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Original Internet Rating Standard
 

The SafeSurf Internet Rating Standard

Designed by and for parents to empower each family to make
informed decisions concerning accessibility of online content.
© 1995-2010 SafeSurf® Organization. All Rights Reserved.

PICS Version 3.0

The following is SafeSurf's System to protect children on the Internet.
It involves rating, classification, filtering and parental education.
It employ's the SafeSurf Wave™, SS~~®, as a certification mark.


The SafeSurf Rating Standard is a voluntary rating system designed to protect children, as well as the first amendment rights of their parents.  It was developed with input from thousands of parents and Net citizens, worldwide.

It's structure is different from other rating systems in several ways.  First, it is more detailed.  Second, its goal is to objectively describe both content and how that content is presented.  Third, it is the first system designed to allow those who self-rate and those who evaluate to have enough flexibility to reach an accord on a rating without compromising SafeSurf's purpose of protecting the innocence of children.

The Internet has the potential of containing content that is as complex and varied as the human mind.  There are no boundaries to the ideas that will be published.  There is also many ways to present the same concept.  A simple rating system can easily become a tool for censorship if it brands data as either "good" or "bad".

SafeSurf's detail insures that a self-rating publisher with a unique document has enough descriptors available to describe his content without branding it.  The detail also insures that documents are not unintentionally rated as having no adult themes.

The presentation of content involves a what, how and why.  SafeSurf's system enables these distinctions to be clearly specified and understood.  For example, nudity can be presented in a medical textbook or National Geographic Magazine, as classic work of art, as a playboy centerfold, engaged in sexual behavior, graphically engaged in alternative or illegal acts, or in a "live" simulated sex connection.  Simply measuring the degree of nudity is not enough.

The issue of "why" is also addressed in examining the balance of art, news or appeals to prurient interests.  News reports of war may contain very graphic displays, but the presentation style is clearly intended to inform rather than to appeal to prurient interests.  Artists and pornographers may use the same canvas but the "why" is completely different.  An artist attempts to communicate to the soul where the pornographer attempts to appeal to prurient interests.  SafeSurf's system was designed with enough detail to prevent artists from being put in the same category as pornographers.


Part Two: TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

Since the system is only employed when a person's computer is in use, the computer itself is used to keep track of all marks, and only translates information to the user as it is needed. Utilizing the computer's memory (instead of the user's) allows for a very complex classification standard.

The SafeSurf Identification Standard is recognized by the registered certification mark SS~~® (SS plus two tildes). This shall be referred to as the SafeSurf Wave. This will be followed by a group of 3 digits minimum a space and then a numeric value. The three digits identify the classification type (ranging from 0-9 then A-Z) and the number zero is required as place holder. The numeric value identifies the level and ranges from 1-9 for adult theme ratings and from 1-100 for other information classifications. (The level value can not be zero because this means the classification has no level or does not exist. In that case it would be better not to list it.)

PICS computability requires a space before the last digit.
SS~~000 1

The computer codes are converted into human readable ratings by the filtering software.

An example of the SafeSurf Wave in a World Wide Web HTML document in PICS format:

<META http-equiv="PICS-Label" content='(PICS-1.1 "http://www.classify.org/safesurf/" l r (SS~~000 1))'>

This Rating should appear before or within the <HEAD> section of a HTML document, prior to any images or sounds files being called:

<HTML>
<HEAD>
<META http-equiv="PICS-Label" content='(PICS-1.1 "http://www.classify.org/safesurf/" l r (SS~~000 1))'>
<TITLE> Your Document Title </TITLE>
</HEAD>

Specific filtering can be achieved in a simple manner by marking each individual HTML page. Again, once a complete document declares its rating every picture or sound file accessed by that HTML page will be considered to fall under the same rating. If a page should contain a link to another page, as is a common practice, the new page would be rated separately.

This allows a family mall site containing a book store to choose to deny access by minors to inappropriate sections of that store. The sections must be on a separate page to contain its own rating.

An entire directory can be rated with one command in the index.html page of that directory by using the PICS "generic true for" option along with the name of the directory. Suppose the site was sample.com and the sub-directory was called subdir.

The entire subdir directory of the site sample.com can be rated with a single META command in the index.html page of subdir, as follows:

<META http-equiv="PICS-Label" content='(PICS-1.1 "http://www.classify.org/safesurf/" labels generic true for "http://www.sample.com/subdir/" ratings (SS~~000 1))'>


SHORT FORM:
<META http-equiv="PICS-Label" content='(PICS-1.1 "http://www.classify.org/safesurf/" l gen t for "http://www.sample.com/subdir/" r (SS~~000 1))'>


Although it is possible under the PICS protocol to use the "generic true for" command to mark an entire site. It is advised that each directory contain its own rating in the index.html of that directory. Software encountering the "generic true" option in the index.html page of a directory would buffer the rating and apply it to all unmarked documents in the specified directory.

