EP gets tough to protect kids


New rules designed to keep children from finding violent, racist or pornographic content on television and the Internet were agreed upon Tuesday by the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

The parliament backed a report drafted by French Euro-MP Marielle de Sarnez that targets all media. The Internet was the most urgently addressed, but traditional television and new technologies like mobile phones also are covered.

"This should ensure that the Internet remains an attractive means of communication, which is at the same time safer for the younger and more vulnerable members of society," de Sarnez said.

She added that the rules will make it easier to classify broadcasts or Web sites and could restore a degree of confidence in the use of television and the Internet.

"In a world of constantly developing technology and a completely open communications landscape, we need to protect the fundamental freedoms of users, in particular minors," she said. "This condition must be met if EU citizens are to feel safe using these new technologies."

The parliament reached an agreement with the EU's national governments and the European Commission to make it easier to lodge complaints or report with the relevant authorities about offensive broadcasts or harmful Web sites.

The Parliament also backed calls for the creation of a new top-level domain — titled .kid — which would contain content reserved for children and provide a secure Internet area regularly monitored by an independent authority.

Figures show that young people spend more time on the Internet now than watching television.

At the same time, there are about 260 million pages with pornographic content circulating on the Internet.

De Sarnez said that in some EU countries — including Ireland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark — statistics show that one young person in three who take part in discussion forums or chat rooms are subject to sexual advances.