Culture secretary mulls film-style ratings

The U.K. government is looking to impose tough restrictions on websites in the coming year .

Blighty’s culture secretary Andy Burnham said he intended to tighten controls on English-language websites and that he would negotiate with incoming U.S. president Barack Obama’s team to present a united front against indecency, violence, libel and copyright theft on the Web.

“The change of administration (in the U.S.) is a big moment. We have got a real opportunity to make common cause,” Burnham told U.K. newspaper the Daily Telegraph on Saturday. “The more we seek international solutions to this stuff — the U.K. and the U.S. working together — the more that an international norm will set an industry norm.”

The main focus would be to deliver a safer environment for children online, possibly through the introduction of a film-style rating system for websites, administered by Internet service providers.

“I think there is definitely a case for clearer standards online,” Burnham said. “More ability for parents to understand if their child is on a site what standards it is operating to. What are the protections that are in place?”

He said the freedoms hitherto enjoyed on the Internet may have to be constrained.

“If you look back at the people who created the Internet, they talked very deliberately about creating a space that governments couldn’t reach. I think we are having to revisit that stuff seriously now,” he said.

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