LONDON, England, May 12, 1999 — Today, Internet industry leaders joined forces to create an international Internet content rating system that protects children and free speech on the Web. Formed with the backing of some of the world’s best known Internet and communications companies, the new global rating system will be based on the established RSAC i content rating system. The system will be governed by a newly formed association, the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA). The founding companies of ICRA include AOL Europe, Bertelsmann Foundation, British Telecommunications plc (BT), Cable & Wireless, Demon Internet (UK), EuroISPA, IBM, Internet Watch Foundation, Microsoft, Software & Information Industry Association, and T-Online Germany. To ensure the successful worldwide deployment and acceptance of the new international system, ICRA will accept additional memberships from companies or organizations willing to join in its efforts to build and manage an internationally acceptable online content rating system.
Built on the success of the Recreational Software Advisory Council’s RSAC i content rating system, the rating mechanism that is already embedded in Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator , the ICRA system will be a voluntary self-rating system that is both user and provider friendly, and culturally non-specific and objective.
To develop a system for content rating that is culturally acceptable for use in countries around the world, ICRA will hold consultations with children’s advocacies, consumer groups, universities and interested parties around the globe. Once developed, the system will be available to all Internet users as a free service. All ICRA members are committed to the establishment of an international rating system and have dedicated a considerable amount of time and resources to ensure that the public receives a valuable set of tools to control the nature of content that they and their families view on the Internet.
“In forming ICRA, our goal is to provide parents and teachers around the world with a standardised, strong and flexible system for protecting children from Internet content they find inappropriate,”
said Jens Waltermann of the Bertelsmann Foundation, chairman of the board of ICRA.
“It is not for us or for governments to decide what is inappropriate. Individual parents should make that choice. We will ensure that the system helps parents in a variety of different cultures.”
David Phillips, of AOL Europe, said, “ICRA is a critical step in self-regulation by the emerging global Internet community. It shows that the Internet industry, working closely with public interest groups, is taking the initiative to provide parents, teachers and other concerned citizens the tools to protect their children and communities while ensuring the essential openness and freedom of the Internet.
“It is especially important for the industry to play a leadership role protecting children and free speech on the Internet,” said John Patrick, vice president, Internet Technology, IBM. “The Internet offers exciting new opportunities to society as a whole. By working together globally, we can play a vital role in making sure the Internet is a safe environment, available to us all. ”
“Microsoft’s involvement in ICRA is an expression of our commitment to working with members of the Internet industry to help users understand online safety issues and have a positive experience online”, said John Frank, Director of Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft Europe, Middle East and Africa. “This initiative is a major step in an ongoing cooperative effort to help make the Internet a great medium for all users to discover and explore and we are delighted at the opportunity to continue our work in this area within this new association.”
“We are thrilled that so many of the leading Internet companies have agreed to work together to implement a content rating system that is available to families and teachers around the world,”
said Stephen Balkam, president, Recreational Software Advisory Council.
The RSAC i content rating system has provided Internet users with proven model of industry self-regulation in the United States for the past three years and I look forward to growing it into a system that is acceptable for use in all countries.”
With the establishment of ICRA, the RSAC Board has transferred its assets (including the RSAC i system) to the newly constituted ICRA to help speed the group’s efforts. A number of the leading RSAC board members will join the ICRA board of directors and many of the existing RSAC staff, including Stephen Balkam, its current President, will become ICRA employees. ICRA anticipates having the new rating system available for use within the next twelve months.
ICRA is an international non-profit organisation, incorporated in the UK as a company limited by guarantee, with charitable purposes. ICRA’s mission is to develop, implement and manage an internationally acceptable voluntary self-rating system which provides Internet users world wide with the choice to limit access to content they consider harmful, especially to children. ICRA has received the RSAC assets including the RSACi system that provides consumers with information about the level of nudity, sex, language, and violence in Web sites. To date, more than 100,000 Web sites have rated with the RSAC i system, including a great number of the top 100 sites which account for 80% of the web’s traffic.
IBM Media Relations
Tel: 914-766-1067 (USA)
Erin Brewer, Microsoft Corp,
Recreational Software Advisory Council
Kate Castle or Pat Arcand
Copithorne & Bellows