Press Release
August 8, 2002
Internet Association, Japan

Internet Association, Japan
Releases New Rating Standards for
Rating Harmful Content on the Internet
and Offers Upgraded Filtering System
Applying the New Standards

-Aiming for a more compact and useful Filtering System-

The Internet Association, Japan, in an effort to counter harmful content on the Internet, has been involved in promoting the use of filtering systems based on the rating/filtering method (Note 1) since 1996. The filtering system is composed of a PICS (Note 2) compliant filtering software, and label bureaus (Note 3). For further information, please refer to this page.

From the perspective of enabling parents and others to easily understand the configuration procedures, Internet Association, Japan has reviewed the existing rating standards "SafetyOnline" (the rating standard for web sites which applies grading between 0 and 4 to each of the five categories of nudity, sex, violence, language and others) and will establish as well as begin using a new simplified standard called "SafetyOnline2" (which integrates the five categories into one and gives each site a grading between 0 and 4).

Along with this change, an upgraded version of the PICS compliant server-based filtering software SFS3.01 and the newly provided Label Bureaus software LB3.01 will be available for download from August 8. Both software were developed by the New Media Development Association, which was in charge of the technical development, as a part of a program commissioned by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and operated by the Information Technology Promotion Agency, Japan. The features of the software are described below:

1) Load sharing by the distribution of the label bureau software
In order to share the load on label bureau, the label bureau software will be made available to the public.

2) Keyword filtering function
A keyword filtering function which filters pages based on character strings registered in advance that are deemed harmful and that might be included in metadata of web pages, character strings passed to search engines, and character strings within URLs. Users may also resister additional keywords.

3) SFS simple configuration function
A simple configuration function will be provided allowing administrators to easily configure the server-based filtering software.

1. Establishment of a New Rating Standard, "SafetyOnline2"

The existing rating standard named "SafetyOnline" (a standard to rate sites by applying a rating value between 0 to 4 according to the five categories of nudity, sex, violence, language and others) with consideration to young people and application world wide, was established based on categories and rating values (RSACi) provided by RSAC (Note 4), a nonprofit organization in the U.S.A, and in anticipation of extending the standard by adding new categories such as drug and gambling, tentatively added a category called "others." SafetyOnline (or RSACi) was considered easy to understand for users since it enabled rating and filtering to be applied based on a common standard, and easy to disseminate since its subset, RSACi was supported with Internet Explorer version 3.0 and later. However, in view of prefectural ordinances for sound upbringing of youth or the packaged media industry's own standards where criteria adopted are non-complex, such as whether the content is appropriate for the young or not, and considering easy configuration by parents at home, an even simpler standard was called for. In answer, the Internet Association, Japan has reviewed "SafetyOnline" and established a new standard named "SafetyOnline2" (integrating five categories into one and applying a grade value between 0 and 4 to each site) and will begin using it.

The server-based filtering software SFS3.01 enables configuration of filtering levels based on SafetyOnline2. The software does not support the existing standard "SafetyOnline." In addition, along with this release, distribution and support for SFS2.0 will be terminated from September, 2003. In case of using the PICS compliant filtering function of ‚hnternet Explorer version 3.0 and later (Version 6.0 is not supported due to a software defect), please download and re-install the standard description file "SafetyOnline2.rat."

Level SafetyOnline2 Rating Criteria Description
Level 4 Emphasis on genitals: Pornographic images/videos which emphasize human or humanized objects' genitals.
Sexual acts: Images/videos which explicitly depict sexual acts. Images/videos which show sexual crime such as rape, sadistic or masochistic sexual acts.
Cruelty: Images/videos which shows cruel scenes such as torture, cutting of dead bodies, rape, or images/videos depicting such as a dead body that is cut into pieces.
Defamation: Defamation against a particular individual or a group or an extremely@obscene expression.
Antisocial: Content considered antisocial.
Level 3 Complete nudity: Images/videos such as photographs, paintings, and illustrations which show human or humanized objects' genitals or pubic hair.
Depiction of obscured or implicated sexual acts: Images/videos which do not clearly depict sexual acts, but depicts obscured or implicated sexual acts.
Killing of human beings: Depiction of violence and killing of human or humanized objects or images/videos which show the results of violence such as blood and gore or a dead body.
Obscene expression: Obscene expression.
Illegitimacy: Content which has illegitimacy but thought to have no antisocial intentions.
Level 2 Partial nudity: Images/videos which does not show genitals but show parts of a human body that is normally covered by cloth, such as bare bottoms or breasts.
Sexual touching with clothes on: Images/videos of sexual touching with opposite sex or same sex with their clothes on such as petting.
Killing or deliberate injury: Images/videos of killing or deliberate injury or acts that implicate those things to human beings or humanized objects.
Expletives: Crude words or expletives which have profanity or evil intension.
Offend public order and morals: Content that seem to offend public order and morals but are not against the law.
Level 1 Highly revealing clothes: Images/videos of a man or woman with clothes that covers his or her genitals, buttocks and breasts, but, for instance, emphasizes the woman's body line, or shows at least three fourths of her breast.
Sexual kissing: Images/videos which shows kissing with tongues contacting or kissing with mouths open. This does not include kissing to express affection.
Fighting: Images/videos which shows fights between people or animals. This does not include the depiction of deliberate injury or blood and gore.
Mild expletives: Words which are comparatively mild but crude. Includes expressions of sexual functions for scientific purposes.
Caution needed: Content which may require caution when shown to children under the age of 18.
Level 0 Does not include content described between level 1 and 4.

