Andrea-Marie Vassou
August 1, 2008

The industry must move to regulate the “dark side” of the internet according to a committee of MPs.

In its report Harmful Content On The Internet And In Video games, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee (CMSC) warned of the effects that violent images found on the internet. In particular it singled out YouTube for criticism.

It said both adults and children were at risk from harmful content; particularly those specific problems such as eating disorders or who are depressed. It was concerned by what it saw as “shocking” delays” in taking down images of child abuse.

“We are concerned that user-generated video content on sites such as YouTube does not carry any age classification, nor is there a watershed before which it cannot be shown,” it said in the report.

The Committee has called for a 9pm watershed with postings containing sex, bad language or violence to be blocked before this time. It also wants the introduction of a ‘one-click’ facility that will let people report clips and websites containing images of abuse directly to the police.

It wants to see an industry body set up to police social networking websites and adjudicate on complaints. However it short of calling for this to be a statutory body, arguing that its effectiveness would be limited as so many sites are based overseas.

It said leaving it to individual companies to introduce their own measures to protect users had resulted in an “unsatisfactory piecemeal approach which lacks consistency and transparency”.

However Google, which owns YouTube said: “We educate our community on the rules and include a direct link from every YouTube page to make this process as easy as possible for our users.

“Given the volume of content uploaded on our site, we think this is by far the most effective way to make sure that the tiny minority of videos that break the rules come down quickly.”

Andy Burnham, the Culture Secretary and the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) welcomed the report.

“We need urgently to find a consensus about the standards of the future, standards to help navigate this vast and rapidly evolving world if we are to protect young people,” said Mr Burnham.

ISPA, secretary-general Nicholas Lansman, said: “The internet industry, with ISPA at the forefront, has an excellent record of self-regulation and I look forward to working with industry, Government and end users to address the challenges identified in this report.”

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