Net giants label their content to protect kids

Internet powerhouses America Online Inc., Microsoft Corp.'s Microsoft Network (MSN) and Yahoo Inc. have labelled a majority of the content on their sites as part of a new Internet filtering initiative meant to protect children online, the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA) said Tuesday.

The announcement was made at an ICRA gathering in San Jose, California, in conjunction with a presentation of the nonprofit group's free Net filtering tool, ICRAfilter. ICRA is a global organization of industry leaders that seek to protect children online while balancing users' rights.

The major portals have labelled approximately 93 percent of their sites' content, ICRA said, as part of a commitment they made last October to join the group's campaign to create a free system that ultimately allows users to filter content they do not want to access.

Under the voluntary system, content providers answer an online questionnaire that helps them describe the content on their sites in neutral terms. ICRA then generates content labels, or meta tags, that can be added to the site's pages. By downloading the ICRA's free filter, users can set up their browser to allow or disallow access to entire sites or sections of sites depending on their content labels, the group said.

The ICRAfilter was launched in Europe earlier this year and has already been downloaded by 15,000 users, the group said. The filter, which works on the Windows 95 operating system and up, and on any browser, can be downloaded at http://www.icra.org.

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