2. Release of New Version of the Filtering System

The server-based filtering software SFS3.01 which enables 1j load sharing of label bureau software, 2) keyword filtering, 3) SFS simple configuration and the newly provided label bureau software LB3.01 will be available for download. This system was developed by the New Media Development Association, which was in charge of the technical development, as a part of program commissioned by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and operated by the Information Technology Promotion Agency, Japan.

1) Load sharing by distribution of label bureau software
Since label bureau currently has an average of forty to fifty thousand accesses per day, and in anticipation of expansion of filtering in schools due to their advance in information technology, load sharing of label bureau was an urgent requirement.

In order to share the load of the existing label bureau that has been operated by the Internet Association, Japan alone so far, the association developed a downloadable version of label bureau. As a result, large scale users such as municipalities and schools, as well as individual users may download label bureau to build servers on their local network (or on their own machine) to improve response performance of accesses from server-based filtering systems or PICS compliant filtering software.

2) Keyword filtering function
While SFS2.0 which uses the rating database had no risk of blocking out harmless or valuable information, it also had a weakness where it was not able to accommodate new web pages or web pages that have moved. Therefore, a new filtering function that could filter unrated web pages in real-time was required.

In addition to the filtering function based on the rating system we have been offering, a new feature that filters pages based on previously registered character strings that are considered to be harmful and that might be included in metadata of web pages, character strings passed to search engines, and character strings included in URLs, is provided. With this function, new web pages which have not been rated or web pages which have moved can be filtered. Users may also register additional keywords.

3) SFS simple setting function
Since SFS2.0 has multiple functions, it had been difficult for administrators who were not computer-savvy, which posed an issue. Therefore, the Association will offer a simple configuration function which makes it easier for administrators to configure the server-based filtering software.

The setting function used to be complicated since it had multi-level management functions, scheduling functions, and detailed profile configuration functions used by multiple users. This simple configuration function improves the convenience of management mainly when used by several users by basically enabling users to simply choose a certain filtering level have other settings configured automatically with default values.

simple admin screen

Configuration Screen for the SFS3.01 Simple Configuration Menu
For further information, please contact:

Internet Association, Japan
Person in charge: Akio Kokubu or Takayo Okubo
Telephone: +81-3-3457-0672
Facsimile: +81-3-3451-9604


1. Rating/Filtering Method

The rating/filtering method conducts rating of web content based on objective rating standards, allowing receivers of information to utilize rating results to apply filtering (the passage or blocking of information) according to the receiver's value judgments.

There are two types of rating: self-rating and third-party rating. Self-rating is the rating of content by the publisher of information and considered to be the least problematic with regard to Freedom of Speech. Third-party rating is content rating by a party other than the publisher of information, and usually involves the creation of a rating database (URL database) that collects rating results. Multiple third-party rating databases may coexist, reflecting different values. Filtering software looks up rating data from a number of rating databases based on the settings made by the user, allowing the user to control information the receiver will see or information juveniles will be allowed to see under the supervision of parents or teachers.

Keyword filtering system lets filtering system providers or information receivers to select beforehand keywords (or combinations of keywords) which have a high probability of appearing in harmful sites and enables filtering by collating words contained in web pages and others that users access with selected keywords (or combinations of keywords). The blacklist filtering method blocks content harmful to young people by listing those harmful sites in advance and prohibiting access to those sites. The white filtering method lets young people access only those sites that are deemed valuable for them by listing those good sites in advance.

2. PICS (Platform for Internet Content Selection)

PICS is a technological platform developed by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) since 1995 to provide a technological solution for the problem of Internet social responsibility. PICS is characterized by its ability to selectively receive information based on levels set by the receiver without restricting the publication of information on the Internet. The W3C stipulates only the standard specifications concerning the format, etc., for implementing PICS and does not provide rating standards or software, as these tasks are referred to other organizations. For instance, Microsoft has made available PICS-compliant filtering features in its Internet Explorer browsing software beginning with version 3.0. (Version 6.0 is not supported due to software defects.)

3. Label Bureau

A database server which keeps labels that are used when server-based filtering software does filtering (URLs paired with rating information). They are also called "Rating Bureaus" and compliant to PICS developed by the W3C described above. label bureau which is distributed this time will accumulate label data that is rated by the new rating standard "SafetyOnline2."

4. RSAC (Recreational Software Advisory Council)

RSAC was once a nonprofit corporation in the U.S.A. but later merged with a new organization, the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA) founded in 1999. Use of the rating standard on the Internet offered by RSAC was originally advocated as a counter movement to the "Communications Decency Act" of 1996. The standard is based on the results of the work of Dr. Donald F. Roberts who had worked on the subject of how children are influenced by media for more than 20 years at Stanford University. It has categories of violence, nudity, sex and language to rate the web sites, and each content is rated according to those categories and is applied a rating value between 0 and 4 for each category.