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Saturday, Jan. 31, 2009

Teens face DoCoMo 'encounter' site ban

Staff writer

NTT DoCoMo Inc. on Friday became the first mobile phone company to automatically ban customers under 18 from accessing suspicious Internet dating sites as the government attempts to crack down on "deaikei" (encounter) crimes.

The move, to be followed by the other major cell phone carriers, was requested by the communications ministry in December 2007.

"More than 90 percent of crimes related to 'encounter' sites involving minors have involved access via cell phone, according to police findings, so we feel this is a serious issue that must be addressed," a ministry spokesman said.

DoCoMo rival KDDI Corp. will begin imposing the ban on Feb. 10, while SoftBank Mobile Corp. will start blocking the sites in the first week of February, a SoftBank spokeswoman said.

The majority of adult, encounter, blogging and social-networking service Web sites will automatically be blocked from cell phone users under 18 years old, following the standards laid out by the Content Evaluation and Monitoring Association, a private industry watchdog.

"It's going to be really annoying not being able to communicate with my friends through blogging sites," said a 17-year-old high school student with a DoCoMo phone in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, who asked not to be identified.

But another 17-year-old from the same school who uses KDDI and also requested anonymity said the restriction seems inevitable. "I think encounter Web sites can be dangerous, so the ban is a pain but perhaps sensible," she said.

So far, 15 sites, including Mobage-town, MySpace Mobile and Gree, have been deemed safe and are exempt from the ban.

DoCoMo customers under 18 must submit an application and proof of age to view these sites, a DoCoMo spokesman said.

But applications are not necessary for KDDI or SoftBank customers, and parents can opt out of the filtering service on behalf of their children with all three companies.

According to a spokesman for the content monitoring watchdog, Web sites must pay about ¥500,000 to receive an assessment from the group, and need to have a 24-hour watch system in place and a system to notify police or fire officials in emergencies.

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The Japan Times

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