Should Internet Videos Be Rated for Content, Like TV Shows and Movies?

Do you think online video should have a rating system, like TV and movies do? I would bet that your answer is no, fairly emphatically, and I don’t blame you. The Internet is the free, do-your-own thing medium. Everything is open for you to read or see.

Anyway, some online video is not supported by advertising. It is supported by just you, and if you are not offended, disgusted, sickened or appalled by material in your home, office, car or personal device as you walk down the street, then what is the beef? Parents can block sites they don’t want their kids to see. It’s all pretty efficient.

And who is going to apply these ratings, anyway, to all around the world-wide-Web?

I only ask because as Internet video material migrates onto more types of devices—but specifically, that thing in the place called the family room—you can bet that streaming video that seemed nasty and raw and foul on laptops or mobile phones will seem several times more shocking when it’s seen on more and more devices, and on larger screens.



There is already, purportedly, a porn video done using Google Glass, though that seems more to be a spoof than a demonstration. But, on the other hand, it demonstrates quite a lot. I’d include a link, but, well, no I won’t. If you go looking for it, there will have been at least four million people who did it before you did, and it's only been around for about a month.

As Smart TVs and OTT, and Google’s new Chromecast and other devices make it ever easier to import Internet online videos to different screens, the audience will expand but the biggest thing that will happen is that there will actually be an audience.

There is a difference between what you watch by yourself, and what you watch with someone else watching with you. Mainly you are more likely to at least feign your dislike for the same raunchy humor, bloody hatchet scene or a KY Jelly commercial, for that matter that would pass by without much commotion otherwise. As I may have written before, soap operas  pushed some TV taboo issues—interracial and gay relationships, abortions—partly because those shows were being watched mainly by women, alone. There was no requirement to be outraged.

The bigger the audience, the more likely the complaints and the more likely somebody in Washington starts complaining, too. Where that ends is an open question. If it ends like it did for TV,  there will be years of argument, scary stories about the chilling effect even the threat of ratings pose,  followed by an agreement to do something. (TV's ratings system is pretty ridiculous, I should say, a little like car makers calculating their own MPG ratings.)

The Internet is not television, but as it begins to break down into sites that feature premium (as in, paid for) videos versus those that mostly don’t, it won’t be surprising if some sites try to distinguish themselves because of all the chances they don’t take.

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