Feasibility of censoring and jamming pronography and racism in informatics

Ulf Möller 3umoelle at informatik.uni-hamburg.de
Fri Aug 29 16:25:58 PDT 1997

A European parliament study evaluating `Feasibility of censoring and
jamming pronography and racism in informatics':

"SUBSCRIBER PROTECTION: In this scenario [...] it would be necessary
for access providers to use firewall and PICS technology (in some
instances implemented with in proxy applications) to implement a
management regime consistent with provisions for protection of society
as in other media, ie media parity. Implementation on this basis would
be necessary to ensure subscribers could not tamper with management
settings. The impact of implementing the necessary technology on the
operating economics of access providers appears to be small. That
technologies of these types have already been employed by access
provider organisations [...] could potentially be considered to
confirm this."

From: kris at koehntopp.de (=?ISO-8859-1?Q?Kristian_K=F6hntopp?=)
Newsgroups: de.soc.zensur

Europarl: STOA Homepage

Europarl: STOA Publications

Europarl: STOA Workplan 1996

A. Information and telecommunications policy options

       cooperation with the specific research programme of
       DGIV: REX/Internal Market/New technology/STOA)

       (iv) Technical feasibility of jamming or censoring
	    pornography and racism in informatics - Civil


European Parliament

* Batiment Schuman
  Bureau 4/82
  L-2929 Luxembourg
  Phone: +352 4300-2511
  Fax: +352 4300-2418

* Batiment Eastman
  Bureau 113
  B-1047 Brussels
  Phone: +322 284-3747
  Fax: +322 284-9059

Email the STOA Team in Luxembourg at _STOA at europarl.eu.int_
Email the STOA Team in Brussels at _ksercu at europarl.eu.int_

This document is a working Document for the 'STOA Panel'. It is
not an official publication of the STOA.

This document does not necessarily represent the views of the
European Parliament.

Feasibility of censoring and jamming pronography and racism in informatics
			***DRAFT*** Final Report

Luxembourg, May 1997,  PE number: 166 658

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7 Conclusions

7.1 Technical Feasibility

7.1.1 The central question posed to this study is whether it is
      technically feasible to use the content managment
      technology to censor and jam pornography and racism on
      the Internet.

7.1.2 It is concluded that available technology does no and is
      not likely to provide any satisfactory means for
      automatically classifying such material. Such judgements
      will therefore have to be made by humans.

7.1.3 Once such judgements are made, however, technology
      provides for these judgements to be distributed and used
      by content managment systems to make the following
      content managment actions feasible (in principle) to a
      high degree:

      - subscriber choice, in that individuals can choose the
        extent to which they permit or exclude such material on
	their own behalf or on behalf of others for whom they
	have responsibility;

      - subscriber protection, in that precautions against
        unintentional or unsolicited exposure to such material
	can be implemented as defined by statute or other form
	of code or regulation;

      - prevention of Internet abuse, in that it is possible to
        detect the exchange of such material within closed
	groups of offenders to a very substantial extent;

      - detection of offenders, in that offenders can be
        identified when offences have been detected or notified
	involving sites and services where the user has
	explicitly authenticated identity;

      - flexible and multi-cultural implementation of content
        management, in that content management policies can be

	- to meet the requirements of very small subscriber
	  groups, eg. selected subscribers or a selected group
	  of terminals;

	- differentially for different types of Internet
	  service, eg Web access and e-mail;

	- to meet the needs of one culture with respect to the
	  material originating from another without the
	  cooperation of the originator;

7.1.4 The principal technical limitations in these capabilities

      - automated content classification systems can not,
	because of the complexity of legal definitions, identify
	Internet content to be racist, pornographic, illegal or
	harmful - hence this classification must be made by
	human judgement;

      - the potential flexibility and coverage offered by the
        technology can not be achieved in full, at present,

	- currently implementations of the key technology
	  (PICS) in Internet applications is incomplete and
	  hence the ratings information can not yet be used to
	  manage all types of Internet content explicitly;

	- ratings databases are currently incomplete in terms
	  of the types of service they consider and the full
	  range of Internet services available;

      - it can not be absolutely guaranteed that Internet
        anonymity services can not be used to frustrate
	detection of offenders in certain circumstances.

7.1.5 The principal practical issues involved in implementing
      these technologies are:

      - defining rating systems which are sufficiently explicit
        regarding content managment requirements to allow
	automatic content management whilst still being:

	- practical to apply to large volumes of information;

	- meaningful outside the culture in which they are
	  originally applied;

      - funding the large effort required to categorise the
        huge and growing volumes of Internet content.

7.2 Implications of policy scenarios

7.2.1 The study investigated the following policy scenarios:

      Subscriber choice

7.2.2 In this scenario, essentially the status quo, subscribers
      would either coose to exercise explicit controls over
      their Internet experience, eg through the use of parental
      control software, or not. Potentially, subscribers could
      elect to implement management regimes consistent with
      privision for protection of society as in other media, ie
      to provide media parity, but this could not be enforced.

7.2.3 Currently, the technical capability of these products is
      increasing as vendors invest in the development of new
      facilities. In the longer term, however, it is not clear
      that the current subscriber uptake of such tools (on a
      purely discretionary basis) will sustain their
      development or the maintenance of databases upon which
      they depend on a long term basis.

