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Last Updated on 18 June, 1998

Latest News

New ACLU Report Condemns Mandatory Blocking Software in Public Libraries, June 17, 1998.

See below for further information on the new ACLU report entitled

Censorship in a Box: Why Blocking Software is Wrong for Public Libraries

 

Following the launch of our report, 'Who Watches the Watchmen: Internet Content Rating Systems, and Privatised Censorship,' November 1997, and following the many initiatives at both national, supranational, and global level we have decided to launch this new part of the Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) web pages to inform the public on the sensitive isssue of filtering software and the developmetn of rating systems. These pages will be informative and will be kept up-to-date with several links to related developments.


Press Release - 03th March 1998 - For immediate release

Internet Watch Foundation launches a consultation paper on "Rating and Filtering Internet Content - A United Kingdom Perspective"

Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) press release is also available at http://www.cyber-rights.org/censorware/watch-iwf.html

See also the Right to Reply Pages at http://www.cyber-rights.org/censorware/right-to-reply.html

LEEDS - Today the Internet Watch Foundation, a self-regulatory body supported by the UK government announced its consultation paper for the development of rating systems at a national level. According to an IWF press release, rating systems would "meet parents’ concerns about Internet content that is unsuitable for children."

Although the consultation document refers to national perspectives, the Internet Watch Foundation is planning to develop the rating systems together with its international partners at a global level under the INCORE project.

Following the launch of the Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) report, "Who Watches the Watchmen: Internet Content Rating Systems, and Privatised Censorship," which was critical of the development of rating systems by the IWF in November 1997, the representatives of both Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) and the Internet Watch Foundation had two meetings concerning the development of rating systems (one in December 97, the second one in January 98).

Yaman Akdeniz head of the CR&CL (UK) stated that:

"The purpose of our report was to raise public awareness which we succeeded in doing. But we wanted to take the IWF initiatives one step back. The real question to be put to the UK public should be - whether the rating systems should be developed at all rather than how to do them (as suggested by the current proposals)."

Yaman Akdeniz also stated that:

"With rating systems and the moral panic behind the Internet content, the Internet could be transformed into a ‘family friendly’ medium, not more adventurous than the likes of the BBC. But it should be remembered that the Internet is not as intrusive as the TV and users seldom encounter illegal content such as child pornography."

Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) will have a new section dealing with the IWF consultation process in which online users views on the IWF consultation document will be published. There will also be a reply by the IWF to the Who Watches the Watchmen Report and we are hoping to engage the concerned citizens with this important debate.

Comments on the IWF consultation document should be sent to report@iwf.org.uk with a subject line "Rating Report Comment." If you send a copy of your comments to Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK), we will publish them online under a separate section - Replies to the IWF. Please send a copy of your replies to lawya@leeds.ac.uk.

For Immediate Release, 15 December 1997

The Global Internet Liberty Campaign criticises the PICSRules 1.1

Today the undersigned members of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign criticised the new proposed W3C recommendations on PICSRules 1.1. The following statement written by Irene Graham (rene@pobox.com) of the Electronic Frontiers Australia and supported by the 14 members of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign.

According to the GILC statement "PICSRules 1.1 go far beyond the original objective of PICS to empower Internet users to control what they and those under their care access. They further facilitate the implementation of server/proxy-based filtering thus providing a more simplified means of enabling upstream censorship, beyond the control of the end user."

Undersigned members of the GILC oppose the proposed adoption of PICSRules 1.1 on the grounds that they will provide a tool for widespread global censorship, which will conflict with W3C’s mission to "realise the full potential of the Web...as an efficient human-human communications medium".

The Global Internet Liberty Campaign, with this document call on W3C to reject the proposals of the PICSRules Working Group and direct resources towards working on genuine metadata systems which will facilitate easier and faster access to desired classes of information by all Internet users, rather than solely supporting denial of access.

Yaman Akdeniz, head of the UK based Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties group supporting the GILC statement stated that:

"With rating systems and the moral panic surrounding Internet content, the Internet could be transformed into a ‘family friendly’ medium, just like the BBC. Alternatively, a situation of "Disney Dilemma" will be witnessed, where only anodyne Internet content, probably generated by international corporations, will be allowed to circulate. The chance to create a virtual market-place of ideas, including the challenging and offensive, will be lost."

