June 26, 2003

"CIPA-compliant" library censorware, again

What bothers me so much about this idea, is that it's the classic "Big Picture" Talker. Proposals, conferences, pilot projects - it's tailor-made for blathering, yet never doing anything, but talk, talk, talking about it. Action is a detail. Over and over, the proposers can say, "This is what I think that someone else should do. Will work! Is too! Sez me!". They get Visionary-points for that, and raining on the parade is not popular.

Remember, the requirements of CIPA are not generic "pornography". Not even "hard-core pornography". But rather, specific legal categories, relating to child pornography, obscenity, and harmful-to-minors.

Quick question: Who is going to take responsibility for evaluating the child pornography portion of the open-source censorware blacklist? I sure don't want that job! Remember, mere possession in this instance is a serious crime.

So I've been trying to cut down on the recycling of discussion, with my challenge. Find me libraries who want to take an absolute minimalist approach, and are willing to fight for that in terms of Federal compliance with CIPA (as opposed to simply foregoing all the hassle with funding).

It's a bit like the corporate adage "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM" (or Microsoft, etc.). The library has to take on the burden of certifying Federal compliance. The library's lawyer has to put his or her professional reputation behind the idea that this is OK. That's a huge barrier.

In a start at meeting my challenge, Walt Crawford writes in with a reference to one library actually adopting this approach. That's interesting, and it's the first piece of ground-level evidence which I've seen. It would be good to know more about their reasoning regarding meeting Federal compliance standards.

[Disclaimer - Again, if there's demand, leading to funding for this idea, I reserve the right to take it :-)]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on June 26, 2003 03:16 PM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
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Still seems like you're missing the point.

You think, censorware's bad. You think this is meant to be a way around that, a minimal censorware. The problem is, that won't satisfy the market's needs (librarians' needs). So you object that there's no demand.

This is a misunderstanding. The point is not that censorware is bad. Censorware is good. It provides a library environment which the customers desire.

The problem is that closed-source censorware is bad. It is secretive; it blocks political sites rather than indecent ones. It protects the biases of the creators of the software and keeps them from being exposed.

Felten's proposal doesn't stop censorware or try to show that it is bad. It instead tries to create good censorware, censorware that will better satisfy people's needs. It will not have secrets, it will be open.

It will still block the indecent sites. It will satisfy all the needs of the librarian. It will help to prove that censorware is good and can be better.

Posted by: John at June 26, 2003 09:51 PM

If there was a market, why was a government law

In fact, my challenge is: SHOW ME THE MARKET!

With the exception of the reference above, all I see is
many people saying "There should be a market, I say so, it'll happen".

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at June 26, 2003 10:04 PM

You raise an interesting point about child pornography. Given that, as you say, mere possession is a crime, who takes the responsibility for evaluating that portion of the closed source database? It's illegal for them also.

Posted by: Tom Haviland at June 27, 2003 04:04 PM