Web giants back launch of content labeling scheme
By Joris Evers
(IDG) -- The Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA), backed by Microsoft Corp., AOL Time Warner Inc. and Yahoo Inc., presented its Web content labeling scheme in the U.S.
The labels allow users to restrict access to Web sites based on their own criteria and the information in ICRA labels. Internet content providers can generate a label, a meta tag to be added to the source code of a Web page, by filling in a questionnaire on the ICRA Web site. The system is free to parents and content providers.
Microsoft, AOLTW and Yahoo support the initiative and will label their sites, ICRA said in a statement. Some 40,000 Web sites are already labeled, according to ICRA. Another 160,000 sites that have labels issued by ICRA's front-runner, the Recreational Software Advisory Council on the Internet (RSACi), are being asked to update.
ICRA is a nonprofit organization founded in early 1999 by a number of Internet-related companies and organizations, including Microsoft and AOL. It seeks to promote self-regulation of the Internet.
"Our message is to show that there is an alternative to censorious legislation and knee-jerk reactions to hate and porn Web sites. We promote choice, not censorship," said ICRA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Stephen Balkam in an interview.
The ICRA system hasn't been fully completed. Consumers can use it, but it is "clunky," according to Balkam.
"The user interface is geared to the RSACi system. We are not marketing loudly to consumers. Today we urge content providers to get labels and call for more members," he said, adding that membership prices range from US$5,000 to $30,000.
As part of the promotion effort, Yahoo will ask content providers that submit a Web address to Yahooligans, its search engine for children, to label their Web site, Balkam said.
ICRA plans to introduce its own ICRA filter software in the second quarter of next year, a program that should be easier to use than the filtering option that exists today. ICRA hopes the filter will become a standard part of major Web browsers, Balkam said.
The ICRA filter will go beyond the self-regulation labels. Third parties, such as the Anti-Defamation League in the U.S., can make available lists of sites to block. These lists can then be imported into the filter program.
"Whether those sites have a label or not, you will be able to block them," said Balkham.
Other organizations are working on filtering templates, which will allow parents to adjust the filter based on the age of the children, for example, Balkam said.
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