7.2.4 The principal social objection to this policy scenario is
      that it does not in any way act to reduce abuse either on
      the Internet or in the 'real' world. The principal legal
      issue which arises is that it does not provide for media

      Subscriber protection

7.2.5 In this scenario, subscribers would continue to have the
      option to exercise management controls accordings to
      their preferences - potentially including screening
      unsolicited communications from 'strangers' or anonymous
      sites. In addition, however, it would be necessary for
      access providers to use firewall and PICS technology (in
      some instances implemented with in proxy applications) to
      implement a management regime consistent with provisions
      for protection of society as in other media, ie media
      parity. Implementation on this basis would be necessary
      to ensure subscribers could not tamper with management

7.2.6 The impact of implementing the necessary technology on
      the operating economics of access providers appears to be
      small. That technologies of these types have already been
      employed by access provider organisations (without
      discernible impact on end-user charges) could potentially
      be considered to confirm this.

7.2.7 The principal legal issues which arise in this scenario

      - the liabilities of those who apply labels to content
        provided by others;

      - the liabilities of those who are charged with
        implementing content management on the basis of labels
	applied by others;

      - the potential for content labelling providing a legal
        obstacle to free trade.

7.2.8 These legal issues potentially have substantial social
      impact in that:

      - if liabilities are potentially large, those who accept
        them, either through compiling ratings databases or
	providing Internet access service, are likely to be
	very conservative with respect to the material with
	which they will deal;

      - international e-commerce in certain services may be
        compromised by nations exploiting differences in
	ratings procedures as a pretext for blocking material
	originating from other countries.

      Preventing Internet abuse
7.2.9 It is concluded that only implementation of the most
      intrusive surveillance technology could be exspected to
      impact heavily upon abuse of the Internet on committed
      offenders (because of their ready access to strong
      encryption and covert communication technologies). To
      enable this policy scenario, it would be necessary for
      access providers to constrain the equipment used by
      subscribers to access the Internet to be such that:

      - no content could be removed;

      - all content and processing could be subject to
        automatic and manual surveillance.

7.2.10 The technical and economic feasibility of the necessary
      technology is evidenced by the emergence, with purely
      commercial motivations, of technical systems which privde
      the basic facilities required to implement the necessary
      measures. It is notes that this coincidental emergence of
      such systems may raise siginificant privacy issues
      outside of the scope of this study. The economics of
      manual surveillance, however, can not be assessed.

7.2.11 This technical approach is, however, completely
      non-specific in the terms of the subject of censorship
      which could be implemented and in the scope of
      (potentially private) material to which surveillance
      access would be required. It therefore seems highly
      unlikely that, when the commercial implications, legal
      obstacles and social objections are considered,
      application of this technology in this way can be
      considered a proportionate general response.

7.2.12 Finally, it seems highly probable that the principal of
      impact of implementation of these measures, if they were
      to be implemented generally and were found to be
      effective, would be to displace abuse to other
      communications means.

      Detecting offenders
7.2.13 If access providers and service providers maintain
      proper subscriber authentication systems and system
      management environments, offending actions at the site to
      which the subscriber authenticates can be traced to the
      offender. Detection of offenders committing offences 'at
      a distance' (ie a subscriber in a country committing an
      offence in another), however, would require:

      - access and service providers to take steps to ensure
        subscriber identity information is carried in their

      - monitoring of services provided on the Internet to
        prevent subscribers misusing anonymity services to
	remove such information.

7.2.14 Whilst a variety of means exist to attach identity
      information, detection of anonymity services is not
      straightforward. However, monitoring such services would
      be exspected to limit the number available for overt, eg
      to transmit offensive material to innocent parties,
      offensive use.

7.2.15 Legally, handling offences detected through voluntary
      authentication would be relatively straightforward as the
      offending subscriber would be resident in the country
      where the offence was committed. However, offences can
      only be detected through forced identification, ie those
      committed 'at a distance', would currently be subject to
      extradition arrangements and it is not clear that new
      opportunities for prosecution would arise in practice.
      Meanwhile, it may be that the social implications of
      forced and general identification of Internet subscribers
      would leave subscribers open to a variety of forms of
      intrusion on privacy and discrimination.

7.3. Options for action at Member State level

7.3.1 It is concluded that, in technical terms, Member States
      could implement combinations of the technical measures
      identified in this report according to their own
      perceptions of harm and proportionality of response in
      accordance with principles of media parity. This could,
      technically, be achieved without the cooperation of any
      external party and provide for different levels of
      content management according the
      requirements/vulnerabilities of individual subscriber

7.3.2 The principal potential implications for a member state
      adopting measures at variance with international norms
      would be:

      - obtacles to free trade, including possible infringement
        of Single Market requirements;

      - reduced availability of Internet content;

      - having to bear the costs of maintaining classifications
        of Internet content alone.

7.4   Options for action at European level

7.4.1 It is concluded that cooperation at the European level
      could mitigate the implications of uni-lateral action by
      Member States if action were taken to establish a common
      content management system. This would comprise:

      - technical standards in the definition of rating systems
        to minimise costs of researching Internet content and
	spread them over the largest possible population;

      - regulations for harmonisation in the application of
        agreed standards to ensure that their use did not lead
	to artifical obstacles in trade;

      - technical standards in the implementation of content
        selection mechanisms in Internet applications to ensure
	that ratings information can be used in a consistent
	and appropriate way.

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