Unsocial networking

Social networking sites are loved by some, hated by others. Users spend hours updating their profiles and reading others, while business managers complain bitterly of the many hours their employees waste accessing these sites instead of working for the corporate good.

Regardless of your viewpoint, the mobile industry is now faced with balancing the potential revenues it can gain from seeing these services migrate full-scale to the cell phone while protecting the vulnerable--namely children.

European charities charged with the wellbeing of children are becoming increasingly vocal in their concerns that mobile operators have been lax in implementing a content classification scheme labeling unsuitable content as '18'. In an effort to regain the initiative, the Mobile Entertainment Forum (MEF) is now actively positioning itself as a facilitator to stop the EU or individual telecom regulators from passing legislation to force operators to take action.

"The mobile industry must work to ensure consumers are best protected," says Suhail Bhat, policies and initiatives director for the MEF. "The children's charities conduct research into the potential for harm, and this information is what the mobile industry must work with. This is sufficient data for the industry to take action, and we must be seen as proactive."

Bhat maintains that a legal framework is probably not the best approach, as against the industry taking a joint approach to self-regulation. However he admits that applying this concept across the EU will be difficult because of the different rules that already apply in each member country.

"The operators understand the need to resolve this issue today, which might not have been the case a few years ago. The disagreements are now about how to make these provisions work in practice, but there's no resistance to doing it. There is a balance to providing what consumers want and making it a safe environment for children. It's not a conflict but getting the right balance--and the devil here is in the detail." -Paul