Internet Content Rating Association
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ICRA, the Internet Content Rating Association, is an international non-profit organization with offices in the United States and the United Kingdom. Its mission is to help users find the content they want, to trust what they find and to filter out what they don't want for themselves or for their children. ICRA also acts as a forum through which both policy and technical infrastructure are defined to help shape the way that the World Wide Web and content distribution channels work.
ICRA has created a content description system which allows web masters and digital content creators to self-label their content in categories such as nudity, sex, language (vulgar terms etc.), violence, other potentially undesired material and chat. There are context variables such as art, medicine and news—for example, a piece of content or site can be described as having depictions of nudes, but they are in an artistic context. A key point is that ICRA does not rate internet content, nor do they make value judgments about sites – the content providers self-label, and then parents and other concerned adults make a decision as to what is or is not appropriate for themselves or their children.
The labeling is done using a web-based questionnaire. The content creators check which of the elements in the questionnaire are present or absent from their Web sites, and a small file is automatically generated using the RDF format, which is then linked to the content on one or more domains. Formerly, the system was based on PICS.
Users, especially parents of young children, can then use content filtering software to allow or disallow various types of content. One such application, ICRAplus, is maintained by ICRA itself. ICRA also has a validator which tests all versions of ICRA and old RSACi labels.
The descriptive vocabulary was drawn up by an international panel and designed to be as neutral and objective as possible. It was revised in 2005 to enable easier application to a wide range of digital content, not just websites.
New developments coming on stream include Quatro, an EU-funded project which will integrate content labels with quality and trust marks. ICRA also intends to launch a service to verify the accuracy of ICRA labels and to provide this information to third-party tools and services, such as search engines.
ICRA's corporate members include: AOL, British Telecom, Microsoft, T-Online and Verizon. ICRA has been supported by the European Union's Internet Action Plan and various trusts and foundations. Through the Associate Membership scheme, individuals can join and support the work of the organization.
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