Third party rating systems are good for society

Declan McCullagh declan at
Fri Aug 8 01:19:42 PDT 1997

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 7 Aug 1997 19:33:16 -0700 (PDT)
From: Declan McCullagh <declan at>
To: Stanton McCandlish <mech at>
Cc: mnorton at, jellicle at,
    fight-censorship at
Subject: Third party rating systems are good for society

On Thu, 7 Aug 1997, Stanton McCandlish wrote:

> [Lest more people send hatemail, please keep in mind that the description
> of third party ratings as "good things" here means a proliferation of
> third party reviews of  content, goods and services just like we have in
> the real world. It does not mean Milburn imposing his morality on the

I'm still wrestling with how to think about third party rating systems in
general and clunky, pejorative systems like RSACi in particular. How to
differentiate the two in principle? Time to reread the ALA's statements

For I think in general, third party rating systems are boons to society. 
Think of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, Underwriter Labs, and
kosher rating agencies. These are socially useful devices, each one of
them. (I'd be interested to hear what similar systems have sprouted in
other countries.) 

Or, to put it in cypherpunkly terms, marks allow the redistribution of
reputation capital. The Time logo and the Netly News URL on my business
card may boost my reputation when presented to someone who doesn't know
me. An Intel Inside logo may (or may not!) do the same. Even SATs and
GMATs are rating systems of a sort, for they tell a prospective employer
or college something about me. Then there's TRUSTe. 

Third party rating systems are nothing more than the formalization of
gossip, which has lubricated the social wheels of every society that has
ever existed.

So I suggest one should not oppose third party rating systems in general
but instantiations of these systems in particular. RSACi is certainly one
of those. 


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