As mentioned earlier, users are not required to interpret the meaning of the characters following the SS~~ certification mark. The interpretation will be handled by the user's computer. To explain the intricacies of the standard, let's look at some basic marks as they would appear in a HTML document.

Discussion Example (label only): SS~~002 1

The digit group (002) is the name in computer terms of the category.

The SafeSurf SS~~ Rating Standard
Designed with input from thousands of parents and Net citizens to empower
each family to make informed decisions concerning accessibility of online content.
Copyright 1995 SafeSurf Organization. All Rights Reserved.

Section One: Adult Themes with Caution Levels

SS~~000. Age Range
1) All Ages
2) Older Children
3) Teens
4) Older Teens
5) Adult Supervision Recommended
6) Adults
7) Limited to Adults
8) Adults Only
9) Explicitly for Adults

Section One: Adult Themes with Caution Levels

SS~~001. Profanity
1) Subtle Innuendo
Subtly Implied through the use of Slang
2) Explicit Innuendo
Explicitly implied through the use of Slang
3) Technical Reference
Dictionary, encyclopedic, news, technical references
4) Non-Graphic-Artistic
Limited non-sexual expletives used in a artistic fashion
5) Graphic-Artistic
Non-sexual expletives used in a artistic fashion
6) Graphic
Limited use of expletives and obscene gestures
7) Detailed Graphic
Casual use of expletives and obscene gestures.
8) Explicit Vulgarity
Heavy use of vulgar language and obscene gestures. Unsupervised Chat Rooms.
9) Explicit and Crude
Saturated with crude sexual references and gestures. Unsupervised Chat Rooms.

SS~~002. Heterosexual Themes
1) Subtle Innuendo
Subtly Implied through the use of metaphor
2) Explicit Innuendo
Explicitly implied (not described) through the use of metaphor
3) Technical Reference
Dictionary, encyclopedic, news, medical references
4) Non-Graphic-Artistic
Limited metaphoric descriptions used in an artistic fashion
5) Graphic-Artistic
Metaphoric descriptions used in an artistic fashion
6) Graphic
Descriptions of intimate sexual acts
7) Detailed Graphic
Descriptions of intimate details of sexual acts
8) Explicitly Graphic or Inviting Participation
Explicit Descriptions of intimate details of sexual acts designed to arouse. Inviting interactive sexual participation. Unsupervised Sexual Chat Rooms or Newsgroups.
9) Explicit and Crude or Explicitly Inviting Participation
Profane Graphic Descriptions of intimate details of sexual acts designed to arouse. Inviting interactive sexual participation. Unsupervised Sexual Chat Rooms or Newsgroups.

SS~~003. Homosexual Themes
1) Subtle Innuendo
Subtly Implied through the use of metaphor
2) Explicit Innuendo
Explicitly implied (not described) through the use of metaphor
3) Technical Reference
Dictionary, encyclopedic, news, medical references
4) Non-Graphic-Artistic
Limited metaphoric descriptions used in an artistic fashion
5) Graphic-Artistic
Metaphoric descriptions used in an artistic fashion
6) Graphic
Descriptions of intimate sexual acts
7) Detailed Graphic
Descriptions of intimate details of sexual acts
8) Explicitly Graphic or Inviting Participation
Explicit descriptions of intimate details of sexual acts designed to arouse. Inviting interactive sexual participation. Unsupervised Sexual Chat Rooms or Newsgroups.
9) Explicit and Crude or Explicitly Inviting Participation
Profane Graphic Descriptions of intimate details of sexual acts designed to arouse. Inviting interactive sexual participation. Unsupervised Sexual Chat Rooms or Newsgroups.

SS~~004. Nudity
1) Subtle Innuendo
Subtly Implied through the use of composition, lighting, shaping, revealing clothing, etc.
2) Explicit Innuendo
Explicitly implied (not shown) through the use of composition, lighting, shaping or revealing clothing
3) Technical Reference
Dictionary, encyclopedic, news, medical references
4) Non-Graphic-Artistic
Classic works of art presented in public museums for family viewing
5) Graphic-Artistic
Artistically presented without full frontal nudity
6) Graphic
Artistically presented with frontal nudity
7) Detailed Graphic
Erotic frontal nudity
8) Explicit Vulgarity
Pornographic presentation, designed to appeal to prurient interests.
9) Explicit and Crude
Explicit pornographic presentation

