Daily Archives: 2007-09-17

Web content labelling

As we all know, the web contains a certain amount of content that some people don’t want to look at, and/or do not wish their children to look at. Removing the material is seldom an option (it may well be entirely lawfully hosted, and indeed many other people may be perfectly happy for it to be there). Since centralised blocking of such material just isn’t going to happen, the best way forward is the installation of blocking software on the end-user’s machine. This software will have blacklists and whitelists provided from a central server, and it will provide some useful reassurance to parents that their youngest children have some protection. Older children can of course just turn the systems off, as has recently been widely reported for the Australian NetAlert system.

A related idea is that websites should rate themselves according to widely agreed criteria, and this would allow visitors to know what to expect on the site. Such ratings would of course be freely available, unlike the blocking software which tends to cost money (to pay for the people making the whitelists and blacklists).

I’ve never been a fan of these self-rating systems whose criteria always seem to be based on a white, middle-class, presbyterian view of wickedness, and — at least initially — were hurriedly patched together from videogame rating schemes. More than a decade ago I lampooned the then widely hyped RSACi system by creating a site that scored “4 4 4 4”, the highest (most unacceptable) score in every category: http://www.happyday.demon.co.uk/awful.htm and just recently, I was reminded of this in the context of an interview for an EU review of self-regulation.

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