious groups
hopefully -- all in partnership trying to find a way to move this forward.
Q You said that it would be incentives for new Web sites to rate. What
about existing Web sites?
MR. GIPS: We're going to try and work on that problem, too. Now, remember,
the Internet, because it's dynamic, people are constantly updating their
Web sites, changing them. In that process, we hope to try and encourage
more and more people to rate. That's sort of the chicken and the egg
problem. Until we had Netscape committing to put picks into their browser,
people were saying, well, if I rate, half of the people that are looking
stuff won't get access to it anyway. So you need to move this forward on
There is another type of technology that I want to highlight, too, which is
a lot of the companies will create safe areas on the Internet that don't
depend on the rating. They go out and review the sites and say, this is a
safe place for children to go. And it's like -- somebody used the analogy
of a sand box. It's a sand box where you can send your children and you
know you can play safely there.
Q When you say incentives, can you describe what you mean? I mean, is there
some financial incentive for companies?
MR. GIPS: No, basically when you go to create a Web site, there is a whole
set of steps to register a Web site. There is a whole set of steps you have
to go through. This would make it -- rating just would appear on your
screen. You would almost have to sort of try and figure out how to get
around is. That's the tool that they're going to try and put in, so that it
becomes just a part of what you do. It becomes a part of netiquette, as
sort of standard of etiquette on the Internet.
Q And then what would you say to parents for whom some of the terms you're
using, like netiquette and digital doorways, is just Greek -- and people
who can't get on the WWW.NetParents.org because they're not on the Net --
or they don't know how to get on? What do you say to parents --
MR. GIPS: This is what the American Library Association, the PTA, all the
groups who were at the meeting are committed, along with industry, to try
and figure out how do we make this so simple. And what the industry people
at the meeting today said is this has to be easier than programming your
VCR, because a lot of parents still can't do that. And that's the challenge.
We're not there yet. And today the President and Vice President laid out
the challenge; industry and parents groups accepted the challenge and were
very much looking forward to working together to achieve it.
Q There are figures out there for how many households have televisions. How
many American children are actually on the Internet or going on the Internet.
SPOKESMAN: About 20-25 percent of households have Internet access at this
Q And how many of those have children?
MR. GIPS: I think it's higher than that. But we can try and get you that
number. I think it's closer to 40 percent of families with children. But
I'm not positive of that. Don't quote me on that. Let us get you that number.
Q But this is the number of families who have computers or who have
SPOKESMAN: There are over 40 million children who have Internet access --
people who have Internet access at this point. Q And you don't know how
many of those are children?
MR. GIPS: We'll get you that.
Q Didn't the PTA woman say a million?
MR. GIPS: Did she?
Q Wouldn't a lot of those 40 million be people who have access at work and
not necessarily at home?
Q Or school?
MR. GIPS: Schools, work, home, libraries.
Q What role would the White House play in this October summit? Is it a
White House-organized event or --
MR. GIPS: No. This is -- I don't know if we'll appear at it, or not. It's
an industry-led, along with parents groups. The group that they talked
about is organizing that summit, and it is an outgrowth of what we are
Q Two question on the rating. The earlier question about the oversights,
you say that they're updated fairly frequently so that then they'd have to
MR. GIPS: And some of them already rate, too.
Q What's to force a company who wants to put something that kids shouldn't
see on the Internet not to update, just so that every time they want they
can tap into it?
MR. GIPS: The way the technology works is you can set it to say I don't
want to look at anything that isn't rated, period. So if you haven't rated
you're not going to be seen.
Q Also, who rates?
MR. GIPS: That's an important question. There's self-rating, and then there
are third party rating systems. And one of the things that I think people
will be working on is figuring out which of the third party rating systems
people want to back, what should those third party systems include, and is
there one standard or is there going to be many standards. That's an open
question that I think industry and parents groups will be working on and
will be involved in that discussion.
Q Do the school systems have this pretty much under control, or are some
more measures needed to control the intranet?
MR. GIPS: School systems -- the problem does exist for school systems as
well. Given that classrooms are more of a monitored situation, the teachers
are in the room, they can see what's happening. The NEA who was at the
meeting today talked about the types of steps they're taking to train
teachers in how to make sure the children in the classroom are looking at
appropriate material and accessing appropriate material.
Q So that these same rating systems would be available to school children?
MR. GIPS: Sure, sure.
