European Parliament wants better age verification websites

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The European Parliament voted in favor of the Safer Internet program on Wednesday. 55 million euros is being earmarked to protect children online, including better age verification through websites.

One of the to introduce to protect children from content that is not intended for their eyes is to promote the use of age verification by sites. Currently, this is often done simply by asking whether the visitor is already 18. According to the proposers of the proposal, this is not sufficient. However, a better system has yet to be developed; a forthcoming round of consultations will have to show how things should be structured.

Wim Bekker, director of Nicam and as such involved in the Pegi age rating system for online games, thinks it will be difficult to achieve an efficient verification system: “There are all kinds of ethical and technical snags.”

In any case, the European Commission welcomes Parliament’s support for its proposal, which saw the light of day in February this year. “Today’s children and young people face new challenges when using Web 2.0 services. The EU wants to protect children and will coordinate actions to make them more resilient,” said Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media.

The new program follows an earlier Safer Internet initiative, launched in 2005, and will focus more on Web 2.0 applications such as social networking. The new version of the project is expected to be approved by the European Council by the end of this year, after which it could start in 2009. The program has a duration of five years.

The Safer Internet program aims to make children, parents and teachers aware of the risks associated with using the Internet. The focus should be on children under the age of ten, as they increasingly use mobile phones and the internet. In addition, national information and reporting points will be set up to which Europeans can especially report reports of child pornography and online child molesters.

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