The GILC Statement is available here:


Recent Developments and further Links:

Access, Internet, and Public Libraries: A report to the Santa Clara County Libraries.

Akdeniz, Yaman "Governance of Pornography and Child Pornography on the Global Internet: A Multi-Layered Approach," in Edwards, L and Waelde, C eds, Law and the Internet: Regulating Cyberspace, Hart Publishing, 1997, pp 223-241. See http://www.cyber-rights.org/governan.htm

ACLU Joins Internet Free Expression Alliance, Criticizes White House "Censorware" Summit. Statement of Barry Steinhardt, ACLU Associate Director, Wednesday, November 26, 1997.

Internet Online Summit: Focus On Children December 1-3, 1997 Washington, D.C.

ACLU Censorware pages

American Civil Liberties Union, Fahrenheit 451.2: Is Cyberspace Burning? How Rating and Blocking Proposals May Torch Free Speech on the Internet, August 1997 http://www.aclu.org/issues/cyber/burning.html

New ACLU Report Condemns Mandatory Blocking Software in Public Libraries, June 17, 1998.

NEW YORK -- In a 17-page white paper , the American Civil Liberties Union said that the mandatory use of Internet blocking software in libraries is inappropriate and unconstitutional.

The new report, Censorship in a Box: Why Blocking Software is Wrong for Public Libraries, continues a line of argument the ACLU first made in a well-received 1997 report and furthers its critique of industry plans to adopt blocking mechanisms and expand them to libraries and schools. The report comes as more and more librarians are being pressured to install the software on library terminals to prevent minors from accessing objectionable materials.

But the ACLU said mandatory blocking is not the solution. "Blocking software is clumsy and ineffective," said Ann Beeson, an ACLU national staff attorney who co-wrote the report. "It censors valuable speech and gives parents and educators a false sense of security about what their children are encountering online." Beeson added that while the ACLU supports parents' right to using the software in the home, they warn that no product can effectively screen the vast content of the web, and many companies block sites for ideological reasons that parents may not agree with.

The report also criticized a plan to condition Internet funding for schools on the use of blocking software. The "Internet School Filtering Act," introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), is also supported by lead Democratic sponsors Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, home to Microsoft, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, home to Silicon Valley. In a letter sent with the report to the Senate, the ACLU is urging Senators not to support the bill when it comes up for a vote. "We believe that educators, not Congress, should be the ones making decisions about what students can learn on the Internet," said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU's Washington National Office.

Censorship in a Box proposes five guidelines for libraries and schools looking for alternatives to clumsy and ineffective blocking software:

The report also includes a two-page "Q&A" on blocking software and examples of sites that have been blocked by various products. The ACLU emphasized that it did not seek to evaluate any particular product, but rather demonstrate how all blocking software censors speech based on subjective views about what is offensive. Recently, the American Family Association, a conservative religious group, learned this lesson when it found that CyberPatrol, a popular brand of blocking software, had placed AFA on its "Cybernot" list because of the group is considered "intolerant" of homosexuality.

"Clearly, the answer to blocking based on ideological viewpoint is not more blocking , any more than the answer to unpopular speech is to prevent everyone from speaking, because then no viewpoint of any kind will be heard," the ACLU's Beeson said.

ACLU Report, Censorship in a Box can be found online at http://www.aclu.org/issues/cyber/box.html

ACLU, EFF Urge Senate to Reject "Spawn of CDA" -- Internet School Filtering and CDA II, March 11, 1998.

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility Filtering FAQ, Version 1.1, 25 December 1997, by Harry Hochheiser, CPSR Board Member.

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility Question Internet Filtering Agreement, July 18, 1997, at http://www.cpsr.org/dox/issues/filters.html

Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) Report, ‘Who Watches the Watchmen: Internet Content Rating Systems, and Privatised Censorship,’ which was launched in November 1997, is available at http://www.cyber-rights.org/watchmen.htm

Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) has a section dealing with the regulation of child pornography on the Internet. It includes information about all UK cases involving child pornography. See http://www.cyber-rights.org/reports/child.htm

EURIM Briefing No 19 : The Regulation of Content on the Internet, July 1997.

