Home Office group calls for chatroom moderation guide



A UK Internet taskforce is calling for the introduction of a chatroom moderation rating system, in response to the recent furore over MSN's closure of its UK chatrooms.

The Home Office sub-group is initially drawing up a code of practice for chatroom moderation, to establish a voluntary set of standards for the UK Internet industry.

The guidelines will explain the difference between professional human moderation and software filters, and encourage chat service providers to be transparent about the moderation methods they use.

'Moderation covers a multitude of sins that can mean anything from running software to blocking keywords, to police-checked and trained staff sitting one per chatroom,' said John Carr, Internet consultant at NCH Action for Children, who also sits on the Home Office Internet taskforce. 'The first task is to reach some definition of the differing standards.'

But the taskforce will also be petitioning for a Government-approved kite-marking system, to raise public awareness about moderation. 'We would like to get a gold-star standard in place, but it will be contentious and we're not sure we'll get Government approval,' said Carr.

Robert Marcus, founding director of professional moderation company Chat Moderators, claimed moderation standards are urgently needed to define the safety standards that members of the public can expect from chatrooms. 'The lack of standards creates a problem for the brands that do invest in moderation, as they have no way of differentiating themselves from software filters,' he said.

The issue of moderation came to a head last month when MSN closed all of its UK chatrooms in a bid to halt paedophile activity. Industry experts believe this will make life harder for ISPs that continue to offer moderated chat and will force other providers to take moderation more seriously.


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