Websites could get age ratings

December 30, 2008

In a move that is bound to stir up the emotions of many internet users, the UK’s Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham, is looking to create a child safe internet by censoring websites and giving them age ratings like those on computer games and films.

Not only that, he is also proposing to get together with the incoming US government in order to thrash out an agreement on the rules for English language websites.

Internet service providers could be made to provide services where only websites that are suitable for children can be found and those websites that post offensive or harmful content will be warned and given a time period to remove the content.

Censoring the internet is a very dangerous game to play and is probably one of the last things that you would expected in the UK.


Comments in chronological order (18 comments)

  1. djamel says:

    I think it’s a good idea NOT dangerous . It’s for the safty of children .

  2. Mary says:

    I think its an excellent idea. I think its awfull that people can access all kinds of horrible things on the internet, like pornography and racism. I don’t just mean naked people, were talking horific things like bestiality and child porn - the government has a duty to protect people, especialy children, from moraly corrupting media.

  3. Pete says:

    Just about the maddest idea since the EU regulated the shape of bananas.

    If ISPs want to offer these services to parents, so be it, but you still cannot expect filtering to be 100% successful, and filtering won’t prevent serious threats like grooming.

    So supervision will still be required.

    If you care about what your children receive you simply can’t give them unsupervised access to any communication system (phones, mobiles, mail, email, or anything else).

  4. Lou says:

    How is this going to work… Our Government honestly! What next chip and pin to read your email!

  5. What_A_Legend says:

    I think as an intial idea this is fine. Alot of site already have age boundries and warnings as well as flagging systems to stop certain content being viewed by children.

    However ny fear is this is a big step to complete internet censorship and the Internet was designed to provide users with freedom of speach to get your ideas and oppinions out to the public.

    Take I assume this site will be shut of to under 18’s due to ‘Hacking’ as a key word in the URL and in the SEO of the site. However this site does not encourage illigeal behaviour but instead teaches computer users about security and how to test vunerablities to patch.

    I gained my job through the stuff I learnt on that site when I was 16/17 year old.

    Stop Internet Censorship.

  6. Brian Turner says:

    I honestly can’t see how this would work - it would either require all webmasters to age grade their sites, which is probably impractical as it would require those who are most malicious to be honest, which is maybe being too optimistic - or else an agency rate them, which raises questions of accountability.

    There has actually been a meta-data tag for viewing suitability for some time, but is anyone actually using it?

  7. kurtis says:

    having an age rating for websites = good

    preventing access and forcibly censoring websites is a no. it will never happen, the entire premise of the internet is humanity sharing all information regardless of whether it is a “12a” or a “PG”, this applies until a law is broken.

    if parents want children of unsuitable websites they have the tools to stop them at their disposal for free.

    what would be good is a BBFC branch that looked at each addition to google’s site list and rated it (U, PG etc), this could then be displayed next to the google result. Web browsers could start implementing a feature that automatically read the rating (from google or BBFC server) and display it at the address bar, parents could set what rating could be shown on screen without a password. this could only be a success if implemented step by step and supported and incorporated automatically into a browser update on all browsers.

  8. kurtis says:

    *children off unsuitable sites

  9. al says:

    Hiding things from children won’t make these things disappear from the real
    life. Yes there is child porn, racism, etc. on the Internet just like in the
    real life. Talk to your kids about it, tell them what they can expect from life
    as soon as possible. Keeping people into ignorance has never make them smarter
    or stronger. In the past child sexual abuse was hidden by a law of silence.
    Children victims wouldn’t talk because they would be told by the criminals its
    normal and wouldn’t really know what was happening to them. Nowadays because
    these sort of things get public exposure more criminals get prosecuted. Help
    your children! Talk to them about what they might bump into while browsing the
    web. Tell them about the dangers of dealing with strangers on-line. It may sound
    appealing to keep your children away from all the horrible things in the world
    but whether you like it or not, they’ll grow up and be facing it sooner
    or later. It’s better to give them the psychological tools to face these things
    rather than trying to maintain them into an unrealistic world of nice illusions.
    Education is the key!

  10. Toby Johnson says:

    Age ratings is one thing, but the paragraph that reads “Internet service providers could be made to provide services where only websites that are suitable for children can be found and those websites that post offensive or harmful content will be warned and given a time period to remove the content” is referring to something altogether different.

    This has nothing to do with “protecting children”, and everthing to do with preventing the public from empowering themselves via the knowledge available on the Internet.

    Since the “communications revolution” that happened in the ’90s, more and more people are becoming aware of just exactly how the world really works and, unsurprisingly, many people are not happy with being controlled via the sly method in which they are.

    I just hope that if Internet censorship does occurr, then the geeks will find a way to overcome it.

    Long live free speech!!

  11. Steven says:

    Whats the point , stop sitting ur kids on the pc all day and shut up.

  12. Michael says:

    It is probably needed but impossible to carry out and enforce, it seems to me. This government has a great deal of difficulty in doing the basic things right and the police simply do not enforce the law.

    I’d be surprised if this idea got airborne.

  13. Chris says:

    This is completely and utterly impractical. Whoever suggested this clearly has no idea how the internet works.

    I could put up a dozen websites tomorrow. Who is going to determine their age rating? How? When?

    It’s ludicrous. Totally bonkers. Words fail me.

  14. Andy.c says:

    honestly I agree with the age rating system but I don’t agree with making web sites remove content.

    it should be up to them to remove that content and bring there age rating down. but most of the time the content will most likely be aimed at adults so there no problem.

    and when you think about it places like you tube enforce age ratings and thats ok.

    the trick here is the ratings on web sites should be 18+ unless stated otherwise that should hopefully work

  15. Bob H says:

    Age restriction is a good idea but will be difficult to implement and soon thereafter software will be available to download which will circumvent the security.
    Censorship is NEVER a good idea unless you’re a dictatorship that likes to control the minds of its people.

  16. Simon Douglas says:

    As a teacher, I completely agree with methods of identifying the suitability of content on sites to particular groups of people - children & young people especially.

    However, as with any filtering system of this sort, the schools, local authorities or even parents implement, all that will happen is that legitimate sites like YouTube or Flickr will be deemed inappropriate, because of small amounts of their otherwise most appropriate content, while sites with dubious, malicious or downright illegal content will merely bypass the system by constantly moving to new domains, address variants, or as @Bob H says circumvent the filtering system. Believe me, I come across dozens of students every week who know shortcuts and tricks to bypass any barriers the network controllers put in place.

    As has already been pointed out a number of times, the only way to stop it is to educate parents (who then pass that knowledge on to their progeny) and by actually not allowing kids unfettered access to all this technology in their rooms, where who knows what they can access, for how long.

  17. Ash says:

    What’s happening to Britain? I’ve read about them making a big database that logs all phone calls and everything… that annoyed me AND NOW THIS! By the time they’ve implanted this I’ll be 18, so screw it. But either way, this is pathetic, if it goes through it’ll be a waste of money that could be spent on better things. On the internet it’s easy to lie about your age, and parents aren’t as into technology as kids are, so there’s a way around it - there always is.

    Besides, anyone remember about that wikipedia image that was classed as ‘child pornography’ and that it was blocked by a few ISPs, yet the news picked up on it and the image ended up being spread further around (I pissed myself with laughter when that happened) - That backfired, and so will this.

  18. Cleo says:

    I’m cool with the idea of rating websites, such as livejournal currently does, with people who have certain journals rating them themselves, and warnings such as “you must be 18 to view this” or “you must be 14 to view this” but a child safe internet is not what we want.

    Neopets has it’s own place for people below the age of 13, and my sister has found it a good place to go, and once you’re 13 you get access to much more. The best thing you can have for kids is parental supervision, such as not stopping kids from finding out things on the web, but stopping them from going on the wrong sites.

    I think I’ve probably not had much parental supervision on the things I’ve gone on, and most should have a bit more, but I think it’s fine in the way that people are. The only problem is really for below 12/13 year olds, who should really be supervised a bit more in what they look at, and perhaps directed towards more child friendly sites, but having internet service providers censor the web, is not the way to go. That’s what china does with their government censorship.

    Some sites are not appropriate for kids, and state that they don’t allow people below the age of 18 on them, but it’s obvious that many people below the age limit go on them. I don’t find that too bad a thing, it’s just like kids sneaking into films and underage drinking. Everyone knows it happens and many people have done it themselves, even though it’s frowned upon, and only the seriously anal people get really angry about it.

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