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BBFC plan traffic light system of classification for YouTube

New scheme would allow users to rate the content they upload 'green', 'amber' or 'red'

A new system developed by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) will allow individuals uploading video content online to rate their films via a traffic light system in the hope of protecting children from viewing inappropriate material.

A green light will symbol a U/PG rating, an amber light would mean a 12/15 classification, and a red light indicates that the video is only suitable for those 18 years and up.

Working with partners in the Netherlands and Italy, the BBFC have said that the new system would be flexible – taking cues from the national standards regarding classification rather than attempting to create a one-size-fits-all system.

The designation of each video would also be subject to public mediation, with websites given the option of allowing viewers to offer their feedback on ratings or alert the authorities if any serious transgressions were spotted.

Speaking to The Observer, David Austin, the assistant direct of policy and public affairs at the BBFC said: "This is a service we want to offer. We already classify some 10,000 videos and films that are submitted to us for release every year and we will be using much the same classification model in the pilot for user-generated content."

The scheme will be entirely voluntary, its implementation decided by both service providers and by users, with the classification of content self-assessed through a questionnaire aimed at the uploader.

Questions will be worded so individuals are not making value judgements about content, but simply answering whether it contains certain flagged elements, such as violence or bad language.

"What the questions will do is provide a way of giving content an age rating,” said Austin. “This is something that could be done in other countries in the world because, while the questionnaire can remain the same, the results will mean different things in different countries, since they all have different standards and film categories. Results in the Netherlands, for example, will reflect Dutch standards."

Crowd-sourcing this type of regulation would help tackle the vast amount of content that is online. The latest figures released by YouTube stated that over 100 hours of video are uploaded to the site every minute – more than any single organization could handle.

"At this stage a lot of it depends on how much the search engines buy into the scheme,” said Austin. “We want to help them look after their sites, and if some of the big ones get involved, then they can make the age-rating option available for everything."