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Notes on the site content rating and ICRA filter declarations in use at this site

Yes! This site is designed to be child-friendly. It's deliberately created with the intention that nothing at the site will upset children nor impair the innocence of children. This is even extended to an advanced level where children reading the material at the site are not so likely to ask embarrassing questions. It's been thought about quite well.

On pages which are unsuitable for children, there's a "rating" field appropriate to the content. These are mainly to avoid the awkward questions, as the content itself is generally safe.

However, it's important to understand that just because the site is child-friendly, (so it is ok for children to see it), this doesn't mean it's all tame and neat and upholding of some arbitrary stuffy pseudo-middle-class normalist religious ethos. Indeed there are some quite extraordinary things at the site! These may upset stuffy people, but not children!

Take for example the page about Xmas - Note how some radical views are expressed and yet the existence of Father Christmas is left open to interpretation of the believer!

Instances of erotica are limited to those which don't cause offence to the innocent. So, for example normal sexual behaviour is not shown; however, pictures of kinky shoes, woolly hats, toenail varnish, the application of custard pies, and many other examples of harmless erotic material available, may be seen.

Here's another example: The page of Bookies. Now of course to adults this promotes gambling. But it's harmless to children because they can't open an account! And, the page makes no graphical sense unless you've got a good idea about Turf Accountants in the first place.

I think there is a lot to be said for the ICRA Filter, which is described as "choice, not censorship". The idea, explained at www.icra.org , is that instead of having websites have arbitrary content and then allow nanny programs to censor them (sometimes very inefficiently and inappropriately), websites make declarations themselves, and then other people can make their minds up on that basis. This is good!

However there are snags, partly because the definitions are a bit iffy, and also because people sometimes overreact because of the emotive reactionary way the definitions are stated. Affiliate merchants often get this wrong and make draconian decisions, rather than thinking sensibly.

Let's take for example "Violence - Deliberate injury to fantasy characters (including animation)". This is banned by many merchants. Sounds sensible, at first. However, this would immediately exclude any site showing Tom and Jerry! Similarly, and Punch and Judy websites would be dismayed. And in the case of Peter Pan, I think it's not so important whether or not he has to injure Captain Hook with a sword to save himself, and much more important that when taking to flight he's seen taking off from the ground rather that out of a high window!

But don't get me wrong. I approve of the idea of self-declarations and sticking to what you declare. It's just that I think that the judging should be done sensibly rather than in a knee-jerk reaction. So when I see Walmart ban websites that offer tobacco, alcohol, and gambling, I can't help noticing an apparent hypocrisy in that the local Walmart (Asda) stores sell whisky, cigarettes, and lottery tickets. Taken at their word, they'd ban themselves from their own affiliate program!

Now let's encourage sensible practice, and it's a fact that at Zanox they're giving the ICRA filter a try. In fact they are a recognised affiliate of ICRA. I have been in touch with the people at Zanox and I have been assured that ICRA filter definitions are to be applied loosely. So, for the benefit of all concerned, and to help clear up any confusion, and to be honest and up-front about all this, here are some interpretations in use here at this site Zyra.org.uk , which for the purposes of merchants at Zanox shall include Zyra.org and Zyra.NET , but not Zyra.tv which is we'll allow to be more flexible.

Chat / Chat - Only moderated and suitable for children or teens - No, there's no chat at this site, and no guestbook, and all the content is checked before publishing. Not that there's anything wrong with chat, you understand, it's just that there isn't any here.

Language - Explicit sexual language - No.

Language - Crude words or profanity - No, although the notion of "profanity" implies some oldfashioned notion of religion to some extent. I regard overpromotion of religion as offensive, but with anything non-factual like that it is a matter of personal choice. Also see belief, and the not particularly profane analysis of the phrase What The Hell Do You Think You Are Playing At?

Language - Mild expletives - Like "Oh Shucks!" for example? Another good one is "RATS!"

Nudity & Sexual Material - [various categories of bits and pieces in detail] - No; in fact I'm not even going to list them! However, there's an important distinction between "Sexual Material" and "Nudity". After getting clarification about this from our friends at Zanox, we are now safe to publish pictures of old masterpieces, tasteful nude works of art, classic paintings and sculptures, as such pieces as Venus and The Thinker, are distinct from notions of "pornography".

