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Eurocrats propose Net ratings system

Censorship by any other name?

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Internet bigwigs are gathering in Brussels this week in an attempt to clean up the Net for Europeans. The move follows simliar moves by US Vice President Al Gore and by the Japanese parliament. It suggests that politicians around the world are beginning to wake up to the problems posed by Internet. The problem lies in exactly what content may or may not be acceptable -- and then enforcing such rules. Following the debacle surrounding the publication of British secret service agents, the operation of extremist political groups in cyberspace and the ever-growing market for sex online, it should come as no surprise that the politicians have a rocky road ahead of them. The hope is that representatives from many of the EU member states will ultimately create a generic rating and filtering system suitable for European Internet users. The two-day event is part of a year-long consultation project funded as a Preparatory Action to the European Union's Action Plan for Promoting Safer Use of the Internet. David Kerr, project leader and chief executive of the Internet Watch Foundation, said: "This first Expert Conference is instrumental in establishing a better understanding of the needs of end users throughout Europe and ensuring co-operation from many different sectors. "There has been increasing concern across Europe over the accessibility of material which may be considered harmful to children. "[We] will help develop tools giving users the power to control access to the Internet, particularly where children are concerned." "Using the electronic labelling system, PICS (Platform for Internet Content Selection), INCORE seeks to provide a system that suits users from regardless of their nationality, language or individual preferences," he said. A follow-up conference is planned for September, when experts from all over the world will gather in Munich to finalise ideas for a future European content rating and filtering system. ®

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