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Group Developing Internet Content Selection

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Sept. 11, 1995 - A wide-ranging group of publishers, telecommunications companies, Internet and online service providers and software firms are working together under the auspices of The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to develop an easy-to-use labeling and selection platform, called PICS, that empowers people worldwide to selectively control online content they receive through personal computers.

PICS stands for Platform for Internet Content Selection, and is expected to be available royalty-free in early 1996. PICS is the result of a merger of independent efforts by the W3C and the Information Highway Parental Empowerment Group (IHPEG). IHPEG was formed in July 1995 by Microsoft, Netscape and Progressive Networks.

W3C, located at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) in Cambridge, Mass., and at the Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique (INRIA), in Rocquencourt, France, convened the PICS group to address technologies needed to support categorization and selection of information available on the global electronic networking infrastructure.

The following companies and organizations are contributing expertise to PICS: Apple, America Online (AOL), AT&T, Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), CompuServe, IBM, IHPEG, Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), Interactive Services Association (ISA), MCI, Microsoft, MIT/W3C, Netscape Communications Corporation, Open Market, Prodigy Services Company, Progressive Networks, Providence Systems/Parental Guidance, SafeSurf, Spyglass, SurfWatch Software, Time Warner, and Viacom's Nickelodeon.

"The organizations participating in PICS are committed to developing a viewpoint-neutral technology platform that will empower organizations and individuals to categorize and selectively access information according to their own needs," said Albert Vezza, Senior Research Scientist and Associate Director of MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science, who is spokesman for the working group.

"IHPEG is very excited to be working on PICS with the W3C," said IHPEG founder Rob Glaser, who serves as Chairman of PICS. "Having widespread, unified industry participation will significantly accelerate our efforts." Mr. Glaser also is President of Progressive Networks.

PICS is being developed to accomplish two broad goals:

  • Catalyze creation of easy-to-use tools that give groups, organizations and companies the ability to develop their own content labeling schemes, which can be shared with, and used by their constituencies. Content could be categorized and labeled in a variety of ways, such as current movie ratings or the Library of Congress cataloging system. Additional content categorizations could include pricing, access or copyright restrictions.
  • Build upon existing filtering technologies and catalyze creation of easy-to-use ways to empower individuals to selectively access or block certain content.

PICS is organized into two committees. The PICS Technology Committee is co-chaired by Dr. James S. Miller, Research Scientist with MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science, and Dr. Paul Resnick, Member of Technical Staff at AT&T Bell Laboratories. The PICS Public Policy/Communications Committee is co-chaired by Brian R. Ek, Vice President of Public Affairs for Prodigy, and Daniel J. Weitzner, deputy director of the Center for Democracy and Technology. The four co-chairs, along with Glaser and Vezza, form the PICS Steering Committee.

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