European Commission Communication to the European Parliament, The Council, The Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: Illegal and Harmful Content on the Internet, Com (96) 487, Brussels, 16 October 1996.

European Commission Green Paper on the Protection of Minors and Human Dignity in Audovisual and Information Services, Brussels, 16 October 1996.

European Commission Working Party Report (1996) ‘Illegal and Harmful Content on the Internet’

EPIC Censorware pages at http://www.epic.org/free_speech/censorware/

Electronic Privacy Information Center, "Faulty Filters: How Content Filters Block Access to Kid-Friendly Information on the Internet," Washington, December 1997, at http://www2.epic.org/reports/filter-report.html.

The Ethical Spectacle Censorware pages maintained by Jonathan Wallace

Filtering Facts, a web site which supports the idea of filtering on the Internet, http://www.filteringfacts.org/index.htm

Finkelstein, Seth, The Truth Isn't Out There, http://www.spectacle.org/cs/seth.html

Fisher, F., "The ratings game," Index On Censorship, 2nd issue, 1998.

Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation report, "Access Denied: The Impact of Internet Filtering Software on the Lesbian and Gay Community," New York, December 1997, at http://www.glaad.org/glaad/access_denied/index.html - "Access Denied" contains sections analyzing the legal, political and social implications of enforced invisibility on the Web. It also includes overviews written by members of groups such as Gay and Lesbian Parents Coalition International (GLPCI) and Peacefire (an entirely youth-run cyberliberties group), as well as testimonials from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, who, as seen in the report, are those most directly affected by the lack of access to important information via the Web or Internet newsgroups.

Graham, Irene, The Net Labelling Delusion, http://rene.efa.org.au/liberty/label.html - excellent resources!

Internet Watch Foundation - Internet Watch Foundation consultation document - "Rating and Filtering Internet Content - A United Kingdom Perspective," is available at http://www.internetwatch.org.uk/rating.html. A press release on this document is available at http://www.internetwatch.org.uk/p030398.html

Internet Free Expression Alliance - The Internet is a powerful and positive forum for free expression. It is the place where "any person can become a town crier with a voice that resonates farther than it could from any soapbox," as the U.S. Supreme Court recently observed. Internet users, online publishers, library and academic groups and free speech and journalistic organizations share a common interest in opposing the adoption of techniques and standards that could limit the vibrance and openness of the Internet as a communications medium. Indeed, content "filtering" techniques already have been implemented in ways inconsistent with free speech principles, impeding the ability of Internet users to publish and receive constitutionally protected expression.

Jonathan Weinberg, Rating the Net, 19 Hastings Comm. & Ent. L.J. 453 (1997) at http://www.msen.com/~weinberg/rating.htm

Lambda SPECIAL REPORT: Proxy temptations, filtering fanatics, Lambda 4.01, April 2, 1998.

UK Internet Service Providers Association Backs UK Government Review on Illegal and Harmful Content, 03 March, 1998.

Lessig, Lawrence , Tyranny in the Infrastructure: The CDA was bad - but PICS may be worse, Wired, Issue 5.07, July 1997.

Nadine Strossen, Filtering Out the Truth - How "family-friendly" Internet blocking software poses a threat to cyber-freedom, Intellectual Capital, January 1998.

Nadine Strossen, Burning Down the Net - Think the defeat of the CDA was the end of the cyber freedom debate? Think again, Intellectual Capital, October 1997.

Nadine Strossen, Schoolgirls, Sex and Speech, Intellectual Capital, June 18, 1998.

Netscape Adds Content-Filtering to Browser, PC World News Radio, March 26, 1998.

Peacefire, a US organisation which opposes blocking software, http://www.peacefire.org/info/blocking_software.shtml

TIFAP, The Internet Filter Assessment Project.

US Judge Sets Highest Legal Hurdle For Using Blocking Software in Libraries, April 7, 1997 - In his decision, Judge Leonie Brinkema of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia said that the government had "misconstrued the nature of the Internet" and held that "the Library Board may not adopt and enforce content-based restrictions on access to protected Internet speech" unless it meets the highest level of constitutional scrutiny.


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Last updated 07 April 1998.