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    1. #1
      IfasehunReincarnated's Avatar
      IfasehunReincarnated is offline Never Let Them Disrespect the Ancestors

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      R-Rated Cell Phones


      0 Not allowed! Not allowed!
      R-Rated Cell Phones

      As more handsets offer video content, the mobile phone industry is developing a rating system to keep minors away from the adult stuff.

      Anush Yegyazarian, PC World
      Wednesday, May 04, 2005

      Late last year, Playboy launched IBod, a collection of videos and still images you can download and play back on your Apple IPod, either singly or in a slide show. More recently, Playboy has introduced a similar collection for Sony's PlayStation Portable gaming handheld. It's but a short step from there to a Playboy offering for your cell phone.

      The rising interest--on the part of adult-content providers and others--in offering video on cell phones has prompted the CTIA, a telecommunications industry group, to prep a voluntary rating system for mobile phone content. Few details on the rating system are available as yet since it's a work in progress, but the CTIA has said it will develop the rating system with the aid of a third party. The CTIA is also consulting with other industry groups that have voluntarily rated their own content, including the Recording Industry Association of America, the Motion Picture Association of America, and computer game companies.

      The rating system guidelines likely will debut sometime midyear, and are expected to distinguish content appropriate to the over-18 crowd from content for general consumption. Later, content distinctions will be more refined; I anticipate different ratings for content for kids, teens, and adults, or even more subgroups.

      You can argue that rating systems rarely work--and having seen my share of kids and teens in R-rated films or playing games rated for mature audiences, I'd have to agree. However, in my opinion, this particular rating system could actually do what it's meant to do: Keep adult content out of children's hands while allowing adults the freedom to see or hear what they choose.

      Central Control

      Why should this system succeed when others have failed? Because if it's implemented at the carrier level--which would make the most sense--it would remove control from handsets and place it with a central server, making it harder for kids to disable the filtering.

      Carriers see ratings on content before they ever send it to a handset, and can automatically lock out anything the account owners (presumably the adults of the household), wish to keep from being displayed on a specific phone. To be most efficient, content restrictions should be imposed on a handset-by-handset (or number by number) basis, so that phones belonging to parents and college-age users could display more adult content than those used by children or younger siblings, even if all these phones are billed to the same account.

      Of course, enterprising teens could still try to impersonate their parents and get restrictions lifted from their phones, but that possibility could be minimized with a few precautions at the carrier end, such as requiring passwords or personal ID numbers and an additional security question to change account settings. You need some proof of identity, plus a credit card, when you buy a cell phone, so we're already getting screened for age when we set up an account.

      Mark Desautels, vice president of wireless Internet development for the CTIA, says carriers will determine the specific mechanism through which account holders have access to restricted content. This could be done through a preset permission method, as I've described above, or users could be required to use a credit card or a PIN any time they want to access restricted content. Rated content will include audio and music, video and still images, games, and lottery or online gambling to start; it's not a rating system for the whole Internet, Desautels says.

      More Content

      Vendors and carriers already censor our wireless content to some extent. You don't see the full names of certain songs when you're looking for a ring tone because titles that use obscene language are modified. And now that you can get ring tones with words instead of just electronic Musak, the offerings also get scrubbed of offensive lyrics. Some songs aren't even available because their lyrics can't be sanitized.

      An effective rating system wouldn't just affect offerings of Playboy-style adult content. As cell phones get higher-quality screens, and as high-bandwidth 3G and 4G (third- and fourth-generation) networks are deployed, like EDGE and UMTS, a range of mainstream video content will actually be watchable. Today, I don't think I could stand trying to watch a full 30- or 60-minute episode of a favorite TV show on a mobile phone because of unreliable connections and slow frame rates. But in a year or two, I might well change my mind. If so, Tony Soprano could be making a call to my cell phone, along with the women of Sex in the City. An effective rating system would let me subscribe to those programs, while keeping my cousin's junior high school-age kids away.

      Of course, if such content does become available, we'll all have to brush up on our public etiquette and make sure we're a little more careful about what we do with our cell phones and where.

      What Makes for an Effective System

      Effective covers a lot of ground when it comes to rating systems (or products, for that matter). For a system to be effective, it must start with centrally controlled filters, as I mentioned above. You also need cooperation from any content provider you do business with--which means they will all have to rate their content and tag it in some way so that any carrier understands what's got a green light for all ages, what's for teens only, and what's for adults. Since some self-filtering has been going on already, it may be that vendors will be eager to cooperate in order to get more choices in front of consumers--which, they hope, will entice us to pay for more content.

      Standardizing a tagging and filtering system is the next hurdle. The fact that the cell phone content ratings initiative comes from an industry body could bode well for achieving agreement on a single set of guidelines, but it must be network-independent and work on all carrier and provider server software.

      If the first guidelines are available midyear as planned, carriers could start implementing them late this year--so one hopes these issues will be resolved quickly. The next step is a more refined rating system that might well involve filtering at the household level. Clay Owen, spokesperson for Cingular Wireless, says his company is working on tools that would allow users to get more control over content, though there is no release date as yet. I guess we'll all have to wait to see (and hear).

      Wireless 411 Update

      Last year, several cell phone companies got together and proposed a directory service for cell phone numbers. As I wrote in September, the proposal is controversial because of privacy and monetary concerns. Who would be listed? Would you have to opt-in, or worse, opt-out? Who would have access to the numbers? Why should I be charged for a call made by someone who doesn't already have my number?

