|felipe rodriquez on Fri, 10 Sep 1999 23:33:46 +0200 (CEST)
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|nettime-nl: FW: Two press releases on filtering efforts by Bertelsmann Foundation
-----Original Message----- From: Cyber Rights [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: Thursday, September 09, 1999 2:13 PM To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Two press releases on filtering efforts by Bertelsmann Foundation FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Thursday, September 9, 1999 Marc Rotenberg, EPIC Executive Director 1300 GMT Dori Kornfeld, EPIC Fellow (+1) 202-544-9240 INTERNATIONAL STATEMENT WARNS THAT PROPOSED INTERNET RATING AND FILTERING SYSTEM COULD DAMAGE FREE EXPRESSION MUNICH, GERMANY -- Internet policy and human rights groups from around the world are warning that a proposed international rating system for the Internet could jeopardize the free flow of information on the global medium. In a joint statement issued today at the Internet Content Summit in Munich, Germany, 19 organizations from three continents expressed their concerns that a "voluntary" rating system being considered at the conference may actually facilitate governmental restrictions on Internet expression. The organizations are members of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign (GILC), an international coalition of organizations working to protect and enhance online civil liberties and human rights. The organizations, which include the leading advocates of Internet free expression, question the suggestion that industry-promoted rating and filtering systems will reduce the possibility of legal restrictions on online content. They say in the statement that, "these systems should be viewed more realistically as fundamental architectural changes that may, in fact, facilitate the suppression of speech far more effectively than national laws alone ever could." According to David Sobel, General Counsel of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), one of the groups issuing the statement, "The Internet community does not support the concept of rating online content. We all want to ensure that children can make appropriate use of the Internet, but there has been too much emphasis on blocking information and too little emphasis on teaching kids to use the medium responsibly." Sobel is attending the Munich summit meeting, along with representatives of several other GILC member groups that endorsed the joint statement. On the occasion of the Munich meeting, EPIC has released a new collection of articles that examine the potential problems of Internet rating and filtering systems. Contributors include many of the organizations signing today's joint statement. "Filters & Freedom: Free Speech Perspectives on Internet Content Controls" warns that content filters could severely limit free expression on the Internet. Copies of the collection are being distributed to all participants at the Internet Content Summit. Additional information on the publication is available at the EPIC website: http://www.epic.org/filters&freedom/ The full text of the GILC member statement is attached below and is also available at the GILC website: http://www.gilc.org/speech/ratings/gilc-munich.html Global Internet Liberty Campaign Member Statement Submitted to the Internet Content Summit Munich, Germany September 9-11, 1999 Summary The creation of an international rating and filtering system for Internet content has been proposed as an alternative to national legislation regulating online speech. Contrary to their original intent, such systems may actually facilitate governmental restrictions on Internet expression. Additionally, rating and filtering schemes may prevent individuals from discussing controversial or unpopular topics, impose burdensome compliance costs on speakers, distort the fundamental cultural diversity of the Internet, enable invisible "upstream" filtering, and eventually create a homogenized Internet dominated by large commercial interests. In order to avoid the undesirable effects of legal and technical solutions that seek to block the free flow of information, alternative educational approaches should be emphasized as less restrictive means of ensuring beneficial uses of the Internet. * * * A number of serious concerns have been raised since rating and filtering systems were first proposed as voluntary alternatives to government regulation of Internet content. The international human rights and free expression communities have taken the lead in fostering more deliberate consideration of so-called "self-regulatory" approaches to Internet content control. Members of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign have monitored the development of filtering proposals around the world and have previously issued two statements on the issue -- "Impact of Self-Regulation and Filtering on Human Rights to Freedom of Expression" in March 1998 and a "Submission to the World Wide Web Consortium on PICSRules" in December 1997. These joint statements reflect the international scope of concern over the potential impact that "voluntary" proposals to control on-line content could have on the right to freedom of opinion and expression guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The undersigned organizations now reiterate those concerns on the occasion of the Internet Content Summit. Originally promoted as technological alternatives that would prevent the enactment of national laws regulating Internet speech, filtering and rating systems have been shown to pose their own significant threats to free expression. When closely scrutinized, these systems should be viewed more realistically as fundamental architectural changes that may, in fact, facilitate the suppression of speech far more effectively than national laws alone ever could. First, the existence of a standardized rating system for Internet content -- with the accompanying technical changes to facilitate blocking -- would allow governments to mandate the use of such a regime. By requiring compliance with an existing ratings system, a state could avoid