Both industry leaders and legislators want to protect minors from harmful material on the Internet. Although their intentions are well-meaning, neither a rating system nor heavy-handed government regulation are viable solutions to the problem.
There are currently no safeguards effective to ensure that children will be protected from violent content on the Internet. The legislature is not the appropriate entity to regulate the content of constitutionally protected speech transmitted by users of this rapidly developing medium. A market-based system of decentralized regulation to avoid politically expedient government censorship will place as much control as possible in the hands of individual citizens.
The industry claims that voluntary self-regulation is the answer. But it is hard to imagine that this is a sufficient answer to the complicated dilemmas posed by this new medium.
PICS based voluntary rating systems in single countries are not viable alternatives to government censorship. Although the rating vocabulary is considered an industry favorite, it has flaws and is incapable of rating Internet content in a manner satisfactory to many content providers.
First of all, global efforts are essential to protect children from violent content. Early in 1999, a worldwide group of over 100 media and telecommunications companies launched an organization aimed at ensuring that the Internet is self-regulated on a global basis, rather than being left to national governments (McGuire, 1999).
The success of such efforts to avoid legislative regulation depends on the availability of an internationally standardized system for ratings and software that provides incentives for various companies and organizations to participate worldwide. And individuals should actively participate in the self-regulatory system.