"A new battle over keeping the Net clean," by J.Weber/LATimes

Vladimir Z. Nuri vznuri at netcom.com
Tue Aug 5 22:47:44 PDT 1997

DM, JW, *please* get more info on PICS. in the early stages of its
development, many people were interested in using the rating
system to rate *cool* pages. that is, the same system could be
used to point to neat content and help people navigate. therefore,
your examples always involving censorious groups like the
"christian coalitian" is highly misleading. have you heard
of the "point communications" awards, surely? such a system
would benefit immensely from the standardization of ratings that
PICS is trying to achieve..

I urge all rabid libertarians to get a clue about what the
rating systems are actually trying to accomplish.

>From: Jonathan Weber <Jonathan.Weber at latimes.com>
>To: Declan McCullagh <declan at well.com>
>Subject: ratings story
>Innovation/ Jonathan Weber 
>A New Battle   Over Keeping   the Web Clean   
>   On one side are the big, mainstream Internet and computer companies, 
>led by America Online and Microsoft, which proclaim their eagerness to 
>make cyberspace "safe for families.'' Lining up against them are 
>free-speech advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union and 
>the American Library Assn., which see ratings systems as censorship 

this is a silly us vs. them characterization for simpleminds of a much
more complex issue. there are no clearly defined sides and it's not
a war.

>""Ratings systems are developed to enable one individual to exercise 
>control over what another person sees,'' says Marc Rotenberg, director of 
>the Electronic Privacy Information Center. That might be OK for parents 
>and their children, he allows, but such a tool will inevitably be used by 
>public institutions and governmentsif not here then abroadto restrict 

not if the constitution is valid in our own country. let's cross that
bridge when the government comes to it. no reason to spread fear,
uncertainty, and doubt over something that's not happened.

>   An even bigger worry is that what's being sold as a voluntary system 
>that will include a multiplicity of ratings systems is actually going to 
>be an all-but-mandatory system that offers very few choices. 

worry, worry, fear, fear. same as with CDA. just as baseless in
the long run.

>   Consider, first of all, what happens to Web sites that decline to rate 
>their pages. Any PICS-based filter would have to block all unrated pages. 

bzzzzzzzzzzzzt. those that use the filters are free to configure them
how they want. virtually all the filtering software allows different
levels of security. one can often treat the bad rating as merely an
advisory warning.

>Already, ratings proponents are calling on the major search services, 
>such as Yahoo, not to index unrated sites.

who is calling for this? PICS was designed with the idea that many
ratings would be by third-parties. I don't think self-ratings are 
going to be that common on the net, and its really absurd for anyone
to pretend there is going to be a major pressure on anyone to
"rate" their sites.   who are these nameless advocates? where is
the data? this article is about nothing but baseless speculation.

 Overseas Web services would 
>face the choice of adopting a U.S. labeling system or forgoing access to 
>any U.S. readers. Web publishers that didn't want to participate might 
>suddenly find themselves in a deserted backwater of the network. 

yes, one can create all kinds of scary scenarios when you have a teeny
brain that is overcome with fright over the slightest new situation in

>   There's also the question of how disputes over ratings would be 
>arbitrated. Sites would be self-rated, and in fact the vast majority of 
>sites would have no incentive to misrepresent themselves. But what 
>happens when some do anyway? Would it be a crime for a porn site to 
>proclaim itself suitable for children? 

SELF RATINGS are not the main use of ratings. ratings mostly make
sense with THIRD PARTIES doing the rating. there is no such thing
as "misrepresentation". who is it that thinks everything is going
to be "self rated"? whoever does is missing the essential
THIRD PARTY ASPECT that is designed into the core of PICS.

>   At the moment, moreover, it doesn't appear that there are a variety of 
>ratings systems under development representing different values. In fact, 
>a system being created by the Recreational Software Advisory Council, a 
>Microsoft-led industry group, is quickly emerging as a de facto standard. 

so what?

>   The battles over how RSAC handles certain kinds of sites have only 
>just begun, but to see the inevitable problems one need look no further 
>than the ongoing discussion about news. 

"battles, fights"-- the mentality of the person who wrote this is clear.
where is this fighting going on ? who are the people? I haven't seen
any fights except a lot of fearmongering in cyberspace over completely
hypothetical situations.

>N   ews sites, reasonably enough, don't want to rate     themselves. At 
>the very least it would be impractical to label every page of a big news 
>site every day to warn of violent or tasteless or otherwise disturbing 
>content. And labeling news just doesn't seem very consistent with freedom 
>of the press. 

SELF RATING is not going to be a major use of ratings. existing 
filtering software rarely works through SELF RATING. whoever focuses
on SELF RATING relative to the rating systems doesn't have a clue about
the major use of the technology.

>   So the news organizations want to have a special news rating. Who 
>qualifies for a news rating? Well, a committeeoperating under the 
>auspices of the Internet Content Coalition, which represents a number of 
>major publishers (including The Times)would decide. News organizations 
>get together to decide who is and who isn't a news organization. Hmm. 

bzzzzzzzzzzzt. anyone is free to rate anything. this coalition can get
together and rate anything they want right now. PICS does not change
that. it only gives a way for users who CHOOSE TO to access those
ratings and integrate them with their browsers.

>   In the face of these objections, the Clinton administration and the 
>companies backing the ratings effort say that, first of all, something 
>has to be done to stave off new legislation. If industry doesn't act, 
>Congress will come up with "son of CDA,'' and this time it might hold up 
>in court. 

the earth might stop rotating tomorrow, too. why is it that we have
a constitution but we don't believe in it? that those who scream the
loudest about constitutional violations are those that are least likely
to believe in it?

>   And that is the nightmare of free-speech advocates: that a medium that 
>the Supreme Court declared ought to be treated at least as liberally as 
>print (ever heard of ratings for books?) will nonetheless be driven into 
>TV-like conformity. 


>This is a legitimate fear.

especially if you like to engage in fearmongering.

>   PICS and RSAC have powerful forces behind them and stand a good chance 
>of establishing themselves as part of the mainstream Internet.

they represent DECENTRALIZED control at the heart, as anyone with half
a brain can recognize..

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