UK Website age ratings ‘an option’

They must be joking but it is not even April yet! Rating is unworkable and and is an impossible task, the Culture Secretary is almost 10 years behind the “Internet content regulation debate”….

Website age ratings ‘an option’: “Websites could be given film-style age ratings under government plans to protect children from harmful content.”

Film-style age ratings could be applied to websites to protect children from harmful and offensive material, Culture Secretary Andy Burnham has said.

Mr Burnham told the Daily Telegraph the government was looking at a number of possible new internet safeguards.

He said some content, such as clips of beheadings, was unacceptable and new standards of decency were needed.

He also plans to negotiate with the US on drawing up international rules for English language websites.

Mr Burnham, a father of three young children, believes internet-service providers should offer child-friendly web access.

‘Public interest’

“Leaving your child for two hours completely unregulated on the internet is not something you can do,” he told the Telegraph.

“This isn’t about turning back the clock. The internet has been empowering and democratising in many ways, but we haven’t yet got the stakes in the ground to help people navigate their way safely around it.”

He went on to say it was time to review the accessibility of certain content on the internet and insisted he was not trying to curb free speech.

His plans are likely to anger those who advocate the freedom of the worldwide web.

“You can still view content on the internet which I would say is unacceptable. You can view a beheading,” he said.

“This is not a campaign against free speech, far from it, it is simply there is a wider public interest at stake when it involves harm to other people.”

On the issue of giving individual websites film-style classifications, Mr Burnham said: “That would be an option. This is an area that is really now coming into full focus.”

Concerns over children’s safety on the internet have already led to calls from the NSPCC for computer manufacturers and retailers to install security to stop children finding violent or sexual content.

A poll carried out by the children’s charity in October suggested three out of four children had been disturbed by images they had seen on the internet.

In July this year, the Commons culture, media and sport select committee criticised video-sharing website YouTube, saying it needed to do more to vet its content.

At the time, Google, the firm which owns YouTube, stressed the site had strict rules and a system that allowed users to report inappropriate content.

(Via BBC News.)

See further The Daily Telegraph, Internet sites could be given ‘cinema-style age ratings’, Culture Secretary says, 27 December, 2008. See further The Guardian coverage: Culture secretary Andy Burnham wants cinema-style age ratings for websites, 27 December, 2008.