Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today introduced a bipartisan resolution, with five other Members of Congress, to promote the voluntary labeling of Internet content to protect children on-line without infringing on the freedom of expression rights of content providers.
In an effort to promote widespread adoption of such technology, Congressman Adam Smith is working with the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA), as well as children’s safety and First Amendment advocates, to encourage Members of Congress to voluntarily label the content on their Congressional websites. The House resolution introduced today specifically urges all Members of Congress to label their sites consistent with the ICRA system or other voluntary Internet content filtering organizations. Each of the resolution’s sponsors has already labeled their sites using the ICRA system.
“As policymakers and parents, we’re concerned for the safety of children as they use the Internet and enjoy the benefits it has to offer. With 73 percent of American teens actively using the Internet, we need to help protect children without hindering the growth of the Internet or infringing upon our citizens’ First Amendment rights to free speech,” said Smith. “ICRA labeling fills this need because it allows consumers to make decisions about what content they wish to have their children access. This industry-driven labeling system provides an effective system for protecting children against inappropriate information.”
ICRA has created a free system that empowers parents and other concerned adults to protect children from material they believe to be harmful while protecting freedom of expression. ICRA does not rate content; content providers rate their own site content using the ICRA system. ICRA makes no value judgments about which sites are suitable for children; parents do that. The result is a voluntary system that helps keep children away from content their own parents deem inappropriate.
The Internet's most visited sites – AOL, MSN and Yahoo! – VeriSign, IBM, Verizon, and others today announced a major new initiative to protect children online. The companies have rallied around the Internet Content Ratings Association (ICRA) and its voluntary website content label that flags adult, violent, and other material that might be harmful to children. The organization is working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and others to promote Internet safety.
“The high-tech community appreciates the support of Members of Congress,” said Mary Lou Kenny, executive director of ICRA North America. “With leadership from policymakers such as Congressman Adam Smith and ICRA’s members, we can make the Internet safer for children without restricting the freedoms of content providers.”
To self-label, content providers simply fill out in an online questionnaire describing the content of their site in terms of what is and isn't present. Context variables are included to distinguish content that may be presented in an educational, artistic or medical context. ICRA then generates a content label in the form of a META Tag, which the web site author adds to the source code of his/her site.
Internet users then download an ICRA filter, to be launched early next year, which reads the content label and filters according to the subjective preferences of the user. After the filter is in place, parents can override the system by using a password. It is both free to label and free to filter with ICRA.
"Labeling and filtering of Internet content that is truly voluntary is an approach that empowers parents and respects our nation’s fundamental commitment to free expression," Smith continued. "While the ICRA system is one of the many options available to help protect children on the Internet, it is appropriate for House use because it is readily available at no cost to content providers or users, created by a non-profit, independent organization and uses an internationally recognized syntax to describe website content. I am proud to be among the first few Members of the House of Representatives to have an ICRA rated Web site, and I hope this resolution helps spread the word about this important tool."
For more information on the Internet Content Rating Association, please visit their website at www.icra.org