Public Papers


The various faces of harmful content

by Jutta Croll, Katharina Kunze

The third day of the IGF started with a workshop organised by the Dynamic Coalition on Child Safety set up at last year's IGF in Rio. It is the purpose of the Coalition to ensure an ongoing dialogue between the advocates of Freedom of Speech and those who fight for children's online safety. The members of the Coalition are convinced that child protection is not generally in contradiction with freedom of speech. At least all stakeholders agree to the need to protect children on the Internet, but there might be different positions regarding the means to achieve that goal.

It is essential for the debate to differentiate between the various types of harmful content for children. While pictures depicting sexual relations with real children are banned in nearly all countries of the world, in some countries those pictures showing drawings like Japanese mangas are allowed to be possessed and also to be distributed. Indeed it harms children when those pictures or videos are taken, and each time such a picture is watched it is another case of abuse that harms the child concerned.

Special attention should be given to content that is not illegal in general but might harm younger users. Facing age inappropriate content like adult pornography might especially harm younger children when exposed to it unintentionally. Also violent content can be harmful to children. The effect violent content has on the viewer largely depends on the age of the viewer and his habits of watching Internet content. Especially younger children should be protected from stumbling across violent content.

In general what is judged as harmful and what not might differ in countries worldwide, that makes it even harder to achieve the 'one and only solution' to protect children from harmful content. Within the Best Practice Forum organised by the European Commission the European approach was presented by the networks funded within the Safer Internet Programme: INSAFE, INHOPE; EU Kids online, eNACSO, CIRCAMP and the Youth Protection Roundtable. A lively discussion followed the presentations and especially participants from developing countries were interested in co-operation.

One of the afternoon sessions dealt with the future of online privacy, online advertisement and behavioural targeting. There also the question of inappropriate advertisement to children was raised; at the moment the only solution to tackle the problem seems to be policies of the service providers. Eventually, measures to advance protection of children from exploitation were discussed in another workshop. So the child protection advocates took the chance to have the stage for their topic at the 3rd day of the IGF and joint activities shall follow.

Please have a look at the reports from the first day and the second day from the Internet Governance Forum in Hyderabad.


Available on the website since December 05, 2008
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