Q When do you think the ratings will be in effect? And what do you hope --
what else do you hope will grow out of these continued meetings with industry?
MR. GIPS: The ratings will be an evolutionary -- I mean, there are sites
already rated today. So this will be an evolutionary process. More and more
of the content, we hope will be rated on the Web.
The second part of your question was, what are the other things we hope to
grow out of this. Really, a continued discussion on how do we make what
exists today more widespread, both ratings and technology, make it simpler
for parents to us, and make it completely understandable.
And a second key piece of what we talked about today that hasn't gotten
much mention is the CDA -- only portions of the CDA are overturned. And
Justice Department is going to aggressively continue to prosecute child
pornographers on line and to try and make sure that we do our part to
enforce the existing laws as aggressively as we can.
Q Would the White House still prefer to have seen the entire CDA pass
muster and be the law of the land? Or have you all now concluded that this
is, in fact, a better way to police the Internet?
MR. GIPS: We are going to go forward with this approach. The goal is the same.
Q You're obviously going forward with it, but do you prefer this approach
now to the other approach?
MR. GIPS: The goal is the same, which is to protect children, and we're
going to do our best to make sure that we protect children in a First
Amendment consistent fashion.
Q One of parents' primary concerns is not just the content of sites, but
that someone might approach their children over the Internet. Did you
discuss at all today anything that can be done about that? Is there
anything that can be done about people using e-mail in chat rooms to
MR. GIPS: Yes, some of these tools actually block e-mail and block chat
rooms. And that's part of this whole virtual tool kit, about blocking
certain things that are out there. And that's going to be a continuing
discussion. I know that's going to be one of the major themes at the summit
that the industry is going to be holding as well.
Q But if an approach is not explicit or obviously improper in some way, how
could that be blocked by --
MR. GIPS: You can block certain classes of e-mail. You can have e-mail
lists that are only accessible to names you've approved. You can block out
certain chat rooms. There are varying range of technologies to achieve
this. It really depends how much you want to restrict access for your child.
Q Wouldn't you prefer that the industry come up with one sort of rating
MR. GIPS: That will be a very interesting discussion, and we don't have an
answer to that now. There are many people who think it's better, no, to
actually have a number of different rating standards because different
groups will rate things differently and view issues differently. Others
think one is the right answer. And that's part of this dialogue that we're
looking forward to have.
Q Mike, do the White House computers have filters? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: You're asking the absolute wrong guy.
Q So you guys have web searches, don't you?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe so. Do we have -- we don't have that
technology on our Netscape browser, not to my knowledge. On the other hand,
government employees shouldn't be using that. Unless they have some very
specific job-related purpose for accessing sites like that, they shouldn't
be accessing that in any event.
Q Mike, back on the Internet thing, are there any prohibited Web sites for
White House officials, and are they monitored in any way by --
MR. MCCURRY: I think Internet use here at the White House can be monitored
by our Office of Administration. And people know the rules -- they're not
supposed to be accessing sites that they don't have any business being on.
Q Sort of a generic question related to the event this morning. How do you
avoid giving the appearance of endorsing -- of a White House endorsement of
a particular product, given the problems, particularly of America Online.
Is that something you all worry about?
MR. MCCURRY: Steve Case from America Online has been indisputably a leader
within the industry on this. But of course the company has got a leading
position within the industry, too. But representatives of some of their
competitors were there and he was there on behalf of all in the industry
who have come together. I think one of the things that came out of the
meeting is that even though the industry is competitive itself, there is
great desire across the industry to deal with the issues that were raised
by the concern that people have over indecency on the Internet. In fact,
just about every company executive who was there said, look, we are not
only people in the business of making a profit because of the explosive
growth of the Internet, we're also, for the most part, parents and people
who are active in our community and we care about these issues, too.
Q But just to follow up on Bill's question. You said that people in the
White House know they're not supposed to be on sites they have no business
on. Is there some kind of a list of restricted sites? How do they know that?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't think -- I mean, common sense rule applies. You should
be working on things related to your business, for official purposes only.
The taxpayers pay for those machines and that time, and you're not supposed
to be goofing around on the Internet.
Q So you're saying people never play cards on the --
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, I think they probably do the same things you do with your
company's computer from time to time. (Laughter.)
--- Rohit Khare /// MCI Internet Architecture (BOS) /// email@example.com Voice+Pager: (617) 960-5131 VNet: 370-5131 Fax: (617) 960-1009