The Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA) forms a major operating
segment of the Family Online Safety Institute which is an international
charitable organisation dedicated to making the internet a safer place for
children, families and the community at large. ICRA was established in 1984
before the internet revolution really started and has been involved in
establishing standards of good practice throughout the life of the internet in
the hands of the public at large.
ICRA is heavily committed to self-regulation of the internet by the various
stakeholders involved and believes that this is the best way to ensuring that an
equilibrium is established which allows for the dissemination of internet based
material while ensuring that children are protected from harmful and potentially
harmful information and content.
Whilst not directly focused on gambling (or any other specific discipline for
that matter), it covers a variety of issues related to online safety that
concerns all industries like gambling.
The ICRA Questionnaire forms the mainstay of the services delivered by the
organisation; the ICRA Questionnaire is based around an established "vocabulary"
which allows operators to check their content and rate it against standards that
have become established through experience and professional judgment. As a
consequence of running the ICRA Questionnaire against a website, the operators
are able to generate tags which can be linked to the website content and is then
accessed by filtering software to empower parents when it comes to controlling
access to the web and its content by their children.
The ICRA approach is to simply have a website operator declare whether
certain content is present or not; content that is usually referred to as the
ICRA Vocabulary includes:
- Whether nudity is included or not on the web site;
- Sexual content;
- Foul language;
- Whether user generated content is allowed and if so, whether it is
- Potentially harmful content such as gambling, drugs or alcohol related
There is a drill-down questionnaire which goes into greater detail where the
web site operator has indicated that here is content of the nature the ICRA
Questionnaire is looking to identify.
Note that the ICRA approach makes no judgment on the content whatsoever; the
decision as to whether children should be allowed access or not to content rests
with the parents who can use the tags generated to set parental control
filtering software so that certain types of content are simply disallowed to
their children. In this regard, ICRA is a misnomer as it is not in fact
providing a rating of web content at all but rather categorizing it so that
action can be taken as parents deem appropriate.
A practical example is with online gambling: a parent may decide that no
gaming site should be allowed and therefore set the parental control filtering
software to ban any and all gaming sites however, this is likely to exclude
every site that allows online games to be played too. ICRA analysis will
determine whether a web site is offering gambling facilities or operates on a
condition of players not being minors; in this case ICRA will be able to
generate the tags which will ensure that it is only these sites which are
excluded and rendered inaccessible to children. In this we can see that ICRA
delivers a valuable service not only to parents but to the operators of web
sites whose services are by law, not to be provided to minors - if a web site
prohibition against minors is to be enforced practically, it helps if children
can be blocked at source from entering a gambling site in the very first