November 18, 1996
Electronic Network Consortium
Initiative to promote the provision and the dissemination of Internet blocking capabilities
to enable users or supervisors to block access from their computers to inappropriate material on the Internet
The Electronic Network Consortium (ENC) which comprises more than 90 organizations including major online service providers launched an initiative to promote the provision and the dissemination of blocking capabilities available to Internet users or supervisors -whether parents, teachers, or company's administrators- which will enable them to block some of information inappropriate for some audiences, at least some of the time, depending on their controls.
1. Blocking of information that users do not wish to access
The Internet allows users to send and receive data easily from anywhere in the world. This has greatly contributed to the progress of science and industry. The Internet, however, has also made information widely available which some consider objectionable: slanderous or malicious message, racism literature, pornography and information which may be used by terrorist groups. These types of information thus represent a significant social problem. The problem is dealt with primarily in two approaches: government regulation and user blocking.
Government regulation of Internet material has met with limited success. In the United States for example, a law intended to regulate the indecent information was ruled unconstitutional, and is currently under review by the Supreme Court. Many Asian and European countries have pushed similar legal restrictions forward, but these offer little promise of a solution to the problem.
The second approach relies on user-controlled filtering systems which block out information that users do not wish to see, or supervisors do not wish to keep from others. These blockings work through settings which rate the content of information received by users. They do not restrict information distribution at the source, as in the case of the Platform for Internet Content Selection (PICS ) developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). In Britain, a proposal called R3 Safety-Net was announced by industry associations. In the proposal, these blockings are supplemented by measures to deal with objectionable materials such as a hot-line to accept complaints about illegal material, as well as responsible policies for Internet users and providers.
Thus, blocking capabilities do not restrict information distribution at the source, but are a means for users to select and control the information which they receive.
- Examples of those who may choose to use blocking systems:
- Parents or teachers wishing to block children's access to obscene materials.
- The user him/herself wishing to block objectionable content.
2. What ENC did in the past
ENC is studying solutions to these problems, not through restrictions on content, but by establishing self-imposed guidelines. These will protect users of computer networks from malicious or slanderous information and racially inflammatory literature, without infringing upon freedom of speech. In February, ENC published two documents entitled, "General Ethical Guideline for Running Online Services" and "Recommended Etiquitte for Online Service Users."
The contents of these studies addressed ethical issues related to online services. ENC's Committee on Fundamental Guidelines summarized the results of the study carried out from 1994 to 1995. These reports attracted significant public attention because of the rapid growth of the Internet; and ENC has received many requests for copies of the reports from network administrators of companies/organizations.
3. Initiative to promote the provision and the dissemination of Internet blocking capabilities
Online services are now being connected to or united with the Internet in large numbers. The Internet has not only contributed to the progress of science and industry, but has also provided individual users with a great convenience to communicate with others and to collect a wide range of information. Use of the Internet provides educational benefits as well.
Unfortunately, measures taken to deal with access to objectionable materials have been inadequate. Many educators and business leaders are concerned about the impact of such materials on children and workers. It is therefore necessary to deal with these concerns in order to prevent the Internet from being undermined, or hampered in its deployment.
ENC is cooperating with MITI to address the concerns of educators, business leaders and therefore launched an initiative to promote the blocking capablities which would enable users or supervisors -whether parents, teachers, or company's administrators- to block access from their computers to inappropriate material on the Internet.|
Specifically, ENC will promote the provison and the dissemination of PICS-compatible blocking capabilities based on the internationally adopted RSACi and other rating systems. ENC will also cooperate and support for online service providers to furnish users with blocking software at user's request.
This initiative will encourage development of PICS-compatible blocking software by private companies, establishment of rating systems by organizations for educators and business leaders, and creation of a rating databases by public bodies and/or private companies. New Media Development Association (NMDA) which hosts ENC and is financially supported by MITI will operate an experimental rating bureau, scheduled to begin next fiscal year, providing to block materials which users find offensive (black-list materials), and select useful materials (white-list materials).
- Contact: Akio Kokubu
- Electronic Network Consortium
- Mita-kokusai Bldg., 1-4-28 Mita, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108 JAPAN
- Telephone: +81-3-3457-0671
- Facsimile: +81-3-3451-9604
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
e-mail address email@example.com
(c)1996 ELECTRONIC NETWORK CONSORTIUM