opinion

Another Look at Labeling

Stephen Yagielowicz
It’s a subject that I’ve written about many times before; the need for all responsible operators of adult websites to properly label their sites as a means of preventing access to adult materials by those that are either legally or otherwise prohibited from viewing adult content or by those that do not wish to view this material.

I mention it again today because despite the number of years this has been an issue and despite the number of times the subject has come up – everywhere from adult webmaster message boards to the U.S. Senate – it seems some of you still don’t get it.

I find this dismaying and as evidence point to a recent XBIZ poll where I asked readers: “Do you label your adult websites with an ICRA or RTA tag?” While 45 percent of you said that yes, you did label your sites, 13 percent said “no” and a whopping 42 percent remarkably answered “What's that?”

These figures only represent the answers of respondents, however, and do not point out the true numbers, which according to one recent survey revealed that less than 15 percent of adult websites were actually labeled.

The short-course for those that don’t understand what a website label is, is that it’s a piece of code added to a webpage’s HTML that lets user-agents such as software filters ascertain the acceptability of that webpage’s content. In practice, this self-regulatory action allows responsible parents to prevent their children from viewing potentially harmful materials on their home computers. Likewise, schools and libraries also make use of filtering technology to limit access to “unacceptable” sites. As a side note, the “label” is NOT the little logo graphic you might place on your site in support of these organizations.

While much criticism is aimed at filtering technology because “it blocks legitimate sites” that argument dissipates when the facts are presented: if all website operators labeled their sites, then filters would be 100 percent reliable; especially given the fact that labels not only “black list” sites, but can be used to “white list” them as well.

There are two main labeling systems with which adult site operators should be familiar with; ICRA and RTA. ICRA, an acronym for “Internet Content Rating Association” is the online industry’s follow up to the original RSACi system. Its advantage is that it is extremely “granular” in its rating system, measuring many parameters and providing a high degree of control over a website’s rating; allowing, for example, sites that deal with extreme violence to be blocked while allowing sites that feature tobacco use to be “ok.”

The RTA or “Restricted To Adults” tag, on the other hand, is a product of the online adult entertainment industry and is a simple means of blocking a site outright; offering only one level of rating, “Restricted To Adults.”

Both systems are free and easy to use. What may not be “free” is your choice of whether or not to use one or another (or both) as U.S. lawmakers are looking at ways to legally require labels on adult sites.

Hopefully now, some of you may better understand what labeling is and why it’s really important for you to do the right thing. Maybe if I run the same poll next year, the results will show a higher degree of knowledge and responsibility on the part of this industry.

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