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Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
1 General Information about ICRA1.1 What is ICRA?
The Internet Content Rating Association is an independent, non-profit organization established in the Spring of 1999 by a group of leading international internet companies and associations. ICRA’s mission is to develop, implement and manage an internationally acceptable voluntary self-rating system which provides internet users world wide with the choice to limit access to content they consider harmful, especially to children.
The ICRA labelling system builds on the pre-existing RSACi system and is the result of an extensive international consultation exercise involving senior industry figures and academics.
ICRA has a small staff based at offices in both the U.S. and Europe.
The initials stand for The Recreational Software Advisory Council on the internet. RSAC was the original independent, non-profit organization based in Washington, DC. Its remit was to empower the public, especially parents, to make informed decisions about electronic media by means of an open, objective, content advisory system. The RSACi system provided consumers with information about the level of sex, nudity, violence, offensive language (vulgar or hate-motivated) in software games and websites. The RSACi system was integrated into Microsoft's Internet Explorer, MicroSystem's Cyber Patrol Software and Netscape Navigator.
RSAC was formally folded into ICRA in Spring 1999 and its system wound up with the launch of the ICRA labelling system in December 2000. The new ICRA system is backwards compatible with RSACi!
2 Information for internet users2.1 How do I use the ICRA system?
Below is a current list of filters available that use, or can be configured to use the ICRA system:
In filters that use the ICRA system there is an option to not allow access to sites which carry no rating (are unlabelled). This can be overridden by entering a password.
In ICRAfilter, under the Security tab, below the override password change section, you can choose to make the filter more strict or less strict. The filter refers to this setting when the site being accessed is not on any block or allow list and has no ICRA content label. Therefore the filter has no information about the site.
If you choose the less strict option, the filter will allow access. If you choose the more strict option, it will block. It is recommended that unless you have installed templates that carry significantly long allow lists that you select the less strict option.
In Internet Explorer (4.0 and above) click [Tools] > [Internet Options], then select the [Content] Tab. In the Content Advisor section click settings and enter your password. Now click the [General] tab. Make your selections and apply the changes. Note Internet Explorer's Content Advisor will not block access to sites already visited. To avoid this, you should delete your Temporary Internet Files. To do this, again click [Tools] > [Internet Options]. Half way down is the button to [Delete Files].
Microsoft's Internet Explorer (version 4.0+) also includes an Approved Sites list. This allows you to specify sites to which you want to grant or deny access, irrespective of whether or not they carry an ICRA label.
For a step by step guide to these functions, please click here. This link takes you to a section of the main "installing ICRA in Internet Explorer" page which includes a lot of graphics. Please wait while it loads.
Despite what you might think, The Internet Content Rating Association does not rate internet sites - the web authors use our system to rate and label their own sites. ICRA is not a censor and makes no value judgements about any site. Our system allows web authors to add an objective, descriptive label to their site - you the user make the value judgement as to whether or not to allow access to such sites. Since carrying an ICRA label is voluntary, naturally not all sites do so. However, a great many do as they support our view that voluntary labelling is the best way to protect minors from potentially offensive material and to protect free speech on the internet.
Why does any web author bother to label their site? Let's take the two extremes:
So what's to stop a web master mislabelling their site? It does happen, but it is extremely rare - there is no gain for anyone, least of all the web master. If you do come across such a site, please let us know by sending an e-mail to . We will do our best to contact the site's operators and seek either changes to or the removal of the label. You might also like to block access to it. See FAQ 2.2 for details of how to customize Internet Explorer.
If you come across material which you think might actually be illegal, such as child pornography, then there are other organizations around the world to which you can refer the site. One key issue is where the site is hosted. If you believe the site may be hosted in the US, a good first point of contact is the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. For European jurisdictions, start by visiting INHOPE (the association of European internet hotline providers).
Before contacting any of these organizations, please bear in mind that "offensive" does not equal illegal!
Unfortunately, because this is a security issue, you will need to follow regular support options with Microsoft Support. Unfortunately ICRA is not able to provide support for forgotten or unknown passwords.
