Rating the Internet

Child-proofing the Web?


Britain's culture secretary, Andy Burnham, announced in December that he hopes to impose a ratings system for websites.

"If you look back at the people who created the Internet," Burnham told the London Telegraph, "they talked very deliberately about creating a space that governments couldn't reach." But now, after years of more sobering real-word experience, Burnham has a different point of view: "There is content that should just not be available to be viewed. That is my view. Absolutely categorical." He added, "This is not a campaign against free speech; far from it."

Burnham thinks that once everything on the Web has been rated for age appropriateness, Internet service providers should then be required to provide child-safe Web access. One model for such a policy: Australia, which is trying to create a national filter that blocks access to a wide range of online content. Early tests indicate that Australia's system is slowing down Internet access speeds by 20 percent to 70 percent.