Internet Content Rating Association

ICRA System - URL Monitoring Spiders

All ICRA labelled sites are regularly monitored to ensure that they are a) still accessible on the internet and b) contain the PICS label issued. This is an essential part of the process to ensure that the database is maintained to a high standard.

Let's just get some terminology straight here:

  • The PICS label is the piece of code that begins <META http-equiv="PICS-Label" content='(PICS-1.1...
  • PICS stands for the Platform for Internet Content Selection. This is an agreed standard controlled by a body called the World Wide Web Consortium which defines the various standards used by programmers across the internet.
  • The labels we issue follow the PICS standard but are specific to our system. We therefore refer to them as ICRA labels.
  • Both the generic term PICS label and the specific term ICRA label both refer to types of Meta tag. You'll have several meta tags on your site - these are bits of code that tell the browser about your site without actually being displayed. Typical meta data includes things like a brief description of the site and more technical information such as the character set used.

For consistency, we try hard to stick to the term ICRA label.

One more peice of terminology here - the word spider. This is a computer program which searches through the internet looking for particular information.

So how do the ICRA 'spiders' work?
The spiders are set to process 500 records in the early hours of every day (GMT). Records will not be processed if the last transaction date is less than seven days ago, in other words, at least seven days after you filled in the rating questionnaire, seven days after a notification e-mail was sent or seven days after the declared 'go live' date of the site.

Spiders will first check that the site is accessible (kind of obvious really!) and then that the actual label issued is in place (see 'key points' below concerning this aspect). When checking the label, the process looks for very specific items as follows:

  1. The string <META http-equiv="PICS-Label" content='(PICS-1.1
  2. The ICRA identifier "". This identifies the label as an ICRA label rather than any other sort of PICS label.
  3. The actual rating elements starting r (. A typical example would be r (cz 1 lz 1 nz 1 oz 1 vz 1).
  4. The RSACi identifier "". This identifies the backwards-compatible RSACi section of the label.
  5. The RSACi rating elements, such as r (n 0 s 0 v 0 l 0)

In each case, the spider is looking for these exact elements. Line breaks, addititional spaces etc. will all return a negative result.

Sites that are inaccessible on two consecutive spiders are suspended from the database.

Authors of sites that appear to have no valid label are sent an 'advice' e-mail to this effect. As of Friday 9th March 2001, sites that fail two consecutive spiders will NOT be suspended. From this date, the sites identified as not having a valid label are marked for recheck after, at the very least, seven days.

Key things to remember ...

If you have received an e-mail advising that the URL was not reachable ...

A1. Can be caused by network errors across the internet, your server being down or very slow thus timing out. If you are confident that it was a temporary blip, then do nothing as the second stage spider will find your site and set you record to active once more. If you have intentionally taken your server down or ceased the URL, then again do nothing and the next spider will make the necessary adjustment, send one final e-mail after which the system should not bother you again.

If you have received an e-mail advising tag cannot be found ...

B1. A number of sites appear to have included the ICRA graphic which is clearly visible on the homepage but HAVE NOT included the actual PICS label in the header section of the source code. These sites are not classed as being labelled. To avoid the spiders sending you another e-mail, please ensure that the PICS tag is introduced to the source code of your site - see for a complete walk through on this. If you have Lost or forgotten your current ICRA Label please click here.

B2. The process of including the label in to the source code can introduce miscellaneous characters in to the key strings mentioned above - line breaks, white space etc. This is particularly relevant when using some authoring software. Viewing the source on a webpage generally presents the HTML code in clear text and does not show where the errors lie. If in doubt, take a fresh copy of your label (click here) and then using the new copy reposition it immediately after the <HEAD> tag in you code - do not edit it or attempt to tidy it up by splitting it over several lines - leave it exactly as is.

B3. Some web sites are hosted at a different address than the one quoted publicly. For example, a domain like might actually direct viewers immediately to In this case, you should rate the ACTUAL url, NOT the nice posh one you give out commercially. If you have access to the redirection site, you should add a label in there as well (but you probably don't!) The important point is to get a label for your actual url and apply that.

For more information please see FAQ 3.1 at ...

NB. We are not able to provide a complete support service and answer all enquiries about web authoring. Sorry, but much as we would like to, we just don't have the resources to check each and every web site which uses our labels and then give individual advice. If you are unsure whether the above information applies to your site, or how to go about making the kind of changes talked about here, the best advice we can give is that you invite a friend over who is perhaps more comfortable with computers than you and see if they can help. We do read all the enquiries we get and all the advice here is designed to answer the points raised by several people. We will continue to update this page as feedback dictates.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.

The ICRA support team