1993-03-01 - Censorship…

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From: Hal <74076.1041@CompuServe.COM>
Message Hash: d62f0358f8fddd65c4eef33a8b661395fe113d972857f165b67ddaa5c83eab55
Message ID: <93030104331274076.1041_DHJ75-1@CompuServe.COM>
Reply To: _N/A

UTC Datetime: 1993-03-01 04:43:20 UTC
Raw Date: Sun, 28 Feb 93 20:43:20 PST

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From: Hal <74076.1041@CompuServe.COM>
Date: Sun, 28 Feb 93 20:43:20 PST
Subject: Censorship...
Message-ID: <930301043312_74076.1041_DHJ75-1@CompuServe.COM>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

Ted Ts'o writes:

> I noticed that in several postings, people have made the jump that
> revealing the real person (or the previous hop in a remailer chain) from
> an anonymous remailer is tantamount to censorship.  I'd like to call
> into question that assumption.

"Censorship" is an emotional term.  My New World Dictionary defines it as the
act of censoring, and a censor as "an official with the power to examine
publications, movies, television programs, etc. and to remove or
prohibit anything considered obscene, libelous, politically objectionable,
etc."  I think this corresponds pretty closely with how we use the
word.  It suggests that a good test for whether an action is censorship
is whether the prohibition is based on the content of the message along
the lines above, where a message is controversial, obscene, etc.

(Many Libertarians would argue that no private action can be censorship,
that only government actions backed up by the threat of force can be.
They might point to the word "official" in the definition above.  I
think that the more common use of the word would include the concept
of private censorship; as, for example, in the case of a newspaper
editor who kills a story because it attacks a powerful political friend
of the editor.  He can be considered an official of the newspaper.)

Ted then gives the example of someone yelling at 4AM in the morning.
Stopping this action would not be censorship by this test.  You don't
care about the content of his speech, just the volume.

Ted also mentions libel and slander.  Stopping these would apparently be
censorship by the definition above (which explicitly mentions "libelous").

For the remailer cases, stopping usage due to excessive volume would not
be censorship.  It would be analogous to stopping someone from yelling
at 4AM.  Your restriction is not based on content.

On the other hand, stopping usage due to the content of a message would
be censorship, especially if it was due to the message content being
"obscene, libelous, politically objectionable, etc."  I think many of
the attacks on anonymous messages based on content would in fact fall
into these categories.

I am not arguing here that censorship is wrong, although certainly the
word has acquired negative connotations.  It's interesting to see that
stopping libel can be considered censorship, and this fact might cause
those who believe in laws against libel to consider whether censorship
may sometimes be good.  If they do feel comfortable with that, then they
can openly call for censorship by remailer operators without mincing words.

Hal Finney