August 1, 1997
Electronic Network Consortium
Creation of the first PICS compliant label bureau in Japan
to enable users or supervisors to control access from their computers to inappropriate material on the Internet.
The Electronic Network Consortium (ENC) that comprises more than 90 organizations including major online service providers has been promoting the provision and the dissemination of blocking capabilities available to Internet users or supervisors - whether parents, teachers, or company administrators. This will enable blocking information inappropriate for some audiences, at least some of the time, depending on their controls.
The New Media Development Association (NMDA) that hosts the ENC and is financially supported by MITI has developed blocking software and has just started to distribute the software through the Internet. The NMDA is also engaged in constructing a database of labels for each home page on the Internet, and plans in September will begin operating a label service bureau based on this database.
Referring to the self-regulated rating standard of the package media industry in Japan, the ENC has tentatively put into practice the extensible content rating system for each home page based upon the extension of the RSACi.
The dissemination of blocking capabilities will establish a user-oriented utilization on the Internet that respects both the users' right of "Wish to know" and the users' intention of "Don't wish to see" or "Don't wish to show (to children)."
1. Background and history
The Internet, through dissemination as a social infrastructure and its worldwide deployment, has not only contributed to the progress of academic and industrial activities but has also provided individual users with a great convenience to communicate with others and to retrieve a wide-range information. However, due to its characteristics that enable users to send data easily to the world, the Internet has also made widely available information that some consider objectionable. This includes slanderous or malicious messages, pornography and information which may be used by terrorists. These types of information thus represent a significant social problem. Legal restrictions may be imposed to deal with the problem, but the practical global trend is for users to implement defensive action by utilizing the state-of-the-art technology to receive information on a selective basis.
The ENC released to the press last November an "Initiative to promote the provision and dissemination of Internet blocking capabilities." Since then it has been promoting the provision and dissemination of PICS-compatible blocking capabilities based on the internationally adopted RSACi and other rating systems. The ENC has also been supporting online service providers and working in cooperation with them to supply blocking software to users.
2. Creation of the first label service bureau in Japan
The New Media Development Association (NMDA) that hosts the ENC has been engaging in developing PICS-compatible blocking software for the Internet and has just started to distribute it. This is part of the "Creative software development program" funded by MITI through the Information-technology Promotion Agency.
The NMDA constructs a database of labels for Internet home pages which might include harmful content for children. The association plans from this September experimental operation of the first label service bureau in Japan to be based on this database. The label bureau's database will be structured and updated by adding labels to the result retrieved from major search engines in Japan. The NMDA also solicits users' cooperation including the provision of information on what to add to the database.
The rating system for adding a label is based upon the extension of the RSACi that aims at international compatibility. The ratings have tentatively been accomplished by referring to the "The rating guidelines for photo CD publications," which is one of the self-regulated rating systems of the Japanese package media industry.
The blocking software for Windows95 as a free software is now ready for online distribution. This software is a functionally limited version applicable only to filtering (a) by self-rating (the sender must apply a label corresponding to the content within the statement in his/her own home page), and (b) by the local database (user- created on a personal computer).
As for the version containing a label-bureau access function, the blocking software for Windows95 will be distributed in early September to coincide with the start of the label bureau operation. The blocking software for Macintosh will be distributed in early October. The software to be distributed will replace part of the OS function and will not depend on the Netscape Navigator or other browsers.
3. Dissemination and encouragement of the use of blocking capabilities
The ENC further intends to promote blocking capabilities in the field of education through cooperation with the one-hundred-school networking project implemented by MITI. This is a program to provide one-hundred elementary schools, junior-high schools, and high-schools throughout Japan with an Internet access environment. The ENC will also provide technical assistance for constructing other label bureaus in Japan to establish operational services of other label bureaus based on different rating systems.
The ENC also plans to open a home page to provide information in Japanese on the blocking software (http://www.nmda.or.jp/enc/rating/) to help disseminate blocking capabilities because various types of blocking software manufactured both at home and abroad are now appearing on the market. Among such software, PICS-compliant ones will be encouraged to connect to the ENC's label bureau.
The copy of this release was disseminated today for the press and the Juvenile Relations Division of all forty-seven prefectures in Japan. The ENC will continue to promote the distribution and popularization of blocking capabilities, as well as to provide follow-up services by offering advice and by recommending self-ratings .