@David Hicks, @michael & other stuff
> "So you want the government to publish a whitelist then, instead of another, commercial third party? That's basically what you're saying?"
Not really, though I suppose who makes the whitelist doen't much matter - reallistically, it has to be made by someone other than the parents and that means handing over the choice of what gets viewed to someone else. The main issue with whitelist vs. ratings is the degree of choice vs. the degree of protection - IMHO, whitelisting is more suitable for K-6 age kids while ratings are more suitable for high-school ages (and easily offended adults). And, as I think I said, they're not mutually exclusive.
> "there is the fall down as the internet spans the globe the legislation and penalties would have to be global as well ... <snip> ..."
Surprisingly, I'm already aware of that! :-)
I don't envisage in my wildest dreams that every country and every site would embrace an online ratings system, but most Western democracies could - and that's the bulk of internet content of interest to Western kids (or even adults). I suggest that a parent would default to a setting of "block all unrated content" (or tighten further to the age range of the kid in question), which would mean blocking content from countries/sites that don't participate ... save for deliberate spoofers, but with them, I propose treating them the same as illegal sites now - contact the appropriate law enforcement agency and request a takedown (or stop their ratings spoofing).
Site admins and/or content authors can make a conscious decision to leave their site unrated, meaning it won't be seen by clients (kids) who use the ratings system.
I don't see why "online age verification" would be needed - I see the role of the parent being to set the ratings limit on the kids computer or for that browsing session - of course, there needs to be a tool to make that easy, but we have that sort of thing already.
It's not perfect, but nothing will be. I stress I prefer no filtering at all and any such system should be opt-in, but at least a ratings system (if it can be made to work) can cut down a lot of the crap while maintaining better choice for older kids (or easily offended adults) with, IMHO, virtually no performance penalty.
I remain aware of the possibility of wedge politics, i.e. once a ratings system is introduced, a future government could tighten it at will. The only answer I have for that is to make sure that the right of adults to choose to view unrated content be made clear in any legislation. This is the main reason why I prefer no filtering.