There is a known bug which can cause Content Advisor to activate itself without your having set a password. This eventuality is handled in FAQ 2.7.
2.5 How do I change my Content Advisor password?
IE4+ - Assuming the system is working properly: In your IE4+ menu bar select [Tools] > [Internet Options], then click on the [Content] tab.
In the Content Advisor section select 'Disable' and, when prompted, enter the password you originally set when you configured the filtering, then press [Enter]. The button you clicked to Disable will now read Enable. Click [OK] to close the window; then restart Internet Explorer.
If Internet Explorer's Content Advisor has "enabled itself" - that is, neither you nor any other user have enabled it deliberately, please look now at FAQ 2.7.
2.7 Content Advisor has enabled itself and assigned itself a password;
As you can see, a lot of symptoms stem from one problem. The core problem is that a file called ratings.pol becomes corrupted. This happens through no fault of the user whatsoever. Microsoft are aware of it! Their official advice is reproduced below, with the more conclusive tips from ICRA to follow.
Please note, this advice applies to all versions of Windows EXCEPT WINDOWS 2000 and WINDOWS XP. If you are running Windows 2000 or XP, the advice below does not apply and you should contact Microsoft Support directly.
1. Quit Internet Explorer.
2. Check your Windows\System folder to see if a Ratings.pol file exists.
NOTE: You must be able to view hidden files to view the Ratings.pol file. To view hidden files in My Computer or Windows Explorer, click Folder Options on the View menu in My Computer or Windows Explorer, click the View tab, click Show All Files, and then click OK.
There may not be a Ratings.pol file in the Windows\System folder. If there is no Ratings.pol file, skip to step 3. If there is a Ratings.pol file, rename it to Ratings.old.
For information about renaming files, click Start, click Help, click the Index tab, type renaming, and then double-click the "Renaming Files" topic.
3. Start Internet Explorer, click Cancel to close the error message, and then click Internet Options on the Tools menu.
4. Click the Content tab, and then click Settings in the Content Advisor area.
5. Type the Supervisor password, and then click OK.
NOTE: If you do not know or have forgotten the Supervisor password, please contact Microsoft Product Support Services for assistance. For information about how to contact Microsoft Product Support Services, please visit the following Microsoft Web site: http://support.microsoft.com/support/contact/default.asp.
6. Choose the ratings options that meet your needs, and then click OK.
When you restart Internet Explorer, the changes take effect.
There are also a couple of Microsoft support pages which address specific error messages as follows:
All these support pages give essentially the same information, and 9 times out of 10, it works very well. However, this is not always the case, so we have produced two step by step guides which go into more detail. Windows 9x and NT users should click here. Windows ME users should click here. These pages include a lot of images so please be patient while they download.
Content Advisor in Internet Explorer makes use of a file called icra.rat (or rsaci.rat if you haven't upgraded your browser to the latest ICRA filtering system). You can only see these files if you have set Windows Explorer to show all files. (To do this, launch Windows Explorer, select [view] from the menu, then [Folder Options]. This opens a dialogue box. Click [View]. 7 lines down is the option to "Show all files". Make sure this is selected and click [OK] at the bottom of the dialogue box.
Unlike the related ratings.pol file, icra.rat and Rsaci.rat files are not regenerated by Internet Explorer. If there are no *.rat files on your system, the recommended procedure is to reinstall Internet Explorer, but this is only because the presumption is that if the *.rat files are missing, there may be other problems. If you want to reinstall Internet Explorer, you can download the latest version by clicking the "Get Internet Explorer" button.
Alternatively, if you are sure that the missing *.rat file is the only cause of the problem, you can download a copy of icra.rat here. This is the only *.rat file you need since the new ICRA system is backwards compatible with the old RSACi one. But if you would like a copy of Rsaci.rat, you can download it here. Save it(them) in the C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM folder.
If you haven't done so already, now is the time to upgrade to the new ICRA filtering system. Click here for a full walk through. This page contains a lot of images so please be patient while it loads.
NB. This section has been substantially revised
3.1 I've got my ICRA label. How do I apply it to my site?
If you work on a large, multi-server site, please read the text in this box first!
