On 1st December 28 leading companies announced the formation of a new Coalition to make a better and safer internet for children. Put together by the European Commission, the Coalition is a cooperative voluntary intervention designed to respond to emerging challenges arising from the diverse ways in which young Europeans go online. Signatories to the Coalition have committed to take positive action throughout 2012 in 5 areas:

  • simple tools for users to report harmful content and contact,
  • age-appropriate privacy settings,
  • wider use of content classification,
  • wider availability and use of parental controls,
  • effective take down of child abuse material.

The founding Coalition members are: Apple, BSkyB, BT, Dailymotion, Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, France Telecom-Orange, Google, Hyves, KPN, Liberty Global, LG Electronics, Mediaset, Microsoft, Netlog, Nintendo, Nokia, Opera Software, Research in Motion, RTL Group, Samsung, Sulake, Telefonica, TeliaSonera, Telenor Group, Tuenti, Vivendi, Vodafone. Priority actions include making it easier to report harmful content, ensuring privacy settings are age-appropriate, and offering wider options for parental control, reflecting the needs of a generation that is going online at an increasingly young age.  For further information and the official press release, click here.

While the initiative is to be applauded, there are still conflicting ways that companies go about addressing content classification and age-ratings for both audiovisual content, as well as for classifying apps. Harmonising the great diversity of approaches internationally is an important, even if difficult, goal. In the US, the international wireless industry association, CTIA, recently proposed its own new system for rating mobile phone apps, a move which has not received a kind reception from Google and Apple, which have systems of their own for ratings. The CTIA´s intention was to streamline and simplify the maturity ratings of software in a way that mobile app store owners could voluntarily adopt.