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Subject: Re: UKNM: Is anybody out there using PICS ratings?
From: Sajid Mohammed
Date: Wed, 12 Aug 1998 16:34:50 +0100

---Bill Thompson <billatdial [dot] pipex [dot] com> wrote:
> Everybody knows about PICS ratings (RSACi/SurfWatch etc) but
> nobody seems to be using them - how come?

In brief:

1) Netscape has not supported PICS until now - Release 5.0 will
support PICS ratings. IE has for sometime - but have you ever looked
at the settings and changed them?

2) SurfWatch type software *is* controversial. For example, in one
celebrated case access to a section of The Whitehouse site about Mr
and Mrs Gore was denied by filtering software because the text
contained the highly erotic word 'couples'. Pity the music fan looking
for pages about hardcore.

3) There is no obligation on web providers to rate files. It's one
less thing to think about when you're pushed for time.

Inevitably, however, as more people go online there will be growth in
the filtering software - I see legions of Guardian-reading parents
living in Hampstead freaking out about Little Johnny downloading the
Anarchist Cookbook.

Personally, I think we may be in for a 'balkanisation' phenomenon,
where large commercial providers will implement PICS (like Disney,
CNET etc.) and cautious parents will turn on the filters - meaning
that kids will only be exposed to those parts of the Web. The rest of
us will probably carry on as before.

One possible scenario is that the media continue to fuel fears about
the dangers of unregulated web usage and Givernment uses this as a
means to restrict freedom of speech by introducing proposals to
regulate content online by making ISPs liable as publishers rather
than common carriers - which I think is a legal grey area at the
moment. Precedents have yet to be set, as far as I am aware.

The press and advertising industries employ a self-regulatory model.
RSACi and other systems would be our bulwark against imposed
regulations if we all had a common voice and said that we will
implement RSACi (which isn't *that* much of a bind).

Without wishing to sound like some Noam Chomsky groupie, Government
likes demonising factions to introduce wide ranging laws e.g.
anti-Hooligan legislation used against Miners, anti-stalker
legislation used against roads protestors and so on.

Self-regulation (using PICS extensively) may prove to be an acceptable
solution to fears about content online and preseve the libertine
nature of this wonderful medium.

Sajid Mohammed
Get your free @yahoo.com address at http://mail.yahoo.com

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