Push begins for mandatory internet content ratings

The Culture Secretary in Britain (yes they have one) is making recommendations to the new Obama administration to create a new international ratings agency for the internet. This would be similar to the motion picture industry and focus on age-level of appropriateness. The Secretary stated “More ability for parents to understand if their child is on a site, what standards it is operating to. What are the protections that are in place?”

Is this necessary? Could it work? Would it be against free speech or a good idea to protect children?

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Posted by at 08:05 | Posted in Measure 37 | 22 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Albert

    This might actually be a good idea provided it’s still up to the parents to monitor their kid’s activities.

  • Malcontent

    Culture Secretary in BRITAIN ?? Didn’t we fight a revolution to get rid of those stinking limey uptight bastards ????

  • Jeremy

    I don’t see how this can work. There is such a large amount of content that would need to be filtered through by the rating agency that the agency would need to use some kind of algorithm. To me, it seems that this would be no better than the crappy content filters that parents and schools put on their computers to keep their kids from getting to anything they shouldn’t see. It might tag most or all adult sites as being adult sites, but would probably also achieve the less useful end of rating many useful, interesting, and benign sites as being adult sites.

    • David Appell

      It would probably work the other way around: only some sites would be rated and tagged, and only those sites could be visited by a properly configured browser. Sites not rated and tagged could not be accessed by that browser.

  • Rob

    What the hell is a “Culture Secretary” and why are we paying them £68k+/year?

  • O-man

    Children are used to justify every atrocity against free speech that the government commits. You know what? kids are a lot tougher than they’re given credit for, and anyone who says they’re “doing for the children” has everything but “the children” on their minds.

  • Alan Peery

    This was tried in 1995, and didn’t make it far. I don’t expect a new effort to be more successful, since the people publishing content that people object to have no motivation for labelling their websites. Add this to the fact that most other websites won’t bother to label themselves, and you end up with a big fat zero.

    For technical details of the first attempt, see http://www.w3.org/PICS/.

    • Rupert in Springfield

      They don’t?

      News to me. Actually if you look into it you will find some comparatively, to Hollywood, strong efforts by most of the major adult content producers to keep their viewership adult only.

      They have quite a bit of motivation to do this.

      For one they can be sued, albeit it with some difficulty, for taking insufficient efforts to restrict their content.

      For another they have no motivation to allow minors to see their content. Adult content producers are motivated by money. Minors technically are not supposed to have credit cards and having a credit card gateway to view content is taken as sufficient proof that the viewer is an adult.

      Compare this to violent content, which seems to have absolutely no check on it whatsoever. I just watched Hancock, a Will Smith movie that was rated PG-13. It had more swear words in it and more violence than I think is at all appropriate for kids.

  • bfrancis

    This would never work. Suggesting such a dumb idea should be basis for being fired on the spot. The rating system doesn’t work in Hollywood, it sure as hell won’t work online. How does the “Culture Secretary” suggest these ratings get enforced? What a joke.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    The fact is this sort of thing is already in place and has been for years and there a multitude of options for both parents and website creators as well.

    ICRA labels – This is a group that rates sites. Put their tags on your site and your content is rated so that parents can block it fairly easily. Gee, sounds pretty much like what the culture secretary wants. Guess he is so smart he doesn’t know about it.

    Buy an anti virus software – Almost all of these come with parental controls.

    Buy a computer – Windows Vista comes with parental controls.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if these idiots would not assume everyone is less intelligent than them and actually look into a problem before choosing solutions for those they deem less intelligent? What are the odds that if I went to this guys house he had none of the parental controls in use on his computer? Why does this sound an awful lot like Janet Reno’s ridiculous press conference when she was all worked up about Microsoft giving away their browser and it was clear she hadn’t the slightest notion she knew what she was talking about?

    While we are on the subject, could anyone please tell me if they have ever been to anyone’s house who was actually using the V chip option in their television set? That was the last go round of this idiocy.

  • AJ

    This would be an entirely useless waste of resources, like so many other proposed regulative bodies. It still astounds me every time such an idiotic initiative like this one is proposed.

  • Joanne Rigutto

    Also, hasn’t any one heard of COPA?
    Website – http://www.copacommission.org/

    Every online bullitin board script I’ve ever set up has had a COPA provision. Add to that all the spiders, web crawlers, bots, etc. that surf for content 24/7/365 log key words and meta tags which I would think that parental controls would use to filter content, at least in the search engines.

    • Rupert in Springfield

      COPA is no longer in effect. You could be thinking of section 18 USC 2257 record keeping regulations.

      COPA is significant in that it aided in establishing precedent for charging obscenity not where it was produced, but where it was viewed. This was perhaps the most significant free speech incursion by the Reno justice department as it makes it virtually impossible for anyone to comply with Supreme Court obscenity precedent as set forth in Miller v. California, to wit, the community standards provision.

      Some may or may not like this. However for those that do, I would remind them that letting internet content be judged by wherever one happens to set up a lap top is very dangerous. I frankly would not be too comfortable having what I can view or not being decided by the FBI setting up a laptop in an Amish area, or a heavily Muslim section of a city.

      As for the rest of it, Most of COPA was found unconstitutional and injunctions against it at the outset were quite successful. COPA is now dead due to being overly broad and being struck down by the third circuit court of appeals earlier this year. The Supremes banned enforcement of COPA since 2002 in anticipation of this.

      • Joanne Rigutto

        Thanks for the heads up. The forum scripts that I used to set up on my websites, XMB and PHPBB, always had COPA disclaimers to post on them regarding inapropriate content for anyone under 13. I never checked into it other than that because I assumed it had to to with pornography and I’ve never had anything to do with that, nor would I allow what I deemed inapropriate or sexually explicit language on any of my forums.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    Ok – It sounds like those disclaimers were put there mostly to prevent the script writers from prosecution for aiding in the distribution of pornography to minors. Basically its a CYA move so that they can show some due diligence in the event of a lawsuit.

    Incidentally, distribution of pornography is not illegal. Pornography is first amendment speech. Obscenity is not. Something can be pornographic without being obscene, a crucial legal distinction. One can put up all the dirty pictures or filthy verbiage they want, its protected speech. If a court later rules the pictures or words are obscene, then off to jail you go. Yes, people are found guilty of obscenity for verbiage devoid of pictures.

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