censorship Re: [uf-discuss] like that in xFolk?

Dr. Ernie Prabhakar drernie at opendarwin.org
Thu Oct 27 10:10:17 PDT 2005

[somewhat off topic, but I suspect it will come up again, so I may as  
well say my peace]

Hi Chris,

On Oct 27, 2005, at 9:56 AM, Chris Messina wrote:
> I can't wait until China picks up on microformats to censor
> expression. That's where this is headed after all once you start
> applying value- or moral-based ratings to content.
> I mean, *I* know pornography when I see it, don't you?

Well, let's be clear -- any technology that allows machine processing  
could be used for various kinds of automated evil; and any social  
convention creates incentives for parasites.  As far as I can tell,  
the best defense is to build *flexible* mechanisms so there's not a  
single point of failure, so that -- as they say -- the Internet has  
the option to route around it.  The alternative is to deliberately  
obfuscate everything to prevent any possible misuse -- which I doubt  
is what you want.

That is why I believe it is essential to separate *mechanism* from  
policy.  I fully agree that any rating format we come up with should  
allow different schemes, so that is trivial for people to 'opt-out'  
of a given community scheme. That way, if a large ISP decides to  
block "http://technorati.com/tags/democracy", everyone who's worried  
about that can simply switch to "http://technorati.com/tags/ 
democraacy."  Yes, its an 'arms race' of sorts, but the point is that  
the cost to the content creators is always low, whereas the content- 
blockers must add layers upon layers of complexity to keep up...

Conversely, I like the idea that I could create an automated filter  
that would make it easy for me to give my five-year-old child access  
to large but safe portion of the Internet.  Sure, by the time he's a  
teenager he'll be smart enough to work around it, but that's OK.  I  
do NOT think censorship makes sense as a way to keep doing people  
from seeing what they want, but I do like filtering as a way to let  
people NOT see what they DON'T want.  :-)

-- Ernie P.

Ernest N. Prabhakar, Ph.D. <drernie at opendarwin.org>
Ex-Physicist, Marketing Weenie, and Dilettante Hacker
Probe-Hacker blog: http://www.opendarwin.org/~drernie/

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