Mobile Content Rating System: Not Just Complex, But Mostly Useless Too!
By Mike Masnick, Tue Feb 08 23:30:00 GMT 2005

In the ongoing effort by mobile operators to stop kids from accessing info they shouldn't see via mobile phones, there's a new content rating system that sounds both complex and mostly useless in one shot.

Mobile operators have a huge love-hate affair with porn. They realize that it could actually help drive mobile data revenue, but any accusation that they're helping kids access porn creates a public relations disaster. Last year there were a few attempts to automate the blocking of all "adult" material unless a subscriber specifically applied to see adult content. Unfortunately, most of these attempts failed pretty miserably when the filters were set to be too aggressive, blocking out plenty of legitimate content, such as certain news sites and email accounts.

The latest attempt to solve this issue is to hope that content providers will take on the responsibility of tagging their own content for the sake of filters, leading to a mobile content rating system similar to rating systems found on movies and video games. Unfortunately, it looks like the classifications are unnecessarily complex, with eight different categories under which content can be classified as "adult," but no clear rules on what matters in what situation.

However, no matter how vague or complex the rules may be, they still might not matter at all. The rules only apply to walled garden mobile content, not general mobile Internet access, which is what people are increasingly expecting to get access to from their handsets. In other words, if people are really looking for that type of content, they're simply going to bypass the walled garden altogether and go to the open Internet and get what they want.

Even more important, though, is that this whole debate still is based on the idea that people need broadcast content to jump onto the mobile data bandwagon. However, people are still buying phones to communicate with each other, not download broadcast content -- and it seems unlikely that these rules are going to apply to two people communicating with each other. All these rules are doing is making it more complex to actually offer broadcast style content while making it even less appealing to subscribers who aren't clear why they would want it in the first place.