Tue, Nov 30, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Internet rating system promoted

DIRE NEED With 93 percent of Taiwan's Internet-savvy population under 15 years old, the government is funding a foundation to help regulate voluntary Web site ratings

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

With the population of young "netizens" increasing, a government-funded foundation was inaugurated yesterday to help push for a voluntary rating system of Internet Web site content.

Statistics show that over 12.74 million people in Taiwan have access to the Internet. Of children aged between 12 and 15, about 93 percent had gone on line at some point, Over 1 million children under the age of 12 had also gone online.

The foundation is funded by the Government Information Office (GIO). The government plans to earmark NT$15 million a year for the next four years to fund the organization and hopes to see it become an independent entity, generating its own funds, after five years.

Director-general of the Government Information Office (GIO) Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) yesterday praised the foundation -- consisting of government officials, Internet content providers and academics -- for establishing a sound cooperation model between the government and content providers.

While the establishment of the foundation marked a giant step forward, Lin said that he was concerned about the future of the foundation because he expected many difficulties in the future.

"It's literally impossible to adopt a universally uniform system to safeguard younger children from exposure to online violence and pornography. What we are doing now is adopting a measure that is concrete and feasible and not too dramatic or unilateral in nature," he said.

Under the Measure Governing the Rating System of Internet Content (電腦網路內容分級處理辦法) -- promulgated in June this year, Internet content is rated into four categories. The G rating is for general audiences of all ages. No-one aged 6 and under is allowed to view P-rated content. The PG rating requires parental or adult guidance for audiences between 12 and 18 years old. The R rating disallows anybody under the age of 18 from viewing the content.

While the decree fails to specify any punishment for violators, Lin said that the government agencies concerned can still mete out penalties in accordance with related laws, such as the Children and Juveniles Welfare Law (兒童及少年福利法) or the Sexual Abuse Prevention Act (性侵害防治法).

"It's quixotic thinking that the GIO should be held solely responsible for the crackdown on Internet crimes, because it takes the joint efforts of the central and local governments, including Taipei City, to make the worldwide Web a safer place for our children," Lin said.

He was apparently referring to Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) recent refusal to cooperate with the Cabinet in its endeavor to clamp down on book, audio and video publishers infringing on their own rating systems. The rating systems for books and audio and video publications are scheduled to go into effect tomorrow.

A recent poll conducted by the GIO found that most people supported the government's Web site rating system. Nearly 90 percent of people questioned in the survey said that they agreed with the plan.

The poll, conducted on Nov. 15 and Nov. 16, found that 89.4 percent of respondents supported the GIO's plan to ask Internet content providers to rate their content and label restricted Web sites accordingly.

Eighty-five percent voiced their support for the policy to encourage parents to set up pass codes on home computers to block child-ren from viewing pornographic material. The survey also found that 83.6 percent of the respondents approved of the GIO's policy of asking vendors to wrap R-rated publications and CDs in plastic and sell them in special sections.

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