Other Topics - Promotion of tobacco use - Still unsure on this one, as there are two sides to it. Tobacco is not good for you, but using it is a matter of personal choice! Still, if we ever decide to promote it, it'll most likely be at Zyra.tv to be one the safe side.

Other Topics - Promotion of alcohol use - Yes! Although this is done properly, for example at the page of Wine and the page of alcoholic drinks, where alcohol is available if you want it, but it's not overglorified to tempt children and teetotallers to take on the alcohol drinking habit.

Other Topics - Promotion of drug use - Freedom being the important matter, and yet there still being relics of the prohibition era even in the early 21st Century, issues of "drug use" won't be at the prime domain Zyra.org.uk but will be moved to Zyra.tv , for example Everyone Does It.

Other Topics - Gambling - Yes! This is done responsibly at GAMBLING, even including a warning "You should only gamble what you can afford to lose". Also note that children can't easily open accounts at casinos!

Other Topics - Promotion of weapon use - Sports such as archery, fencing, target practice, Yes! However, we've been advised that "promotion of weapon use" is not supposed to include this kind of thing, but is more to do with gratuitous killing of people. So, we're ok on that.

Other Topics - Promotion of discrimination or harm against people - Separate categories I'd have thought. But to make it clear: Discrimination, NO! And harm against people... not unless they harm me!

Other Topics - Material that might be perceived as setting a bad example for young children - I set a GOOD example! In contrast, conformist society sets bad examples.

Other Topics - Material that might disturb young children - No.

Violence - Sexual violence / rape - No.

Violence - Blood and gore, human beings - No.

Violence - Blood and gore, animals - No.

Violence - Blood and gore, fantasy characters (including animation) - No.

Violence - Killing of human beings - No. Not explicitly. Whether any particular war is justified, has to be considered sensibly.

Violence - Killing of animals - I have pointed out the existence of pages such as "haslet", showing some delicious pork meat, and whilst I respect the beliefs of vegetarians, I am carnivorous, so "killing of animals" is a fact I try to accept rather than be hypocritical about. (Please don't argue with me about it). But I have been assured that the category "Violence - Killing of animals" doesn't include simply comments about pork sausages! It would have to be instead more like pictures of animals being slaughtered, gory details of farms and kills in hunting. No, none on show here!

Violence - Killing of fantasy characters (including animation) - Not explicitly, although it has to be pointed out that many good films designed to show a moral tale often show the villain meeting their end. It's my guess that this categorisation is supposed to mean something more graphic, which of course we don't have.

Violence - Deliberate injury to human beings - Not even statues of crucifixions on show here!

Violence - Deliberate injury to animals - No.

Violence - Deliberate injury to fantasy characters (including animation) - I can't think they mean Tom & Jerry and Mr Punch!

A few other items:

* Anything that might be dangerous such as handling of liquid mercury or converting a television into an oscilloscope has clear warnings on the page.

* Careful thoughtful wording saves vulnerable people from dangers wherever possible. For example, people who don't understand electrolytic capacitors aren't induced into matters of their discharge.

* Good site-design and warnings help to prevent problems. For example, people who suffer from fear of spiders are warned at the top of the page about spiders about the arachnophobic risk of what they might see BEFORE they scroll down the page!

ICRA is to be commended for having approximately the right idea: Having websites make self-declared content statements. This gives choice which is much better than censorship. And, short of other websites making their own detailed declarations in the way I have done here, ICRA's category definitions are a good start, giving people an at-a-glance summary of the type of material at a website. But this has to be judged sensibly. Still, it's better than I have seen in some situations, where companies employ inexperienced staff to make snap decisions about websites, and some of them have been known to be prejudiced against this site for various reasons, such as the fact that there are pictures of people in unorthodox outfits, with vivid hair colours!

If you have the task of judging Zyra's website for an affiliate program, make sure you make a good decision, or at least an informed decision! See the judging page, and take a look at the Shopping Portal and the extent of the site.

The main problem with the ICRA Filter method at present seems to be a misunderstanding by merchants! You can see this with an absurdity in the affiliate program of American Express Travel Insurance, where they banned "content aimed at children" so that's a bit tough on anywhere that sells toys, and they also banned alcohol, lottery tickets and a few other things. Basically, it's sloppy thinking, and if taken to extremes would mean that anywhere eclectic would be banned! So, in theory at least, no TV commercials, no Google, no mentions in Encyclopaedia Britannica, and no Yellow Pages?! I don't think they understood it at all!