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Web safety pork: House offers $25m to Hollywood-linked group

The House has passed a bill that would direct $25 million to a single nonprofit organization that provides information about online child safety, the National Journal reports. (Via News.

The House has passed a bill that would direct $25 million to a single nonprofit organization that provides information about online child safety, the National Journal reports. (Via News.com).

HR 4134, sponsored by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) (pictured) would pay i-Safe, based in Carlsbad, CA, $5 million a year. The group's web site says its "goal is to educate students on how to avoid dangerous, inappropriate, or unlawful online behavior. i-SAFE accomplishes this through dynamic K-12 curriculum and community outreach programs to parents, law enforcement, and community leaders. It is the only Internet safety foundation to combine these elements."

But other online safety groups are complaining about i-Safe getting the whole pie. To mollify the critics, House members added a provision to send another $5 million a year to the Justice Dept for a competitive grant program for other groups to apply for funding.

"Authorizing i-Safe ensures that this program, which has already helped over 3 million children in all 50 states, will be able to continue its work," Sanchez said Wednesday. The group has a "proven track record for teaching kids how to be safe on the Internet."

A look at the group's supporters indicate that it is very strongly linked to the entertainment industry. Besides $1 million in funding from the Justice Dept., i-Safe received $250K from Verizon, as well as support from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; Microsoft; the Recording Industry Association of America; and VeriSign.

"Representative Sanchez has recognized the need for Internet safety education, and her leadership has led to a commitment to cyber-safe schools, homes and communities," i-Safe President Teri Schroeder said in a press release.

But Nancy Willard, executive director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, said the legislation is "a very bad bill that, if passed in its current form, will ensure mediocrity in the delivery of Internet safety education for years."

She argued that i-Safe delivers "Web 1.0-style Internet safety education -- fear-based, simplistic rules with a 'just say no' approach that is doomed to failure with today's totally wired kids and teens." Investing so much in one group would eliminate benefits derived from competition and diversity, undermine collaboration, and stifle innovation, she said.

"All organizations should have an equal opportunity to receive funding through an open and transparent grant process," added Judi Westberg Warren, of the group Web Wise Kids.