Tools for Families
Voluntary Labeling & Rating Systems
PICS - Filtering by Web site ratings
Some filtering software "decides" what to block based on how a site is rated -- not entirely unlike the way parents use movie ratings. One popular technology, or platform, for labelling and rating Web sites is known as "PICS" ("Platform for Internet Content Selection"). PICS facilitates the creation of rating systems that put human vocabulary like "nudity," "sex," "violence," and "language" into a format that computers can read. A site might then be blocked based on its PICS label. Many different rating systems can be created using PICS.
Who decides how a site is rated? Many companies that produce Web sites voluntarily rate and label their sites. They provide information about their content that matches the rating system, for example if it includes sexual or violent material.
Recent versions of Web browsers -- Microsoft Internet Explorer (4.0 and higher) and Netscape Navigator (4.0 and higher) -- can "read" the PICS labels and filter out sites with ratings that parents want blocked. A number of other filtering and blocking tools described on this page include PICS-compatible labels as part of their systems.
PICS filtering systems:
- Entertainment Software Rating Board
- ICRA -- Internet Content Rating Association, formerly RSACi (Recreational Software Advisory Council on the Internet)
How to use PICS filtering systems:
- If you use Microsoft Internet Explorer (4.0 and higher).
- If you use Netscape Navigator (4.0 and higher).
For more information:
- The World Wide Web Consortium -- PICS FAQ