Telecoms vow to screen phone porn, violence

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AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands -- Europe's leading telecom operators agreed Tuesday to protect children from pornography and violence over their mobile phones. Vodafone, Orange, Deutsche Telekom, Telecom Italia, Hutchison Europe, Telefonica and others said they will help control access to adult material, support awareness campaigns and cooperate with authorities on classifying content according to standards of decency and appropriateness.

With so much expectation about mobile content, the support of operators in developing self-regulatory codes -- and helping parents customize their children's access to content on phones -- could build vital consumer confidence in cell phones as an entertainment medium.

"This agreement is an important step forward for child safety," said European Union Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding, who helped broker the agreement. "It shows that responsible self-regulation can work at a European level."

EC officials say the commitment to filter violent, pornographic and abusive content -- as well as spam and fraud -- is significantly more robust than that of Internet providers and cable operators, who have long resisted attempts to screen their content. Ironically, the agreement came during the fourth "Safer Internet" day.

The 23 operators, content providers and organizations that signed the agreement will work toward self-regulatory codes in their countries by next February. Reding indicated that self-regulation is a better way to protect children as it is more likely to keep up with the pace of soaring phone use and technological changes than conventional regulation, which is slow to formulate.

In such countries as Latvia, Lithuania and Greece, more children own mobile phones than have Internet access. In Germany, Italy and Poland more than 90% of teenagers own mobile phones

In the U.K., 14% of children have been victims of bullying by mobile.

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