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Action plan for a Safer Internet 1999-2004

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The "Safer Internet" action plan aims to foster a favourable environment for the development of the Internet industry by promoting safe use of the Internet and combating illegal or harmful content. The programme is based on three lines of action:
- creating a safer environment by establishing a European network of hotlines and encouraging self-regulation and codes of conduct;
- developing filtering tools;
- raising awareness.

ACT

Decision No 276/1999/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 January 1999 adopting a multiannual Community action plan on promoting safer use of the Internet by combating illegal and harmful content on global networks [See Amending acts].

SUMMARY

Illegal/harmful content

The distinction between illegal and harmful content is important as these two types of content are dealt with differently:

  • illegal content must be dealt with at source by the police and the judicial authorities, whose activities are covered by national legislation and judicial cooperation agreements. However, the industry can be of considerable assistance in restricting the circulation of illegal content (particularly in the case of child pornography, racism and anti-Semitism) by means of effective self-regulation schemes (such as codes of conduct and hotlines) governed and supported by legislation, and with consumer backing;
  • harmful content is both that which is authorised but has restricted circulation (e.g. for adults only) and content which could be offensive to some users, even if publication is not restricted because of freedom of speech. Action to combat harmful content first and foremost means developing technology (filtering tools and rating mechanisms) to enable users to reject such content by promoting awareness among parents and fostering self-regulation, which could be an adequate way of protecting minors in particular.

Duration, financial framework

The four-year action plan (1 January 1999 to 31 December 2002) has been granted total funding of 25 million.

General objective

The action plan aims to promote the safer use of the Internet and to encourage, at European level, an environment favourable to the development of the Internet industry.

Action lines

The action plan divides into four sections:

  • establishing a safer environment through a European network of "hotlines" and by encouraging self-regulation and the adoption of codes of conduct;
  • developing filtering and rating systems, in particular by highlighting their benefits and facilitating an international agreement on rating systems;
  • encouraging awareness campaigns at all levels to inform parents and all people dealing with children (teachers, social workers, etc.) of the best way to protect minors against exposure to content that could be harmful to their development;
  • conducting support activities to assess legal implications, providing coordination with similar international initiatives and assessing the impact of Community measures.

Action

The Commission will be responsible for the following activities to achieve the programme's objectives:

  • promoting industry self-regulation and content-monitoring schemes (especially dealing with content such as child pornography, racism and anti-Semitism);
  • encouraging industry to provide filtering tools and rating mechanisms. The aim is to enable parents and teachers to select content appropriate for children in their care while allowing adults to decide what legal content they wish to access;
  • increasing awareness of services provided by industry among users, in particular parents, teachers and children, so that they can better understand and take advantage of the opportunities of the Internet;
  • support actions such as assessment of legal implications;
  • activities fostering international cooperation.

Participation

In addition to the Member States of the EU, participation in this programme may be open to legal entities established in the EFTA countries which are members of the European Economic Area (EEA), and to European international organisations. Participation may also be open to legal entities established in non-member countries which do not form part of the EEA and to non-European international organisations, where such participation contributes effectively to the implementation of the programme.

Extension of the programme until 2005

The action plan was extended until 31 December 2004 and the budget increased by 13.3 million to cover the two extra years.

New Safer Internet Plus action plan

In 2005 the Council adopted a Decision establishing the Safer Internet Plus programme aimed at promoting the safer use of the Internet and new online technologies. The programme will cover the years 2005-2008 and will follow on from the Safer Internet action plan (1999-2004).

REFERENCES

ActEntry into force - Date of expiryDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Decision 276/99/EC [adoption: codecision COD/1997/0337]26.2.1999-OJ L 33, 6.2.1999

Amending act(s)Entry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Decision No 1151/2003/EC [adoption: codecision COD/2002/0071]1.7.2003-OJ L 162, 1.7.2003

RELATED ACTS

EVALUATION OF THE PROGRAMME

Communication from the Commission of 6 November 2006: Final evaluation of the implementation of the multiannual Community action plan on promoting safer use of the Internet by combating illegal and harmful content on global networks [COM(2006) 663 final].

The independent experts who evaluated the programme highlight its effectiveness in combating illegal Internet content. The programme's success derives mainly from launching national hotlines and awareness nodes in almost all Member States.

Filtering systems are also an essential element in the eyes of the stakeholders. However, there is too little knowledge among parents on how to handle them and the progress made in developing these technologies remains unsatisfactory. It is also noted that there have been positive developments in industry self-regulation, codes of conduct and best practices.

The evaluation report put forward various recommendations for continuing Community action in this area:

  • raise the profile of hotlines;
  • support cooperation between Member States and between stakeholders;
  • target specific groups to promote awareness;
  • involve children and young people in identifying problems and designing solutions;
  • increase end user awareness of the options available for filtering harmful content;
  • encourage industry self-regulatory solutions at European level;
  • map possibilities for future technological developments and user options.

Communication from the Commission of 3 November 2003 concerning the evaluation of the multiannual Community action plan on promoting safer use of the Internet and new online technologies by combating illegal and harmful content primarily in the area of the protection of children and minors [COM(2003) 653 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

The report stresses the positive impact of the action plan, particularly in fostering networking and providing a wealth of information about the problems of safer use of the Internet. In particular, the report concluded that:

  • the programme has done a good job in producing a number of filtering software products although take-up of rating needs to be increased. Moreover, not all stakeholders agree that filtering is the best approach to child protection. At the policy level, the programme has been successful in putting the issues of developing a safer Internet firmly on the agenda of the EU and the Member States;
  • at action-line level, the Commission has instigated the development of a network of hotlines in Europe with associated members in the USA and Australia, funded research into tackling awareness-raising with end users, stimulated the development of filtering and supported the development of an international rating system;
  • the programme has been successful in linking up stakeholders to produce a "community of actors", although the Commission is disappointed by the lack of industry involvement as well as self-regulation organisations and consumer groups.

In addition, the authors of the evaluation recommend extending the objectives of the programme to encompass new and emerging communication technologies (e.g. 3G mobile telephones) that will influence children's use of the Internet. The Commission stresses that this point is already being dealt with in the second (2003-2004) phase of the programme.

SAFER INTERNET PLUS PROGRAMME (2005-2008)

Decision No 854/2005/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2005 establishing a multiannual Community Programme on promoting safer use of the Internet and new online technologies [Official Journal L 149, 11.6.2005].

EXTENSION OF THE SAFER INTERNET PROGRAMME UNTIL 2005

Decision No 1151/2003/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 June 2003 amending Decision No 276/1999/EC adopting a multiannual Community action plan on promoting safer use of the Internet by combating illegal and harmful content on global networks [Official Journal L 162, 1.7.2003].

 
Last updated: 19.01.2007

See also

Further information on the Safer Internet initiative is available on the European Commission's Information Society website .

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