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Adopting a ratings system for social media like the ones used for film and TV won’t work

Gail Ann Hurd ContributorGale Anne Hurd is a producer of films and television shows, including the "Terminator" trilogy, "Aliens", "Armageddon", and "The Walking Dead”. Ruth Vitale, who has held top executive posts at indie film outfits including Paramount Classics, Fine Line Features, and New Line Cinema, is CEO of CreativeFuture. Internet platforms like Google, Facebook, and Twitter are under incredible pressure to reduce the proliferation of illegal and abhorrent content on their services. Interestingly, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg recently called for the establishment of “third-party bodies to set standards governing the distribution of harmful content and to measure companies against those standards.” In a follow-up conversation with Axios, Kevin Martin of Facebook “compared the proposed standard-setting body to the Motion Picture Association of America’s system for rating movies.”The ratings group, whose official name is the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA), was established in 1968 to stave off government censorship by educating parents about the contents of films. It has been in place ever since – and as longtime filmmakers, we’ve interacted with the MPAA’s ratings system hundreds of times – working closely with them to maintain our filmmakers’ creative vision, while, at the same time, keeping parents informed so that they can decide if those movies are appropriate for their children.  CARA is not a perfect system. Filmmakers do not always agree with the ratings given to their films, but the board strives to be transparent as to why each film receives the rating it does. The system allows filmmakers to determine if they want to make certain cuts in order to attract a wider audience. Additionally, there are occasions where parents may not agree with the ratings given to certain films based on their content. CARA strives to consistently strike the delicate balance between protecting a creative vision and informing people and families about the contents of a film. CARA’s effectiveness is reflected in the fact that other creative industries including television, video games, and music have also adopted their own voluntary ratings systems. While the MPAA’s ratings system works very well for pre-release review of content from a professionally- produced and curated industry, including the MPAA member companies and independent distributors, we do not believe that the MPAA model can work for dominant internet platforms like Google, Facebook, and Twitter that rely primarily on post hoc review of user-generated content (UGC).Image: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch Here’s why: CARA is staffed by parents whose judgment is informed by their experiences raising families – and, most importantly, they rate most movies before they appear in theaters. Once rated by CARA, a movie’s rating will carry over to subsequent formats, such as DVD, cable, broadcast, or online streaming, assuming no other edits are made.By contrast, large internet platforms like Facebook and Google’s YouTube primarily rely on user-generated content (UGC), which becomes available almost instantan ...Read more

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