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UK Culture Secretary wants film-style ratings to individual websites

14 January, 2009

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

The UK Culture Secretary Andy Burnham has presented, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph at the end of the last year, some new plans in adopting to the web "new standards of decency".

The Cabinet minister is planing to give film-style ratings to individual websites and wants ISPs to offer parents "child-safe" web services. Because Internet is a global nature, he plans to negotiate with Obama Administration in order to drew up "international rules for English language websites."

Burnham explained the present situation: "If you look back at the people who created the internet they talked very deliberately about creating a space that Governments couldn't reach. I think we are having to revisit that stuff seriously now. It's true across the board in terms of content, harmful content, and copyright. Libel is an emerging issue."

He also added in a statement for BBC: "The internet is becoming a more and more pervasive entity in all our lives and yet the content standards online are not as clear as we've all been used in traditional media. I think we do need to have a debate now about clearer signposting and labelling online because it can be quite a confusing world, particularly for parents who are trying to ensure their children are only accessing appropriate stuff."

Richard Clayton from the EDRi-member FIPR has dismissed the UK Culture Secretary plans and considered that as "a childlike hope that merely wishing for something will make it come true." He explains that all the solutions have been discussed and dismissed in the past.

"ISPs have tried 'child-safe' services in the past and even those who still keep their systems working hardly mention them in their adverts any more. I thought that it was no longer a part of modern politics to force an industry to make products that nobody actually wants to buy."

Clayton also pointed the fact that online defamation was already considered twice by the Law Commission and their main concerns centred around making it harder for ISPs to be sued and addressing the issues of archives.

As regards the web labelling, he points the 10 years history of failure and explains with the website of Mr Burnham's own department:

"They have labelled their main website with the ICRA scheme. To their credit, they have used more than just a blanket "innocuous" setting, albeit they have clearly overdone it since a description of the minutiae of the Gambling Act 2005 is still marked up as "gambling", which may disappoint anyone who was hoping to have a flutter.

Although the DCMS proudly displays the ICRA logo on their front page, they haven't been bothered to label any of their subsites, such as the Government Art Collection, which contains images that some people might consider indecent - such as this full frontal nude of a young boy."

Despite all these problems, the European Union seems to support also in the future these type of projects. Encouraging and assisting providers to develop labelling is one of the actions funded under the new EU Safer Internet programme 2009 - 2013.

A recent report of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force, a working group established by the 49 state attorneys general from US, to look into the problem of sexual solicitation of children online has reached some interesting conclusion. The report challenges some of the earlier beliefs concluding that: "Social network sites are not the most common space for solicitation and unwanted exposure to problematic content, but are frequently used in peer-to-peer harassment, most likely because they are broadly adopted by minors and are used primarily to reinforce pre-existing social relations."

The report also claims that "Minors are not equally at risk online. Those who are most at risk often engage in risky behaviors and have difficulties in other parts of their lives. The psychosocial makeup of and family dynamics surrounding particular minors are better predictors of risk than the use of specific media or technologies."

Internet sites could be given 'cinema-style age ratings', Culture Secretary says (27.12.2008)

Website age ratings 'an option' (27.12.2008)

Andy Burnham and the decline of standards (29.12.2008)

Web content labelling (17.09.2007)

EU Safer Internet programme 2009 - 2013

Final Report of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force to the Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking of State Attorneys General of the United States (31.12.2008)



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