Bonn conference on PICS ratings

Rohit Khare (
Tue, 1 Jul 1997 11:50:29 -0400 (EDT)

From: (Stephen Balkam)
Subject: Bonn conference

Here is a piece on the lead-up to the Bonn conference making reference to
the planned World Wide Ratings Summit:


June 30, 1997

Internet Groups Plan Global Rating System (06/30/97; 4:00 p.m.
EDT) By Douglas Hayward, TechWire

BONN, Germany -- Child-protection groups and a national
broadcasting regulator are meeting here next week to start
the porcess of creating internationally agreed content-rating
systems for the Internet.

The move is designed to promote self-regulation by
Netizens and to stave off government censorship.

The Recreational Software Advisory Council, a nonprofit
developer of international content rating systems based in
Lexington, Mass., is meeting the Australian Broadcasting
Authority and three Internet industry groups to create a
group to coordinate development of cross-cultural voluntary
content rating schemes for the Internet.

"We are in preliminary talks about creating some sort of
international forum where organizations looking at the issue
of content rating can come together," said David Kerr, chief
executive of the British-based Internet Watch Foundation,
one of the Internet groups hosting the meeting.

Content rating involves assigning codes to Internet sites --
similar to the codes such as PG and R used to rate films -- -
to warn that potentially offensive, violent or sexually explicit
content is contained in sites.

Rating schemes are aimed at parents of young children or
people offended by violent or sexual material, but schemes
in use are all culturally specific. This means labeled content
is not easily understood across the world, limiting the
effectiveness of schemes.

"We hope the ultimate outcome will be some sort of rating
system that will work on the Net across different cultures,"
said Nigel Williams, director of Childnet International, an
Anglo-American Internet charity. "The rating systems that
exist now are mostly American, and we need to create
something broader," he added.

The groups will also lobby for support and cash from Western
governments meeting here on July 6 through July 8 for the
Global Information Networks inter-governmental conference
on electronic commerce and communications. "We want to
start a process in which international [private and governmental]
organizations get involved in the creation of an internationally
acceptable rating system," Williams said.

Childnet and the Internet Watch Foundation, which runs a British
system letting users report offensive material, have already
submitted a funding request to the European Commission
along with ECO, a German Internet service provider association.

The request is for cash to research three linked projects -- a
system used to rate Usenet groups, a proposal to unify various
"hotline" services for reporting offensive Net material and a
project to develop a content rating system applicable across
the whole of Europe.

The proposals are backed by an Incore, the Internet Content
Rating Europe ad hoc industry group. But people familiar with
the proposals say they face an uphill battle for approval by the
European Commission.

"Whatever happens, we will carry on trying to get the funding we
need," Kerr said. "These things cost money, and we have not
got all the money we need."

Stephen Balkam
Executive Director, RSAC
Tel: 202 237 1833
Fax: 202 237 1836