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Eco to be ICRA representative in German speaking countries

Berlin 22nd July 2003

ECO Eco, the German Internet Service Provider's Association and the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA) have signed an agreement in Berlin that eco will now act as ICRA's point of presence in Germany and other German speaking countries. From today, eco is the contact point for German speaking webmasters, users and politicians for all enquiries about protecting children from potentially harmful content whilst preserving free speech on the internet using the ICRA system.

ICRA promotes the concept of self-labelling to provide youth protection on the Internet. Answering a questionnaire on topics like nudity, violence, language, tobacco or alcohol, the operator of a website describes the content of his/her website. These descriptions are embedded in the source code of the website and can be read by the ICRA software or any other software that is capable of understanding PICS labels.

The forthcoming ICRAplus software will help parents to allow access only to those websites that fit their own criteria. ICRA itself makes no comment or judgement about a site and is therefore not susceptible to allegations of censorship. This is a common criticism of filtering software based on block and allow lists and/or keywords. In addition, ICRA operates globally regardless of language or culture and is available free of charge both for webmasters and users - a fundamental advantage compared with commercial software.

ICRA is happy to see a steady increase in the number of labelled sites, particularly in Germany. However, the more webmasters label their sites with ICRA, the better the system works. Support in German will help to overcome any hesitancy of webmasters and the general public may have in using ICRA and help to make the system increasingly attractive.

eco's commitment is one action taken by the Internet industry to increase the chances of ICRA becoming "accredited youth protection software" under the new German legislation on youth protection in media JMStV, which came into force on 1st April 2003. Additionally, eco provides information on ICRA and the German legal context on its website, which cannot be found on the ICRA website. This source of information will be amended regularly following questions asked to the support centre.

"We are delighted to have eco as a point of presence in Germany to support ICRA's approach. We have been encouraged by the number of German organisations that have expressed an interest in creating filtering templates, some of which are already available. In a few days we will present new and improved filtering software that greatly improves upon the current system and that allows the usage of additional protection mechanisms. Having teamed up with eco, we are confident of offering the best possible service for webmasters and users," says Stephen Balkam, CEO of ICRA.

Harald Summa, Managing Director of eco adds: "We are sceptical of a lot of proposals made from time to time to create a child-friendly Internet ending at German borders. eco wants to provide a safer Internet combining multiple approaches, namely tackling illegal content where it originates and to empower users, especially parents, to set up their home computer in a way that protects children from accessing harmful material."

Balkam and Summa agree that there is no comprehensive cover insurance for the Internet. Everybody has to share the responsibility of making the Internet a safer place to be. ICRA is an important contribution towards this target.

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