[thechat] Censorship

Martin Burns martin at easyweb.co.uk
Sat Oct 11 17:17:54 CDT 2003

On Saturday, October 11, 2003, at 06:40  pm, Kevin Stevens wrote:

> I don't believe in censorship, but there are so many grey areas I 
> thought
> I'd open this one up to the Chat to see what your opinions are. This 
> was
> prompted by something I've just read about an American library that was
> taken to court by some of its members for putting software on its 
> computers
> to stop anyone from using them to view porn. Fair enough, I thought, 
> but the
> software also prevented access to anything on breast cancer and gay &
> lesbian rights, which is why the lawsuit was filed.

When Compuserve implemented similar keyword blacklists in the UK, they 
also blocked all discussion of breast cancer... and the mention of the 
town of Scunthorpe.

> The people who started
> legal action said this was an unconstitutional form of government
> censorship. I can kind of see both sides of the argument. I would be 
> really
> upset if someone used my personal computer to view racist or homophobic
> content, but I see this as someone disrespecting my personal wishes 
> rather
> than me censoring what they can and cannot do. I think the library was 
> right
> to do this, but it does show a fundamental flaw in having public access
> terminals. What are your opinions on this?

Whether or not it's constitutional (or indeed 'right') to censor access 
to otherwise legal information at a public access site, it remains the 
case that it has always been almost impossible to implement any 
objective censorship regime. Going way back to the 19th Century, early 
attempts at US censorship legislation fell down because they rested on 
a premise of "I know it when I see it". And even then, context was all 
- the same picture might be considered obscene when in a bar, but not 
when in an art gallery - which it's *very* difficult  to assess with 
automated tools.


Now playing on iTunes: "Unchained Melody" by U2 from 'B-Sides 
1980-1990' - a hit from way back in 1989

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