The European Commission issued a press release today announcing that 28 tech companies had partnered with them in an effort to make the internet a safer place for Europe’s children. The Coalition of tech companies will focus on a set of five core goals, all designed to protect children from harmful content, and to increase parental awareness of and control over their kids’ online activities. See European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes's statement on YouTube below.
The companies of the coalition have all signed a statement of purpose listing five main areas of focus: simple and robust reporting tools that make it easy to flag content and contacts that may be harmful to kids, age-appropriate privacy settings that account for the varying needs of different age groups, a wider deployment of age rating information and an easy-to-understand rating system for content, broader availability of parental controls that are easy to use and understand, and the rapid and effective removal of material that directly exploits children.
The list of signatories for this statement of purpose reads like a who’s who of the tech world. Among the twenty-eight companies are Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, as well as Deutsche Telekom, Nintendo, RIM, and Opera Software. The coalition was formed in view of the fact that children are beginning to access the internet earlier and earlier - the average age at which a European child first goes online is now seven - and that they are doing so from a variety of devices, including mobile phones and tablets, as well as gaming consoles.
Several of the signatory companies issued their own statements to coincide with the one released by the EC. Facebook, Opera, and Nintendo all stressed the importance of keeping children safe online. The Opera statement notes that the first steps in the process of implementation will begin in 2012. Google voiced their support in a blog post, while pointing out some of the steps they have already implemented to make the internet a safer place. Microsoft emphasized the broad nature of the coalition - which includes hardware companies, software companies, content creators, service providers, and more. They gave special attention to the Coalition’s goal of reducing the amount material on the internet that depends on the exploitation and abuse of children.
What do you think of the European Commision’s efforts? Do we need something similar in the U.S.? Tell us in the comments.