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Brussels, 15 June 2000

Commission issues reports on parental control technologies aimed at enhancing safety of Internet

The European Commission has released two reports in the framework of the Action Plan on promoting safer use of the Internet. The reports cover the two main types of technologies currently available to help parents ensure that their children can use the Internet safely - content filtering based on self-labelling and on third-party rating. The conclusion of the reports is that further work is needed to improve existing technologies so that they meet the needs of European users, and make a number of recommendations.

1. Self-labelling

The first report prepared by the organisation called INCORE focuses on self-labelling - schemes where the content provider attaches a label to content, and the parent then uses the features which are incorporated in the Internet Browser.

Self-labelling has the potential to meet the needs of European consumers. Existing self-labelling and filtering schemes at their current stage of development do not provide a practical tool for European use. European consumers wish for information on a number of issues not covered in existing self-labelling schemes.

An improved scheme will therefore need to incorporate descriptors on a number of additional types of content. Some issues could be covered by use of third-party rating to supplement information from self-labelling. Consumers could be helped by making available a choice of "profiles" - downloadable settings for their browsers from a variety of trusted third parties in each national and linguistic group.

The establishment of a viable system(s) is dependent on more content being labelled and /or on a workable combination of self-labelling and third party rating. It is particularly urgent to establish labelling for sites in European languages other than English.

2. Third-party rating

The second report is prepared by the consortium composed of IDATE (France), AIIP and DATABANK consulting (Italy). The report tests a number of leading third-party filtering software products. It concludes that major improvements are definitively needed to increase people's access to these products and to turn them into mass market products in Europe. If filtering software is to become widely accepted and used by people such as parents and teachers in particular, it needs to be fully reliable.

3. Commission follow-up

The Commission is already funding a number of important projects in the field of parental control technologies (see IP/00/620).

A further call for proposals will be launched at the end of 2000. This will concentrate on "close to market" solutions in the area of third party rating, including approaches such as walled gardens, white lists and site quality labels.

Erkki Liikanen, Commissioner responsible for the Information Society said: "The findings of the INCORE and IDATE reports support the approach which the Commission has adopted to deal with potentially harmful content on the Internet. The Commission supports the principle of user empowerment and user choice to help parents ensure that their children can use the Internet safely.

The Commission will further support work being carried out in parallel under the Recommendation on protection of minors and human dignity to enhance user empowerment and parental control in digital broadcasting."

The reports can be downloaded from the Website

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