Cell phone companies act to protect kids

European initiative moves to curb porn, grooming

LONDON — A group of Europe’s leading mobile operators signed an agreement in Brussels Tuesday aimed at protecting children using cell phones.

As part of the agreement, brokered by the EU’s Information Society and Media Commission, the signatories have until Feb. 8, 2008 to draw up a set of national self-regulatory codes.

The EC will monitor their effectiveness after 12 months.

Under the accord, the mobile operators agreed to support access control for adult content, awareness-raising campaigns for parents and children, the classification of commercial content and the fight against illegal content.

The Commission said the accord was born out of a public consultation last year on safer mobile use.

Cell phone-related risks for minors identified during the consultation included sexual grooming, access to adult content and the so-called “happy slapping” craze, where a violent assault is captured on a cell phone camera.

Signatories of the accord comprised Bouygues Telecom, Cosmote, Dobitel, Deutsche Telekom, Go Mobile, Hutchison 3G Europe, Jamba!, Mobile Entertainment Forum, Orange Group, Royal KPN, SFR, Telecom Italia, Telefonica Moviles, Telenor, TeliaSonera and Vodafone.

The agreement was announced on the EC’s related “Safer Internet Day.”

The event, also spearheaded by the Information Society and Media Commission, was focused on protecting minors in a digital age.

“The Internet offers tremendous opportunities to all. But many remain unaware of its darker side, from child pornography to sexual grooming online by pedophiles,” commented media commissioner Viviane Reding.

Some 100 orgs in 40 countries marked the day with events showcasing existing safer Internet practices in the both the private and public sector, from filtering technologies to school-based awareness raising campaigns.

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