SS~~005. Violence
1) Subtle Innuendo
2) Explicit Innuendo
3) Technical Reference
4) Non-Graphic-Artistic
5) Graphic-Artistic
6) Graphic
7) Detailed Graphic
8) Inviting Participation in Graphic Interactive Format
9) Encouraging Personal Participation, Weapon Making

SS~~007. Intolerance - (Intolerance of another person's racial, religious, or gender backround)
1) Subtle Innuendo
2) Explicit Innuendo
3) Technical Reference
4) Non-Graphic-Literary
5) Graphic-Literary
6) Graphic Discussions
7) Endorsing Hatred
8) Endorsing Violent or Hateful Action
9) Advocating Violent or Hateful Action

SS~~008. Glorifying Drug Use
1) Subtle Innuendo
2) Explicit Innuendo
3) Technical Reference
4) Non-Graphic-Artistic
5) Graphic-Artistic
6) Graphic
7) Detailed Graphic
8) Simulated Interactive Participation
9) Soliciting Personal Participation

SS~~009. Other Adult Themes
1) Subtle Innuendo
2) Explicit Innuendo
3) Technical Reference
4) Non-Graphic-Artistic
5) Graphic-Artistic
6) Graphic
7) Detailed Graphic
8) Explicit Vulgarity
9) Explicit and Crude


SS~~00A. Gambling
1) Subtle Innuendo
2) Explicit Innuendo
3) Technical Discussion
4) Non-Graphic-Artistic, Advertising
5) Graphic-Artistic, Advertising
6) Simulated Gambling
7) Real Life Gambling without Stakes
8) Encouraging Interactive Real Life Participation with Stakes
9) Providing Means with Stakes


The numeral order of the adult themes listed above is not intended to suggest any more or less caution be given to higher numbered themes. To avoid confusion with the Level of Parental Caution (described below), we advise software developers to present only the theme's description without mentioning its numerical position on the list.

The final number (1 in the example) is the Level of Parental Caution. It can range from 1 to 9. (As the standard is designed, the level can not equal zero because that would mean that the Adult was not present. If it is not present, we do not mention it. However, when creating user interface scales you may use zero to allow a parent to completely block access to a specific adult theme.) The mildest Level is number one and the most severe Level is nine.

If a site wants only to be visited by adults, as a matter of preference, it can use a Adult Theme Rating of zero with a Level of six or higher, even if it contains no adult themes.

A ideal child safe site would have an All Ages Rating (SS~~000 1) and contain No Adult Themes. This type of site would be considered to be inviting access by children.

Special layers of filtering for parents who wish to control their children's access to custom Caution levels are being provided, either by providers as an additional service or through third-party software products.

A site can contain several adult themes and identify them all. The following example demonstrates this feature.

<META http-equiv="PICS-Label" content='(PICS 1.0 "http://www.classify.org/safesurf/" l r (SS~~000 4 SS~~001 5 SS~~004 2 SS~~007 2 SS~~008 3))'>

This would be translated to mean that this Web page contains and Rating of Suitable for Older Teens, Profanity with a Caution level of 5, Nudity with a caution level of 2, Intolerance with a level of 2, and Drug Use with caution level of 3.

Recommendations and Examples

When a site uses a rating level of 1 or 2 to identify an adult theme, it should be declaring that the presentation of that adult theme is done in the most subtle form possible, or implied more than blatantly presented. For example, nudity could be implied as a silhouette or as shapes outlined through clothing.

Level three is reserved for pure information services like reference databases, dictionaries, CNN News or an AIDS awareness site. For example, sites publishing homosexuality references, such as discussions of psychological issues of coping and/or providing pride awareness could be rated with a level three.

The content that contains more explicit adult themes identified may begin at level four.

Levels four and five are for artistic presentations of the adult theme. A movie like the "Godfather" would clearly be rated a four or a five. A Playboy magazine artistic portrayal of a topless female is a level five, and a level six for full frontal nudity.

Level seven is for more graphic presentations of adult material. Magazines such as Hustler would fit into this group. Artistic value is minor or non-existent in the levels 7 and higher with the main purpose of the content meant to appeal to prurient interests. Adult sexual actions portrayed at a reasonable distance, so that the penetration is not graphically depicted as a close-up are a level seven.

Levels eight and nine are for sites that may bring the viewer into a simulated participatory position either through the use of shock value, very close-up detailed images of sexual contact, or "live" connections. The nature of the content or its presentation involves adult sexual actions graphically portrayed or is actively and graphically enabling adult sexual action.


(SafeSurf Wave™ and SS~~™ are trademarks or certification marks of SafeSurf™.)

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Copyright © 1994-2012 SafeSurf® All Rights Reserved.