The quickest and best way to label a site is to configure your server(s) to include labels in HTTP headers. To do this, you must have direct access to the server software itself. This will normally only be the case if you or your company owns your server hardware or is using a dedicated server which you access through a VPN. If this applies to you, please click here for a different set of instructions than those given below.
If you don't have direct access to your server, (it's hosted by an ISP along with many other people's) the following details will apply to you.
If you're not sure, please click here.
The information below is almost certainly the information you need
Adding the ICRA label to your site is a straightforward process. If you can copy and paste text in a word processor, you can add an ICRA label to your site! Just copy and paste the label into the <HEAD> section of the HTML source code for the relevant page and then if you so choose, you can add the "Labelled with ICRA" logo or a suitable text link. Click here for an explanation of the basic procedure. A number of issues can arise however. Here are some of the more common ones:
Whether you add the meta tag to one location, several key locations or every page depends on the structure of your site and the way visitors come to you. The safest way to label a site is to include the meta tag in every page. You probably have a template for your pages? if so, add the ICRA meta tag to that and you won't have to think about it again. The key pages to label are the default (index) file in the root directory and other main entry points to your site. If just about every visitor to your site is going to first enter via the home page, then OK, one label is enough. If visitors are as likely to enter via one page as another, then you need to label them all. The flow chart in FAQ 3.4 explains the reasoning behind this and is well worth looking at.
OK, on to the basic instructions
Step 1. Assuming you are labelling a whole site, copy and paste the label (the meta tag) into the HTML of the default page in your root directory. This is usually, although not always, called index.html. This is the first file that is served when a browser visits www.yourdomain.com. Insert the label on a new line between <head> and </head>.
Repeat this as required following the advice given briefly above and in more detail in FAQ 3.4.
Step 2. If you so choose, you can add a logo button or a text link to your site which declares that you have labelled your site with ICRA. A variety of buttons has been produced to take account of the enormous diversity of web sites... and the fact that in the US, "Labelled" is spelt with a single "l"! Please click here to see the various options. Please (right click and) save the logo of your choice to your hard drive and incorporate it into your site as you would any other image. Please link the button or three words of text "Labelled with ICRA" to "https://icra.org/labelv02.html". NB: that's zero two, not oh two!
Please DO NOT use words like "approved by ICRA" or "rated by ICRA." The Internet Content Rating Association does NOT approve or disapprove of any site, neither do we rate sites. We provide a platform for web masters to label their own sites according to our rating system.
<a href="https://icra.org/labelv02.html" target="_blank">
The target="_blank" term means that the page will be displayed in a new window, so users don't have to leave your site.
As an alternative, you might just like to add a text link. Many sites have some sort of "small print" link at the bottom of the home page, perhaps to a privacy statement. You could add a "Labelled with ICRA" text link in similar fashion. An example might be:
<a href="/labelv02.html" target="_blank">
By far the simplest thing to do is just to generate a new copy. There is no longer any need to consult the ICRA database as was the case until June 2002. Click here to go to the label generator.
NB. The old RSACi database is no longer in operation.
Just visit the label generator and get a new label. There is no longer any need to consult the ICRA database as was the case until June 2002.
In the ideal world, we could give you a single answer to this question. Unfortunately the answer is a little more complex as each filter that we have tested reads the labels slightly differently. ICRA is working hard to ensure a more consistent approach! At the time of writing (March 2002) there are two key applications that can read ICRA labels effectively: ICRAfilter and Microsoft Internet Explorer's Content Advisor. However, there are important differences in the way in which these two filters work.
The flow chart below shows how a filter should read, cache and interpret PICS labels in accordance with the W3C specification (see http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/PICS/).
We are in discussion with a number of software developers and filter providers who are working on new or updated solutions. During these discussion we are emphasizing the importance of a consistent approach to label reading in line with this diagram.
NB. The term "gen true" is defined and discussed in FAQ 3.5.
This is how ICRAfilter reads and interprets labels. MSIE Content Advisor follows a similar pattern with two very significant differences:
Some key factors come out of this: