REDMOND, Wash., Feb. 28, 1996 — Microsoft Corp. and the Recreational Software Advisory Council (RSAC) today announced they have joined efforts to build technology to advance parental control over Internet access and content. Together, RSAC’s rating system adapted for the Internet (RSACi) and Microsoft’s Content Advisor feature, to be included in the next version of the Microsoft®
Internet Explorer Web browser, will make it possible for parents to easily monitor the content viewed by their children on the World Wide Web.
Microsoft and RSAC are working with industry leaders to develop a solution based on the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C’s) Platform for Internet Content Selection (PICS). In particular, current parental control software vendors Microsystems Software Inc. and SurfWatch Software Inc. are adapting their products to be compatible with the PICS specification and RSAC solutions. The new RSACi rating system derives from of a group of organizations that includes the World Wide Web Consortium, AT & T Bell Laboratories, Bell Atlantic and Mediascope Inc.
Microsoft is the first Internet browser vendor to integrate support for parental control based on the PICS specification. The feature, dubbed Content Advisor, will ship in the next version of Microsoft Internet Explorer for the Windows®
95 and Windows NT
™operating systems, which is expected to enter beta testing this spring. Soon after, a version for Microsoft Internet Explorer for the Macintosh®
will also go to beta test. Microsoft will openly publish the APIs for the Content Advisor feature at the Internet Professional Developers Conference in San Francisco on March 12 and will make the software freely available to other companies to use in the creation of compatible rating systems and browsers.
Also today, RSAC announced the launch of the RSACi, or RSAC on the Internet, an objective, PICS-compatible, content-labeling advisory system that empowers parents and consumers to make informed choices about what they and their children experience on the Internet. RSACi utilizes the nonprofit organization’s experience in developing a content rating system for the computer games industry. The RSACi rating system is a fully automated, paperless system that is completely Web-based and relies on a quick, easy-to-use questionnaire. The adapted system will appear on RSAC’s Web site (http://www.rsac.org) in April and will be fully supported by Microsoft Internet Explorer. To encourage widespread rating of Internet content, RSAC will make its rating application available for no charge for the first year it is available on the Internet.
The PICS committee earlier this month released a new draft of its specification, which is designed to enable content providers to label voluntarily the content they create and distribute. The PICS specification establishes conventions for describing rating systems and for label formats, so that PICS-compatible software can read labels from any source. Microsoft and RSAC, along with special-interest groups such as the World Wide Web Consortium and the Center for Democracy and Technology, are active members of PICS.
“Microsoft’s active cooperation with RSAC and our PICS effort, and Microsoft Internet Explorer’s new ability to support any PICS-compliant ratings system, are clear examples of how the industry can come up with voluntary and effective solutions to meet public policy concerns about Internet access for children,”
said Tim Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Web Consortium.
“Microsoft is excited to be one of the first vendors to deliver a complete and open solution based on the PICS specification for parents and educators,”
said Brad Silverberg, senior vice president of the Internet platform and tools division at Microsoft.
“By teaming with leading industry participants, we are able to offer the most complete solution that allows everyone to choose the type of Internet content that enters their homes.”
“Recent support for the telecommunications bill sent a clear message to the Internet community – that, in the face of transmissions deemed ‘indecent,’ the protection of free speech is subverted,”
said Stephen Balkam, executive director of RSAC.
“The RSACi system provides objective, detailed information about the content of an Internet site, based on the levels of sex, nudity, violence and offensive language located within that site. In this way, the parent or consumer is then left to decide what is objectionable, or indecent.”
Parents can use the Content Advisor feature of Internet Explorer in conjunction with existing parental-control software products, such as Microsystems Software’s CyberPatrol and SurfWatch Software’s SurfWatch, which restrict access based on a predefined list of Web sites that the product developer decides may be objectionable to parents. For maximum security, the Content Advisor feature will also allow a combination of methods to be used. By the end of this month, Microsoft plans to make available on its Web site a page describing available parental control software solutions so that parents and educators have a single place to find the solution that best meets their needs.
“SurfWatch is pleased to be working with RSAC and Microsoft in delivering a rating system that fulfills the promise of the PICS platform,”
said Ann Duvall, president of SurfWatch Software.
“Our experience as the first software in the marketplace to give parents and teachers choice over what their children see shows that technology does indeed provide an alternative to Internet censorship.”
“Earlier this year, Microsystems delivered the first PICS-compatible server,”
said Nigel Spicer, president and COO of Microsystems Software.
“We are pleased to advance the PICS standard further by incorporating full support for PICS labels and RSACi in a new version of Cyber Patrol. This version of Cyber Patrol will be released on the same day as RSACi, allowing parents to take advantage of the RSACi labels as soon as they are available.”
Microsoft and other industry partners are assisting RSAC by donating the server software, hardware and technical resources to power the RSAC Web site. The site will be powered by two dual-Pentium® Dell®
PowerEdge servers running the Microsoft BackOffice
family and the Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS).
“We’re excited about offering customers a complete solution for Internet content viewing,”
said Lary Evans, vice president, Dell Server Group.
“With our powerful industry-standard servers, we are donating the platform that enables this important initiative.”
RSAC is an independent, nonprofit organization that empowers the public, especially parents, to make informed decisions about electronic media by means of an open, objective, content advisory system. RSAC’s system provides information about the level of sex, nudity, violence and offensive language (vulgar or hate-motivated) in software games and Web sites. As further evidence of their commitment to freedom of choice, RSAC’s rating system will allow users to make distinct choices, such as allowing nudity in the context of medical or classical works but not sexually explicit nudity. Its URL is http://www.rsac.org.
PICS is a cross-industry working group whose goal is to facilitate the development of technologies to give users of interactive media, such as the Internet, control over the kinds of material to which they and their children have access. PICS members believe that individuals, groups and businesses should have easy access to the widest possible range of content-selection products and a diversity of voluntary rating systems. Its URL is http://www.w3.org/pub/PICS.
The W3C exists to develop common protocols and reference codes for the evolution of the World Wide Web. It is an industry consortium hosted by MIT’s Laboratory for Computer Science and INRIA. Services provided by the Consortium include a repository of information about the World Wide Web for developers and users, a reference code implementation to embody and promote protocols, and various prototype and sample applications to demonstrate use of new technology. Membership is open to any organization. To date, the Consortium comprises more than 130 organizations.
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