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(Frequently Asked Questions)

SafeSurf: The Basics   SafeSurf Rating Standard   Government Censorship
MS Internet Explorer Questions   How to Rate Your Site

SafeSurf: The Basics

Why was SafeSurf started?

SafeSurf was founded in 1995, out of concern for children accessing adult material and the potential trauma associated with early exposure to pornography.  Governmental censorship as a response to the issue was also a major concern.

What are SafeSurf's basic principles?

We believe that standards must be implemented in cyberspace.  Children should be protected on the Internet, however parents should have the choice to raise children as they see fit and define the word "indecent" for themselves. The online community is made up of many diverse cultures from around the world.  Obviously, opinions will differ on levels of acceptable material. Parental choice is really the only answer to this problem.  The only way we will be able to achieve freedom of choice by parents is to implement an Internet-wide rating standard.

Does SafeSurf have software?

SafeSurf has recently launched the
SafeSurf Internet Filtering Solution for schools, libraries, ISP's and corporations.  Our solution is a server solution, which means that the software is not installed at the end user's computer, but at the ISP level to avoid tampering.  In addition SafeSurf offers its assistance to help all of the filtering software companies produce better products and encourages them to support the SafeSurf Rating Standard.

What are SafeSurf's Main Goals?

Our main goals are to employ the SafeSurf Rating Standard on the Internet, while assisting and supporting parents in protecting their children.

How to Rate with SafeSurf

How do we rate our site?

It's very simple to rate your site, simply visit the
SafeSurf Rating Form.  Fill out this easy-to-rate form for your content and then hit the "Generate Rating" button.  A web page is returned to you with your rating and instructions on how to put it in your web site, and a copy is also emailed to you.

After I rate my site, can I use the SafeSurf logo?

After you rate your site, you may visit the logo page and download the SafeSurf Rated Logo of your choice.  One of our staff will come by your site to verify your rating.

Do I have to rate every web site I publish?

One of the first selections on the form is "This Rating is for an individual site or an entire directory".  You may rate your entire directory, which will cover all of the web pages under that directory.  If you have one or two pages with a different rating, you may go back and rate them differently, the individual page ratings override the directory ratings for this purpose.

What do I do about links on my web site?

We understand that webmasters are only responsible for their own content on their site and that they cannot ensure that their linked sites are rated.  We encourage webmasters to rate, and to contact sites they link to and ask them to also rate themselves. However, if a site is serving as a portal to an adult site/gambling site, it must rate itself as such.

Can I put more than one Rating META tag rating on my site?

Please put the SafeSurf META tag first.   The META tags do not effect each other, and you can use as many as you need in your web site.

SafeSurf Rating Standard

What is PICS? Is it a rating system?

PICS is not a rating system, but an Internet protocol to allow ratings to be transferred and understood across the Internet.  We founded the PICS (Platform for Internet Content Selection) effort along with 22 other top companies (Microsoft, Netscape, AT&T, etc.).  PICS support is now included in Internet software and browsers.  Basically, PICS allows content providers to rate their pages and parents to set passwords and levels for their children.  Then, PICS compliant software/browsers will read the settings and use the ratings to filter content that is not desired.

Microsoft Explorer utilizes The SafeSurf Rating Standard, what about Netscape?

Instructions on how to update Explorer to use our rating standard may be found on our web site. 
Click here for information on setting up Netscape's NetWatch program.

You mention that "severe legal penalties will be reserved for those sites containing adult material which entice children by coding themselves as child safe." - What type of penalties do you envision?

Severe legal penalties currently exist for anyone who sexually abuses children, or solicits minors, etc.  The same penalties can be applied to anyone who abuses the system to entice children to adult material.  Our system will demonstrate that cooperative self-regulation is a million times more effective that governmental censorship.  If the government should pass specific laws that are aimed directly at criminals who would abuse this system to hurt innocent children, we will support it wholeheartedly.

Wouldn't this system make it easier for adults to perform searches for particular strings in documents and find this material?

Our goal is to protect children and the rights of their parents.  We exist specifically to defend the innocence of each child.  We agree that our system will speed up searches for all material, however, the SafeSurf plan achieves its goal of protecting online children by encouraging information flow controlled by the parent.

Is the idea to classify sites as child safe or child oriented?

The goal is to get all sites to participate.  The code allows parents to make specific decisions on what kind a material that they want their child to download. The computer will interpret the code of SS~~000 1 as "General Information (the first two zeros) with No Adult Themes ( the third "0") with the mildest degree of 1".  This is 100% child safe for young children.  If the site would contain a occasional mild expletive such as "crap" it would be rated as SS~~001 1 which the computer would translate as "General Information with No Adult Themes includes Profanity with a degree of 1.  We stress that these codes are designed to be interpreted by the computer as they are encoded.  By using the computer to do the translating, we can build a system that is both very detailed, but is simple to understand by the end users.  The SafeSurf Rating system is very extensive because we wanted to make sure that Internet surfers have the freedom of choice.

In regards to your rating standard categories, making groups "seperate but equal" doesn't really help the matter much. It's still suggesting that homosexuals are somehow different, when in fact they are not.  Why not simply have "Adult themed" vs. "non-adult themed" and leave it at that?

Unless we begin to classify information precisely, the Internet will become a blob of meaningless confusion.  We want the resources and information of all communities to be easily accessible.  We believe that there are people in the world interested in either more or less information on sexual issues, chat rooms, magazines, etc.  By enabling one parent who is not interested to filter this information out, we enable another parent to specifically include this type of information.  Choice is what it is all about.  By grouping everything together, we take the choice away from everyone.  We are in no way stating that one group is right or wrong, good or bad, but that they contain different types of resources and information, and should be classified per those differences.

What has the response to the rating standard been like?

It appears that the Internet was waiting for a voluntarily rating system that was easy to implement and would protect online children in a way that made sense.  We continue to receive e-mail from all across the world voicing support for the SafeSurf Rating System.  The number of rated Web sites continues to grow and some search engines are now only listing rated sites.

Government Censorship

Why do you believe censorship is not a solution?

Censorship does not protect children.  Instead, it instills in all, a fear of information.  It can, has, and will be used as a tool of the government to harass anyone it feels is not cooperating with its master vision. Censorship occurs when a government does not care to listen to reason.  It is an uninformed, panicked and over-broad response when a well-reasoned specific solution is needed.  Only those messages that the government decides are "indecent" are controlled, while children continue to have full access to sites that individual parents may consider "indecent" or even dangerous.  You see, censorship cares nothing for your opinion, only for groups with political clout.  Censorship takes all and gives very little in return.

What do you think is the best way of getting support from legislators who broadly have no idea of the Internet except that it is a system for exchanging porn. How can we educate them or reassure them?

Legislators like many other people are convinced by action instead of talk.  Our goal is to get enough sites coded so that a safe cyber-playground for our children is in existence.  Proof that the Internet community will implement solutions on its own can convince them of alternative solutions to censorship.

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