Children & Child Protection

US FTC Report to Congress “Virtual Worlds and Kids: Mapping the Risks”

In 2009 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provided a report to the US congress titled “Virtual Worlds and Kids: Mapping the Risks”. The origin of the report was H.R. 1105 Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 which became Public Law No: 111-8 on 11 th March 2009 which directed the FTC to create a report and a consumer alert.

The focus of the report was the content that those logged into a virtual world might see in particular so called ‘explicit content’ which included both ‘sexually explicit’ and ‘violently explicit’ – defined as both visual imagery and textual content (which could include in-world chat). The report covered virtual worlds them selves and related content such as forums.

The report looked at 27 online services (some such as IMUV would not typically fall within the definition of virtual world), including virtual worlds targeted specifically at adults e.g. Second Life and Red Light Centre.

The report “found at least one instance of either sexually or violently explicit content in 19 of the 27 virtual worlds surveyed” (p i), but noted that “Significantly, almost all of the explicit content observed in the child-oriented worlds occurred when the Commission’s researchers were registered as teens or adults, not when registered as children. In addition, most of the explicit content observed was text-based and found in chat rooms, message boards, and discussion forums” (p i).

The summary of the report reads as follows (p iii):

“As a result of its study, the Commission suggests that virtual world operators make certain enhancements aimed at reducing the risk of youth exposure to “explicit content, including:

    • Ensuring that the age-screening mechanisms virtual world operators employ do not encourage underage registration;
    • Implementing or strengthening age-segregation techniques to help ensure that minors and adults interact only with their peers and view only age-appropriate material;
    • Re-examining the strength of language filters to ensure that such filters detect and eliminate communications that violate online virtual worlds’ conduct standards;
    • Providing greater guidance to community enforcers in online virtual worlds so that they are better equipped to: self-police virtual worlds by reviewing and rating online content; report the presence of potential underage users; and comment on users who otherwise appear to be violating a world’s terms of behavior; and,
    • Employing a staff of specially trained moderators whose presence is well known in- world and who are equipped to take swift action against conduct violations.

Given important First Amendment considerations, the Commission supports virtual world operators’ self-regulatory efforts to implement these recommendations.

In addition, the Commission recommends that parents and children alike become better educated about the benefits and risks of youth participation in online virtual worlds. The Com- mission is committed to ensuring that parents have the information they need to decide which online virtual worlds may be appropriate for their children.”

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China: Virtual (only) currency rule

On 29 June 2009 the Ministry of Commerce of The People’s Republic of China released a statement (see full text below) announcing that ‘China has unveiled the first official rule on the use of virtual currency in the trade of real goods and services to limit its possible impact on the real financial system.’

Rather than banning virtual currency, the regulation limited its application, the key being: ‘The virtual currency, which is converted into real money at a certain exchange rate, will only be allowed to trade in virtual goods and services provided by its issuer, not real goods and services. That is, virtual currency could be used in the context of a game but not as a substitute for hard currency.

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White Paper: Virtual Items and Public Policy

7 February 2011. Today the Virtual Policy Network has released a White Paper on Virtual Items and Public Policy. The Paper provides an overview of virtual items and virtual currency are – covering the spectrum from Xbox points to MMO characters. The paper defines what the key public policy interests are in virtual items, and provides a survey of the legal responses to issues involving virtual ‘goods’ from jurisdictions as diverse as China, Korea, Finland the US, citing a number of cases of virtual ‘theft’.

Released today as a .pdf under Creative Commons, the white paper will also be a living document held as part of the Virtual Policy Network’s database of resources. See the new Global Policy section of the site for details.

the Virtual Policy Network is looking for people to support this work, extend the number of countries covered and keep our database up to date with legislative changes impacting convergent media – if you would like to become an associate of tVPN or support our work in other ways please contact us at: info AT virtualpolicy DOT net.

Download Virtual Items and Public Policy (.pdf)

Internet Governance – A Brief Timeline

In this context the term ‘Internet Governance’ or IG as it is often termed denotes the on-going global discussion about how various aspects of the internet should be run and buy whom. There is no agreed scope of Internet Governance. Narrow interpretations suggest that it is confined to matters such as IP addresses, whereas wide interpretations suggest it should be a multi-stakeholder process and encompasses issues such as free speech and other Human Rights.

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US FTC: Report on access and content of virtual worlds

The H.R. 1105 Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 which became Public Law No: 111-8 on 11 th March 2009 states in the notes to  ‘DIVISION D-FINANCIAL SERVICES AND GENERAL GOVERNMENT APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2009′ the following:

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US FTC: Marketing of Violent Entertainment to Children

Since 2000 the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has provided reports to Congress on ‘Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children’. These report cover the Motion Picture, Music Recording and Electronic Game Industries.

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EU Kids Online

The EU Kids Online research network concluded their work with a one day conference in London on 11 June 2009. The network also published a Final Report provides a unique summary of EU-Based research on children online.

The Final Report and other resources can be found on the network website here: http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/EUKidsOnline/

Your attention is drawn in particular to the Online Database of European Research (Repository) collated by the network.

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CoE: Guidelines Protecting Human Rights on the Internet

In 2008 The Council of Europe released Guidelines for protecting human rights on the Internet. These comprised two documents:

The Guidelines seek to outline how these two industries can promote rights as defined in the “Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms” (in particular Article 10 – Freedom of expression) in the context of their customers and citizens generally.

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Virtual Policy ‘08: Kids & Virtual Spaces

Event: Virtual Policy ‘08
Session: Kids & Virtual Spaces
23 July 2008 11:30 – 12:30

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