The EC MIRACLE for Online Child Protection

Security threats and online protection is a subject close to our hearts and hence we have been looking at it from different angles on our blog. Today, however, we would like to talk about, well…a literal media content MIRACLE in the area of Online Child Protection we were fortunate enough to be part of. Intrigued? So were we!

Think a few years back, when the world was simpler and less digital. You wanted to buy a movie to entertain your child. You took one look at the visual age label on the DVD cover and got all the information you needed: A clear indication of whether the content was suitable for the age of your child.

Fast forward to today’s ever-connected world, where media content is distributed more and more via electronic networks. We, and thus also our children, access this content on one of our many electronic devices. And this is where the challenge starts: how do I know if the content being accessed is suitable for my little child? Yes, I want my kid to reap the benefits of the Internet and its ever-growing varied content – but only with age-appropriate material. Where is my label? Where is the clear, cross-border indication in an age where content is global? How should I know what categorization is used in other countries?


The online data classification challenge

The digitalization of age labels is stuck in a very early stage of development. There is no extensive use of digital age labels yet, especially on the open Internet. Providers of online content and services face highly fragmented systems of age classification, depending on country, region and type of medium. So the European Commission (EC) decided to come up with a solution to this problem: the MIRACLE.

Machine-readable and interoperable age classification labels in Europe: The MIRACLE Solution

The MIRACLE project was initiated to provide a common information exchange reference model that enables cross-border machine-readable classification data and age labels by content providers, filter software solution providers and users. Making existing label approaches and classification schemes technically interoperable to optimize usage of already existing classification knowledge and data. This will not only result in cost synergies for content and filter software solution providers but also enable new innovative services in providing classification data.

It was important for the project consortium to spread across different member states and systems and to include classification bodies, safer Internet nodes, self-regulatory bodies and filter software providers. Which is where Allot Communications – subsequent to its acquisition of Optenet – came in. For the solution to work, we provided a filtering module, which was able to enforce filtering based on datasets as defined by MIRACLE and which can be included in web pages.

Who benefits from the solution? Quite a few different parties to the table: parents, content providers, manufacturers of end devices and all media users, who obtain more information about the content they are about to see. And as to the amount of potential use cases, the 48h MIRACLE Apps Hackathon provided just a glimpse of what’s possible. There’s ENTERTAIN, an app that allows a user to find movies or games that are suitable for a certain age through a very user-friendly and easy-to-use interface. Or CleverAge: since the variance of child development is high, resulting in more or less artificial age brackets when it comes to age classification, CleverAge determines a user’s “real” maturity based on emotional and logical puzzles and quizzes and grants access to appropriate content accordingly.

We are proud to have helped the project to come to fruition and are looking forward to where it will take online child protection next.

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