1996-03-09 - Re: Vexatious Litigants (was: SurfWatch)

Header Data

From: Martin Janzen <janzen@idacom.hp.com>
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: 47fe50bb645cd458bed306364f15ac10b84a42c0ca0432753cac06267cecaa93
Message ID: <9603090028.AA10079@sabel.idacom.hp.com>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1996-03-09 15:37:30 UTC
Raw Date: Sat, 9 Mar 1996 23:37:30 +0800

Raw message

From: Martin Janzen <janzen@idacom.hp.com>
Date: Sat, 9 Mar 1996 23:37:30 +0800
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: Re: Vexatious Litigants  (was: SurfWatch)
Message-ID: <9603090028.AA10079@sabel.idacom.hp.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

"Martin Diehl" <mdiehl@dttus.com> wrote:
>Henry Huang <hwh6k@fulton.seas.virginia.edu> at INTERNET-USA wrote:
>> The question I have is if these systems were widely implemented, could
>> an Web page author or provider of content be sued for "mislabeling"
>> their page?  If so, under what circumstances?  Could the RSAC attach
>> legal requirements to the use of their system, and open up such a
>> loophole (similar to how Sun attaches conditions to the use of its
>> "Java" logo)?
>     Seems to me that if the Web page author labels his page
>     conservatively, i. e. "materials may be unsuitable for non-adults; may
>     contain controversial material, may contain views different from your
>     own, etc.".  How can the author be liable for mislabeling?

I read Henry's question to refer to the case in which the Web page
author rates a page "too low"; that is, in such a way that despite the
use of RSAC/SurfWatch/etc. software, "undesirable" material gets
through the filter. 

Suppose that an author provides a page which lists, say, clothing-
optional beaches, complete with pictures.  The author rates it as
"suitable for family viewing" -- either naively, believing that no one
will be offended; or deliberately, to make the point that the content is
harmless and _should_ be considered suitable for family viewing; or
simply in order to widen the potential audience.

Henry's question (as I interpret it) is this: If prudish parents now
catch their kid looking at a page with pictures of barenaked people,
figure out why the page wasn't filtered out, and file suit against the
author, what is likely to happen?

ObCrypto, sort of:  What if the page were retrieved through an HTTP
proxy which, unbeknownst to the author (and the filtering service/SW),
deliberately removes or alters the PICS-Label or other rating
information?  The author did, after all, _provide_ the "undesirable"
material....  To what extent does the author's intent matter?  Must Web
authors now add a digital signature to each page (including its rating
info), to prevent tampering? 

Martin Janzen           janzen@idacom.hp.com

ObRant: Or, before it comes to that, will people learn to take just
the tiniest shred of [Exon]ing responsibility for themselves and their
[Exon]ing kids?