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Keep children safe while browsing the internet

The EP Committee on Culture and Education and the Council have reached an agreement on actions to protect children from inappropriate content on the internet.

On Tuesday morning the Committee adopted without amendments a second reading report by Marielle De Sarnez, on a proposed recommendation on the protection of minors and human dignity, and the right of reply in relation to the competitiveness of the European audiovisual and information service industry. The internet has become one of the most popular means of communication among young people, who have access to it at school, in cybercafés and on third-generation mobile telephones.

As, for example, there are currently an estimated 260 million Internet pages containing pornographic content, it was considered urgently necessary for the European Union to propose a set of measures at European level to provide at least a minimum degree of protection for the most vulnerable and for minors. So the Committee welcomed a Commission proposal on the possible creation of a new top-level domain named ".KID.eu" (like .com or .org), with content designed for children. MEPs felt that the domain could provide a secure Internet area regularly monitored by an independent authority.

EU Member States are called upon to launch information campaigns to increase public awareness of the potential dangers of Internet and to distribute information packs concerning tips on "safe surfing", protective filter systems and the use of free hotlines to be introduced in each Member State for registering complaints or reporting harmful content. Ongoing training should be provided for teachers and educators concerning the use of internet and the dangers of online discussion groups such as forums and chatlines.

The Committee and Council also agree on the need to instil a greater sense of responsibility into those working in this sector, who should do everything possible to avoid any form of discrimination, prevent the circulation of illegal or harmful content, ensure that it can reported when this occurs and introduce a quality label for service providers. Finally, the proposal seeks to facilitate exercise of the right of reply in all online media, a system which already works satisfactorily in the written press and audiovisual services. Minimum guidelines should therefore be established at European level concerning exercise of the right of reply in respect of internet and mobile phones, it says. (EP-Press)