It's amazing that since its inception, the internet has remained more or less unregulated. While attempts have been made, most have been thwarted thanks in part to the first amendment and an overall sensitivity to censorship – at least in the United States.
However, change is in the air.
Britain's Desire to Police the Internet
Britain's Minister of Culture (a rather impressive title) wants to implement a ratings system in an effort to better police the internet and protect children from harmful and offensive material. He's taking his plea all the way to the US president-elect, in hopes of rallying for new international rules for English language websites.
While the specifications of such rules haven't been explicitly drafted, it is safe to assume that the internet and all its providers of content and service will be subject to the new standards.
Examples of regulations could include the mandate for internet service providers to offer services where the only sites accessible are those deemed suitable for children, or new industry-wide "take down times" so that websites like YouTube or Facebook would have to remove offensive or harmful content within a specified time once it is brought to their attention.
Will the US Get On Board the Regulation Train?
While this might be acceptable in Britain, where violent material cannot be broadcast on British television before 9 p.m., back in the US, any move to censor the Internet is likely to spark a heated debate about freedom of speech. And perhaps it's a cause that Mr. Obama would be less than inclined to fight in the midst of the stark economic crisis and all the other stuff going on in the world.
Internet Regulations - A Hot Topic for 2009
With the implementation of ratings for video games, television and motion pictures, web ratings are certainly not far behind. There has been increased support for more regulations via social networking sites and those that generate user content.
Yet, it's not entirely clear how sites would be rated and by whom they would be rated. There has been controversy over internet filters before, in schools, for instance. While filters may effectively block pornographic or sexually-explicit sites, they may also block other education and health-related sites.
Whatever the outcome, the broad accessibility of content on the web is expected to become a major issue in 2009.