Joint Code of Practice for new forms of content on mobile phones

United Kingdom

Six leading UK mobile phone operators have established a joint Code of Practice for the self -regulation of new forms of content on mobile phones in order to protect children from inappropriate material. Covering video and picture messaging plus Internet browsers, the Code aims to influence the type of information children can access and give parents assurance that unwanted communications are being targeted.

Orange, O2, Hutchison 3G, Virgin Mobile, Vodafone and T-Mobile have developed and signed up to a new joint Code of Practice for self-regulation in the UK market of new forms of content on mobile phones. The Code, announced on 19 January 2004, aims essentially to protect under 18's from adult content which is increasingly accessible on mobile phones as advances are made in the technology.

The Code covers new areas of mobile technology that may present parents are carers with concerns, including images, video, gambling, games, chat rooms and Internet access. It does not cover premium rate voice or SMS (texting) services that will continue to be regulated by ICSTIS (the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services) Code of Practice.

The Code intends to allow adults the ability to influence and monitor the content that their children can access on their mobiles plus assure mobile users that action is being taken to prevent unwanted communications. The Code does not however cover peer-to-peer communications.

Under the Code, the mobile operators will appoint an independent classification body to provide a framework on which to classify unsuitable commercial content for under 18's, comparable to material in films and computer games etc. The mobile operators will put access controls on this information and only release it to verified 18 year olds. The same restrictions will apply to chat rooms unless they are moderated chat rooms via restrictions on personal details and type of conversation.

Filters may be applied, by parents or carers, to the mobile operator's Internet access service in order to restrict access to inappropriate material, equivalent to the 18 classification under the Code. Operators have additionally taken on responsibility for reporting criminal content to the law enforcement agencies, plus will take action to prevent unsolicited bulk and malicious communications.

Finally, under the Code, the mobile operators will provide a support service to parents, carers and children alike, as to the nature of new mobile phone technology in question.

The Code is to be enforced by each mobile operator through agreements with commercial content providers. Although the Code is to have immediate effect, filtering Internet content is anticipated to be available for mobile operators at an unspecified point in 2004, while processes will be agreed with law enforcement agencies by the end of April 2004 for responding to illegal content.

For further information, please contact David Roberts by telephone on +44 (0) 20 7367 3678 or by e-mail at david.roberts@cms-cmck.com , or Lisa Benjamin by telephone on +44 (0) 20 7367 2328 or by

e-mail at lisa.benjamin@cms-cmck.com