European Law Monitor

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ELM News Imageaking the internet safer for children: Europe calls for determined action on "Safer Internet Day" 2007

Today, 100 organisations in over 40 countries worldwide celebrate Safer Internet Day. In the EU, across all 27 Member States conferences and campaigns showcase already existing safer internet activities of the private and the public sector, from filtering technologies to media literacy programmes. The purpose is to raise awareness – in particular at schools, among parents and teachers – about the best ways for protecting minors in an online environment of growing importance for our daily lives. Safer Internet Day is organised under the patronage of the Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding.

"The internet offers tremendous opportunities to all. But many remain unaware of its darker side, from child pornography to sexual grooming online by paedophiles," said Commissioner Reding. "Today, I am calling upon all decision-makers in the private and in the public sector to help make the internet a safer place also for the most vulnerable of our society. In today's digital age learning how to avoid online pitfalls is a valuable life skill that all young people need to know. For this purpose, we need to spread the message about safer internet use among teachers and parents as well as children themselves."

To mark Safer Internet Day, which takes place this year for the 4th time, the Commission publishes today the results of an assessment of 30 current filtering software and services. It shows that the market has good tools to filter pornography in common languages. However, improvements are needed for other types of harmful content. For example, when less obvious but equally harmful content is expressed in languages other than English, the assessment found that all of today's tools are inadequate. All products tested, without exception, got it wrong in more than one quarter of the cases.

Safer Internet events organised in the EU at national level include this year the following:

§ In Germany, visitors are being quizzed on their internet safety knowledge and video clips are being broadcast by over 10 TV stations and shown in over 250 cinemas;

§ In the Netherlands Princess Maxima is the special guest at an event featuring theatre, music and stories;

§ In Portugal a national contest for schools on safer internet use is being launched and awareness sessions are taking place in schools nationally;

§ In Luxembourg a week-long exhibition on safer internet use has been running in the shopping centre Belle Étoile;

§ In Bulgaria the results of a nationwide safer internet competition for school children are being presented, with the participation of around 1000 children;

§ In Slovenia, young people are showcasing art projects and Slovenian national television is broadcasting internet safety clips;

§ in the United Kingdom the conference 'Crossing Borders and Dissolving Boundaries' discusses the risks and opportunities associated with technology and social networking by children and young people.

One highlight organised worldwide to mark Safer Internet Day is the publication of the results of a competition to create internet safety awareness material, as part of a worldwide blogathon. The competition involved more than 200 schools in 29 countries, which teamed up to create safety material during the last three months. Entries in the competition addressed one of three themes: e-privacy, "netiquette", and the power of image.