Re: TECH: Is PICS a threat to Free Speech?

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Fri, 27 Jun 1997 20:51:25 -0700 (PDT)

> Now that the CDA has been defeated in the Supreme Court, pundits are
> focusing on user-education and self-filtering programs. PICS has been
> mentioned as an up and coming standard for user-filtration. However,
> WIRED has mentioned that PICS could be used by anybody to censor others
> without their knowledge or consent.
> Is this going to be a problem? And can anybody explain to me how this
> could be done? And most importantly since this a technical form of
> censorship, is there a technical way around it?

Freedom of expression does not give one the right to force others to
listen if they don't want to. A PICS labelling bureau can evaluate
any site by any criteria it wants, and subscribers can choose any
bureau they want and choose to filter on any ratings they want. That
is not by any stretch of the dictionary "censorship"; it is enabling
the user to make his own choices; after all, his right to listen to
only what he wants is every bit as valid as your right to say what
you want. I am a free speech radical absolutist, but if you want to
put me in your killfile, I have no right to complain, nor do I have
any right to know that you have done so or why. A PICS bureau is no
different. If they choose to label a site "adult", they are under no
obligation to explain, inform, or grant any recourse. They are only
exercising /their/ free speech to evaluate and label.

I'd like to start a PICS bureau that labelled sites for "cluefulness",
so that users could filter out various levels of idiocy.