GAM (Global Alliance Matrix) – Making age labelling international

The internet allows digital content to travel the world at the speed of light. Cultural expressions of all origins are able to reach out to world audiences. However, consumers find it more and more difficult to select the content of their choice. In the field of youth protection mutliple activities take place when it comes to rating and labelling harmful content. But with borderless distribution, national (traditional) regulation regarding online content has its limits – despite parents‘ ample needs for orientation in online environments. Moreover, online content is perceived before a background of different regional, national and individual values.

GAM. To Enhance the Value of All Cultural Expressions.

Rated and unrated, static and dynamic content

By turning every content user into a potential producer, the Web 2.0 presents consumers with an even more complex challenge.  It is not a matter of making information on fixed content intelligible to all, rather one of guaranteeing that both ever-changing content and behavior to be found on line will be compatible at all times with the values consumers care about.

In short, the dual challenge of online environments boils down to:

  1. Processing information already available in one or several languages into one format that is readable in all parts of the world.
  2. Containing user-generated content and online behavior within norms set out in a code of practice.

A fair and realistic approach to meet this challenge would leave the onus of accessing and processing the GAM information on consumers, depending on the specific needs of each and every member of the household. It would leave the responsibility of complying with code of practice to content providers.

GAM was developed to meet the challenges ahead.

Developed by two SRDA board members and refined under the auspices of the State Media Authority Northrhine-Westphalia (LfM) with the help of international practitioners and experts, the advantages of an approach like GAM are manifold: For consumers, a label that is able to incorporate and distill the various ratings that already exist gives better orientation, collects information and fosters trust. For publishers, it gives security and provides potential less costs for rating procedures. For content providers, it minimises risks and monitoring costs. Finally, for existing rating bodies, such a system is making their expertise and knowledge globally available, giving even more legitimacy to national or supranational systems. By combining existing systems, information is shared and best practice approaches can be transferred.

In the end, GAM will:

  1. Make national or regional ratings that speak best to local consumers into a universal design through the GAM matrix.
  2. Assign GAM matrix to unrated content whose IP owner has signed the GAM Code of practice.
  3. Authorize signatories to the GAM Code that make online space and content available to the public to display the GAM trust seal on the relevant sites.
  4. Show to consumers as an icon displayed permanently on screen and/or will be processed electronically by end-user or intermediary software.

Such icons or labels will consist of the following features:

  1. The GAM link to sites providing more details on the original rating(s).
  2. Provide detailed information on how the GAM information was generated/translated.
  3. Provide general information and advice regarding online environments and specific features.
  4. Provide direct, instant links to national hotlines in case of need.
  5. Provide all GAM information in an electronically interoperable way, enabling third part software to use this information for further activities and/or services (i.a. user-side filter software).

SRDA’s activities: Development of GAM approach, expertise in round tables and workshops, presentation of GAM concept in several stakeholder forums

Cooperation with: CEO Coalition to make the Internet a Better Place for Kids, Industry, European Commission

Project term: Feb 2011 – Dec 2013

Funding: own funding

Outcome: Implementation of a CEO Task Force on Age Label Machine-Readability and Interoperability (chaired by SRDA); establishment of the W3C Age Label Data Community Group; starting point for the consortium that successfully proposed the MIRACLE project, a technical pilot for machine-readable and interoperable age classification labels in Europe (

Giving structure to the ratings out there: We need a GPS (Global Positioning System), a Trusted Third Party, and a youth protection API (Application Protocol Interface) for online content.

GAM Mission Statement
  • Acceptance and recognition of cultural and societal differences
  • Build on existing rating knowledge and labels to foster existing systems, not replace them
  • Make existing labels interoperable
  • Establish a trustmark for all users
  • Add levels of trust to ratings
  • Support individual user-side filter systems
  • Outsource monitoring and enforcement
Conceptual approach