      A U.S. Senate bill (S. 1963) that would codify some of the proposed guidelines got through committee, but did not go further. However, the Wireless 411 plan has been postponed to next year, though it was supposed to have already debuted. And there's a new bill in the House of Representatives (H.R. 1139) that gives existing users an opt-in choice while giving new users an easy opt-out mechanism when they get cellular service. It also forwards a call without disclosing the recipient's phone number; and it gives recipients a chance to accept or reject calls on a case-by-case basis, which limits the impact on your pocketbook. We'll have to see if this bill gets any further than its predecessors.
      All is Well. Workin' Hard - Tryin' to Save Time for Fam. Check in Periodically.

    2. #2
      IfasehunReincarnated's Avatar
      IfasehunReincarnated is offline Never Let Them Disrespect the Ancestors

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      Warning: adult content...everywhere

      By Molly Wood, senior editor, CNET.com
      Tuesday, April 5, 2005

      I know I should be writing about the future of the desktop PC today, what with Intel's new dual-core processor and Nvidia's Nforce4 SLI Intel Edition chipset announcements. But I'm going to have to save that column for Friday, because what I really want to talk about is porn.

      You probably already know that we have porn to thank for the current state of the Web--not the pop-up ads or the disturbing search results, but the rich content, streaming video techniques, widespread adoption and availability of broadband, and advertising schemes. Well, cell phones and mobile devices are the next frontier.

      Dirty talk
      I've been getting a lot of e-mail lately of the adult variety--and for once, I don't mean spam. I mean press releases about adult content designed specifically for cell phones. First, there were the Jenna Jameson moan tones. Then, Ron Jeremy started getting into the game with "groan tones," wallpaper, and video clips aimed at the mobile user. And then I got a couple of press releases from a company called Brickhouse Mobile, saying they'd worked out deals to distribute content from New Frontier Media and Wicked Pictures. (I simply can't bring myself to link to the latter, although I'm sure they're a perfectly respectable purveyor of adult entertainment content.)

      I think two things are driving the cell phone and porn convergence. One is the our increasing desensitization to adult entertainment. Strippers are hip, pimp culture is everywhere, and Ron Jeremy is on VH1's The Surreal Life. The second factor, of course, is money. In March, a Boston-based research firm said the mobile adult-services market would reach $1 billion by 2008, and $5 billion by 2010. Interestingly though, Strategy Analytics analyst Nitesh Patel warned that adult services on mobile devices was not a "killer application" in the making, and said "fixed Internet services," not wireless devices, would continue to meet consumer need for adult entertainment.

      L. R. Clinton Fayling, president of Brickhouse Mobile, begs to differ.

      Follow the money
      "History has taught us that on the Internet, adult content has definitely driven the Internet opportunity, and we definitely feel that it will do the same in the mobile industry," he told me. Make no mistake, Fayling says, "what has occurred on the Internet will occur here." And just what has occurred on the Internet? It's estimated that consumers spend $2 billion per year on adult entertainment Web sites. The total porn market in the U.S.? An estimated $10 billion in annual revenue. Brickhouse Mobile wants a piece of the pie.

      Fayling and his partners are working with film studios and cell phone carriers to deliver adult content in the form of ring tones, wallpaper, video, and games, all downloadable directly to your phone. So why haven't you seen the guy next to you on the bus watching a little nudie clip? It's not for lack of demand--it's because the U.S. carriers simply aren't ready to go there, so to speak.

      "In the United States, it's a very conservative marketplace compared to what's happening in South America and Europe," Fayling says. "We're not going to launch adult--that is, nude--content in this marketplace until the carriers are ready for it." When will that be? Fayling can't--or won't--say, but it's obvious to him and to me that certain carriers will bite the bullet before others. He won't name names, but I think it's fair to say that family-friendly T-Mobile won't be leading the charge.

      So, are moan tones really what I have to look forward to on my morning commute? No, Fayling says. "It'll be a very small market, quite frankly, that'll want to have a moaning woman as their ring tone. That's really a novelty."

      Show, don't tell
      No, Fayling and Brickhouse Mobile are headed where cell phones are headed: bigger screens, higher resolution, more colors, and video capability.

      "You see various carriers already promoting their services available for video, with news clips or sports. I see the adult category capitalizing, when carriers are comfortable with it, with the same stuff that sells on the Internet: still photos and video content."

      Fayling is careful to point out, of course, that Brickhouse Mobile is working with carriers and the CTIA to develop standards and procedures for verifying the age of its customers, and I'm certain they are. I'm equally certain that, as he says, what happened on the Internet will happen with cell phones, too--once content is available, it's accessible, and people will find a way to get it. Cell phones may be the new frontier for adult entertainment, but they'll also be the new battleground for protecting kids from what we deem to be nefarious content.

      It's no coincidence that the adult entertainment industry holds its annual conference at the same time as the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and very often holds parties in the same hotels as the swanky product shows--there's a lot of crossover there, and it's becoming increasingly natural. Plus, garden-variety adult entertainment is almost completely demarginalized in today's culture. If porn could drive Web innovation to the degree it has and still be reviled and hidden from the mainstream, imagine what it can do now that its most famous spokespeople are on reality shows and the covers of magazines. Love it or hate it, you'd better get ready. Porn is coming to a cell phone near you.
      All is Well. Workin' Hard - Tryin' to Save Time for Fam. Check in Periodically.

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