1996-12-10 - Re: PICS is not censorship

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From: jbaber@mi.leeds.ac.uk
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: 902f2059d27b371d771a331539ae46457f71bbfd819df1413beef3f43d51231a
Message ID: <4396.9612100936@misun2.mi.leeds.ac.uk>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1996-12-10 09:39:20 UTC
Raw Date: Tue, 10 Dec 1996 01:39:20 -0800 (PST)

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From: jbaber@mi.leeds.ac.uk
Date: Tue, 10 Dec 1996 01:39:20 -0800 (PST)
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: Re: PICS is not censorship
Message-ID: <4396.9612100936@misun2.mi.leeds.ac.uk>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

Tim May <tcmay@mail.got.net> writes: 
> At 3:52 PM -0800 12/8/96, Lucky Green wrote:
> >Let's put the question if something like PICS will be mandated aside for
> >the moment. Do you agree that sites that deliberately mislabel their
> >content, will eventually face legal action? If so, then PICS should not be
> >considered truly voluntary.

I disagree, mandating labeling is a completely separate thing from deliberately
mislabeling. No one could force me into entering into a contract with them,
but if I chose to then it would, and very probably should, be enforceable.

> If I believe pictures of people having sex should be marked "Suitable for
> all ages" (or whatever the Official PICS Status Code is) will I be
> criminally or civilly in danger? If so, then PICS is a ratings system which
> individuals are likely to be unable to interpret themselves.

What if the PICS classifications were worded so as to describe the factual
content of a page rather than the writers opinion of its suitability? This,
if correctly implemented, could remove the problem of interpretation.

> (This takes the element of intent to deliberately defeat PICS out of the
> equation, and asks if "innocent mislabeling" or "philosophical disagreement
> alternate labeling" will expose the mislabeller to charges.

Factual classifications should completely remove the problems of innocent 
mislabeling and philosophical disagreement (if you disagree don't label but
if you use our labels follow our rules). I would never claim to be a lawyer 
but from my naive point of view I would say that putting false labels on a
page would be misrepresenting it and could possibly constitute fraud?

Take for example a page labeled with the <Topless> factual tag, that charged
for access. Surely a user could, at the very least claim that false 
advertising got him to (pay to) view the page if he was searching for Topless

> What I see with any such enforcement of PICS standards is yet another Full
> Employment Act for Lawyers, and the Lawyer's Guild will be oh so happy to
> see PICS essentially made part of the bureacratic morass:
> "Due to the complexities of the PICS ratings system, and varying community
> interpretations of the elements of PICS, we advise that no person post
> anything to the Net with a PICS rating without seeking competent legal
> advice from a PICS-licensed legal professional."

Unfortunately this may be the case, however I would suspect that this may go
the other way with people thinking that if they can be sued for mislabeling
their pages they just will not label them at all.

Jon Baber