ACLU, CDA, etc.

duck (
Sat, 9 Aug 1997 07:55:56 -0700

[snipped from Wired News]

ACLU: Labeling May Lead to Lost

by Ashley Craddock
9:09am 8.Aug.97.PDT Warning against the growing
stampede toward voluntary rating standards for
online content, the American Civil Liberties Union
has released a report arguing that any move
toward labeling could negate the free-speech
victory just won in the Communications Decency
Act decision.

"In the landmark case Reno v. ACLU, the
Supreme Court ... [declared] that the Internet
deserves the same high level of protection afforded
to books and other matter," begins the
purple-prose-laden report released Thursday,
Fahrenheit 451.2: Is Cyberspace Burning? "But
today, all we have achieved may now be lost ... in
the dense smoke of the many ratings and blocking
schemes promoted by some of the very people
who fought for freedom."

(Perhaps that should tell the ACLU something. As much as i generally
support their goals, they are ever-oblivious to the flipside of rights:
responsibility. They are two sides of the same coin. Someone should begin
an ACRU - American Civil Responsibilities Union.)

The catalyst for the ACLU's concern was a recent
summit between the family-friendly Clinton
administration and industry leaders such as
Microsoft, Yahoo, and Netscape.

Particularly alarming, the report says, is industry's
willingness to jump on the feel-good family-values
wagon. Danger signs include Netscape's plans to
adopt the Platform for Internet Content Selection
(which, since Microsoft employs PICS, would
mean that 90 percent-plus of the browser market
relied on one system), the US$100,000 IBM anted
up to encourage the use of the Recreation
Software Advisory Council's RSACi system, and
Lycos' dare challenging other search engines to
exclude unrated sites.

ACLU associate director Barry Steinhardt, who
co-authored the report, said he believes the
continuing threat to online free speech derives not
from any specific proposal, but rather from the
summit participants' failure to examine the
long-term implications of voluntary content-rating

"People are under the delusion that if they
embrace voluntary rating schemes, it'll prevent a
second CDA," Steinhardt said. "The reality is that
those schemes create the architecture to support
a second one. Something like Senator Patty
Murray's proposal to make it a crime to misrate
sites couldn't exist without a standard already in

(I'm all for keeping the feds from regulating us, but is this guy implying
that we can't even regulate ourselves? Self-regulation prevents federal
intervention, it doesn't pave the road for it. Case in point: Many moons
ago (in the 50's?) when it became obvious that TV was going to take over
the world, the liquor honchos all got together and agreed that TV was not
the place to advertise hard liquor because of the large audience of
children. This self-regulation worked until 1996 when one compnay
(Seagrams?) decided they needed that exposure and broke the self-imposed
rules. Faster than you can say "CDA" the feds jumped on the issue and
began talking about regulating since self-regulation had failed. So maybe
self-regulation does lead to federal regulation in some cases, but only
when self-regulation has failed. But isn't that how it should be? (not a
rhetorical). Some of this is discussed in an interview i did with Dr. John
Pavlik in my April issue of Ink - available at


"Night fell again. There was war to the south, but our sector was quiet.
The battle was over. Our casualties were some thirteen thousand
killed--thirteen thousand minds, memories, loves, sensations, worlds,
universes--because the human mind is more a universe than the universe
itself--and all for a few hundred yards of useless mud."

-John Fowles [The Magus, 1965]"