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The European Commission is investing €50m in cleaning up the Net with a three-year programme, Safer Internet Plus.

Its main aim is to improve the protection of children and minors, but it will also cover a broader range of areas of illegal and harmful content and conduct of concern are covered, including racism and violence.

"Children should have the right to use the internet freely to chat, to learn or to play games," said Erkki Liikanen, the EC’s enterprise and information society commissioner. "But to move freely online, children must be protected from the risk of being exploited by adults."

Parents are largely ignorant about their children’s online (and probably real-world) habits: an EU survey last year found that 14 per cent of kids in Northern Europe have gone to real world meetings with people they have chatted to on the Net, and nearly half have been asked to go to such meetings. Only four per cent of parents think their children have done so.

The programme has four elements: Firstly, the EC wants to establish hotlines for the public to report illegal Net content. A tip-off to such a hotline led to the breakup of a global child porn ring in October last year.

It will encourage self regulation to deal with unwanted and harmful content (including spam), and fund and support the development of content rating and filtering, benchmarking filtering software and services.

It will also try to raise awareness among parents and teachers of the tools available to protect children online.

The programme will cover mobile and broadband content, online games, peer-to-peer file transfer, and all forms of real-time communications such as chat rooms and instant messages. ®

Related link

EC Information Society

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