the burdensome task of creating a new content classification system while defending the ratings protocol as voluntarily created and approved by private industry. This concern is not hypothetical. Australia has already enacted legislation which mandates blocking of Internet content based on existing national film and video classification guidelines. The Broadcasting Services Amendment (Online Services) Bill places sweeping restrictions on adults providing or gaining access to material deemed unsuitable for minors as determined by Australian film and video classification standards. The Australian experience shows that even developed democracies can engage in Internet censorship, given the necessary technical tools. An international content ratings system would be such a tool, creating a ratings regime and blocking mechanisms which states could impose on their citizens. Australia is not alone in its support of mandatory Internet content ratings systems. The United States government, in its unsuccessful defense of the Communications Decency Act, argued that the use of an Internet "tagging" scheme would serve as a defense to liability under the Act. The scenario advanced by the U.S. government would have required online speakers to "tag" material as "indecent" in a manner that would facilitate blocking of such content. That argument failed in the face of evidence that Web browsers were not yet configured to recognize and block material bearing such "tags." If the sort of "voluntary" rating systems being advocated today had been widely used in 1996, the government's argument may have prevailed. In sum, the establishment and widespread acceptance of an international rating and blocking system could promote a new model of speech suppression, shifting the focus of governmental censorship initiatives from direct prohibition of speech to mandating the use of existing ratings and blocking technologies. Second, the imposition of civil or criminal penalties for "mis-rating" Internet content is likely to follow any widespread deployment of a rating and blocking regime. A state-imposed penalty system that effectively deters misrepresentations would likely be proposed to facilitate effective "self-regulation." Proposed legislation creating criminal and civil liability for mis-rating Internet content has already been discussed in the United States. In addition to their potential to actually encourage government regulation, rating and filtering systems possess other undesirable characteristics. Such systems are likely to: * prevent individuals from using the Internet to exchange information on topics that may be controversial or unpopular; * impose burdensome compliance costs on non-commercial or relatively small commercial speakers; * distort the fundamental cultural diversity of the Internet by forcing Internet speech to be labeled or rated according to a single classification system; * enable invisible "upstream" filtering by Internet Service Providers or other entities; and * eventually create a homogenized Internet dominated by large commercial speakers. In light of the many potential negative effects of rating and filtering systems, the movement toward their development and acceptance must be slowed. If free speech principles are to be preserved on the Internet, thoughtful consideration of these initiatives and their potential dangers is clearly warranted. Although generally well-intentioned, proposals for "self-regulation" of Internet content carry with them a substantial risk of damaging the online medium in unintended ways. The rejection of rating and filtering systems would not leave the online community without alternatives to state regulation. In fact, alternative solutions exist that would likely be more effective than the legal and technical approaches that have created a binary view of the issue of children's access to Internet content. Approaches that emphasize education and parental supervision should receive far more attention than they have to date, as they alone possess the potential to effectively direct young people toward beneficial and appropriate uses of the Internet. Ultimately, the issue is one of values, which can only be addressed properly within a particular family or cultural environment. Neither punitive laws nor blocking technologies can ensure that a child will only access online content deemed appropriate by that child's family or community. While the Internet is a global medium, questions concerning its appropriate use can only be addressed at the most local level. For these reasons, we urge a re-orientation of the ongoing debate over Internet content. We submit that a false dichotomy has been created, one that poses state regulation or industry "self-regulation" as the only available options. We urge a more open-minded debate that seriously explores the potential of educational approaches that are likely to be more effective and less destructive of free expression. This submission is made by the following organizations: ALCEI - Associazione per la Liberta nella Comunicazione Elettronica Interattiva http://www.alcei.it American Civil Liberties Union http://www.aclu.org Canadian Journalists for Free Expression http://www.cjfe.org Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) http://www.cyber-rights.org Electronic Frontiers Australia http://www.efa.org.au Electronic Frontier Foundation http://www.eff.org Electronic Privacy Information Center http://www.epic.org Foerderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft (FITUG) http://www.fitug.de Fronteras Electronicas Espana (FrEE) http:/www.arnal.es/free Human Rights Watch http://www.hrw.org Index on Censorship http://www.indexoncensorship.org Internet Freedom http://www.netfreedom.org Internet Society http://www.isoc.org Imaginons un Reseau Internet Solidaire (IRIS) http://www.iris.sgdg.org Liberty (National Council for Civil Liberties) http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk NetAction http://www.netaction.org Privacy International http://www.privacyinternational.org quintessenz http://www.quintessenz.at xs4all http://www.xs4all.nl @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ @@ MEDIA RELEASE-IMMEDIATE 9 September 1999 MUNICH SUMMIT - "BEGINS THE WAR AGAINST FREE SPEECH ON THE INTERNET" Internet Freedom unreservedly condemns attempts by the Internet industry, policy makers and law enforcement agencies to enforce industry regulation of the Internet, calling it a "short cut to censorship". This Friday 10 September The Bertelsmann Foundation ,which is a member of the pro-rating group Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA), will present a "Memorandum on Self-Regulation" at the Internet Content Summit in Munich, Germany. The memorandum outlines international proposals to regulate content on the Net. According to CNET News.com, who have obtained access to the memo, it proposes that web sites develop codes of conduct, Internet Service Providers remove illegal sites, governments and industry groups set up hot lines for people to report questionable online content, an improved 'architecture' for the rating and filtering of Internet content, the labelling of material by content providers, and the provision of filters for Internet users. A similar plan sponsored by the Internet Content Rating for Europe (INCORE) is also likely to be proposed at the summit. Contrary to its much-hyped packaging, so-called rating schemes do not operate like film classification. Material is not merely labelled according to some third-party judgement as to its content, but is physically blocked to prevent access. Any adult can see an '18' certificate film if the choose, but they will not be able to visit sites blocked by their service providers, by libraries, by their employers or by regulatory bodies. Experience in the UK has already shown the eagerness of sections of the industry to block legal material deemed offensive to adults. Moreover, the absence of accountability inherent in industry regulation means that Internet users may not even know of the existence of material that is screened out. In common with film classification, rating will mean that a vast body of unrated material will be effectively censored. Some of the leading search engines have already indicated that they will cease to list unrated material. Rating and filtering disempowers parents by taking the judgement of material out of their hands and placing it firmly in the grip of service providers, industry regulators and content providers. More importantly, it will make children the focus of concern for all originators of content, regardless of the intended audience, making the needs of children the orientation of the entire Internet. This can only have devastating consequences for freedom of expression. The UK has been treated as a guinea pig for the war on free speech. For more than three years the Internet Watch Foundation has operated a hotline for reporting controversial material, ISPs have routinely removed 'potentially' illegal web sites, and the government has regularly emphasised its commitment to filtering and rating. In 1996 Science and Technology Minister Ian Taylor warned that in the absence of self-regulation, the police would take action against service providers as well as the originators of illegal material. The Internet industry may have felt it had no choice, but self regulation has meant that UK Net users are among the most heavily policed in the world. Chris Ellison, chief spokesman for the Campaign, commented: "For some years would-be censors have bemoaned the technical difficulty of censoring Net material. The widespread adoption of content rating will for the first time make censorship a technical possibility. The proposals will empower no one but the industry bodies themselves. The Munich Summit marks the beginning of an international war on free speech on the Net." For further comment call Chris Ellison on 00 44 (0) 956 129 518 NOTES 1. Internet Freedom is one of the UK's leading cyber liberties campaigns. Their web site is at http://www.netfreedom.org. They can be contacted on 00 44 (0) 171 681 1559 or emailed on email@example.com. 2. The Internet Content Summit will be held in Munich on September 9-11, 1999, where the Bertelsmann Foundation will present its "Memorandum on Self-Regulation." Information about the summit can be found at http://www.stiftung.bertelsmann.de/internetcontent/english/frameset.htm?cont ent/ c1000.htm 3. The Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA) was formed in April 1999 to develop, implement and manage an internationally acceptable voluntary self-rating system. ICRA members include America Online Europe, Bertelsmann Foundation, Microsoft, IBM, British Telecom, British Telecom, Demon Internet (UK), EuroISPA, Internet Watch Foundation, Microsoft, Software & Information Industry Association, and T-Online Germany. ICRA's website is at http://www.icra.org/ 4. Internet Content Rating for Europe (INCORE) was set up by a group of European organisations with a common interest in industry self-regulation and rating of Internet content. It is now focused on a project which aims to create a generic rating and filtering system suitable for European users. This is being funded by the European Commission in 1999. INCORE's web site is at http://www.incore.org/ ~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~-~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~ CPSR Cyber Rights -- http://www.cpsr.org/cpsr/nii/cyber-rights/ To unsubscribe, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org To reach moderator, e-mail: email@example.com For additional commands, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Materials may be reposted in their _entirety_ for non-commercial use. ~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~-~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=~ -- * Verspreid via nettime-nl. Commercieel gebruik niet toegestaan zonder * toestemming. <nettime-nl> is een gesloten en gemodereerde mailinglist * over net-kritiek. Meer info: email@example.com met 'info nettime-nl' in de * tekst v/d email. Archief: http://www.factory.org/nettime-nl. Contact: * firstname.lastname@example.org. 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