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Singapore Net Advisory Committee Discusses Content Self-Reg

The Singapore Broadcasting Authority's (SBA) National Internet Advisory Committee (NIAC) met recently in response to calls from local parents who expressed fears of their children seeing offensive content on the Web.

The agenda of the meeting was to discuss Singapore's position as a hub for the creation of Web content in Asia and the implementation of a self-regulating content rating system, RSACi, that is supposedly adopted in a few countries as the world's standard.

The committee expressed a desire to receive local content developers' feedback on how effective such a rating system, provided by Internet Explorer's preferences and applications such as CyberPatrol, would be and whether they would adopt the rating system.

NIAC would also like developer wish lists regarding support from the government in order to make Singapore a haven for hosting and developing content.

"My own opinion about the rating system, which I voiced to the SBA, is that it is a futile exercise because those people who would have no offensive content would be glad to adopt it -- but it would be of no consequence," said Josh Sklar, creative director of Expanded Media Asia Pte Ltd, who is also the chairman of the Asian New Media Association (ANMA).

The ANMA started last year as an Asian version of the the New York New Media Association (NYNMA), a not-for-profit industry association to support and promote the new media industry. ANMA's members work in diverse fields such as broadcasting and publishing, Web site development, design, entertainment, education, and professional and financial services.

"It gives parents a false sense of security that their kids will be free from inappropriate content when there is no regulatory body making sure the ratings are accurate," he said.

He said that education is important since most kids know more about setting preferences on the computer than their parents.

The SBA responded to local parents' concerns by suggesting the RSACi system, fearing that if they do not implement a self-regulation system, one would be forced upon by the local government.

"If the government did try and enforce their own regulations, they would see people fleeing Singapore and hosting their sites in other more liberal countries. Editors would be in Hong Kong or Australia," said Sklar.

The NIAC was appointed by the Ministry of Information and the Arts in August 1996. The Committee advises SBA on the regulation of electronic information services and the development of the industry. It also assists SBA in developing a regulatory framework for the Internet in Singapore.