January 13, 2004

CDT's Library Censorware Wish List ("Principles")

The Center For Democracy And Technology has released proposed library censorware principles related to the CIPA library censorware law:

CDT Releases Proposed Guidelines for Libraries Installing Filtering under Federal Law

At the American Library Association's Midwinter meeting, CDT released Version 1.0 of its "Principles for CIPA-Mandated Filtering in Public Libraries." The principles are intended to help libraries that are required to install Internet filtering software under the Children's Internet Protection Act do so in a manner that promotes free speech and robust access to information. CDT invites public comment on the principles.

I don't want to be too hard on it, since as far as I know the people doing it mean well. But it's mostly a long series of wishful thinking and unrealistic assertions.

For example, first proposed principle:

Blocking should be limited to the categories of adult content specifically set out in the CIPA statute.

Well, I should be granted a million dollars, an A-list blog, and a professorship. IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. The categories set out in the CIPA law are legal categories such as e.g. obscenity. No censorware company creates such a minimal blacklist, because these are complex legal determinations.

Another gem:

Information about the ongoing blocking of content by filters required by CIPA should be made available to library users and communities. Users and communities should have access to information about categories of blocked content, lists of blocked sites, the extent to which filters can be adjusted and fine-tuned and the manner in which filters block content. ...

I see this one a lot. It's what I call the "marketing brochure" principle. That is, the one which is answered by the censorware company saying "Let us give you our marketing brochure, which describes how our blacklists are lovingly crafted by little elves at the North Pole, the same ones who work for Santa Claus in making up lists of "naughty" and "nice", which are exactly the categories we use. That's our story, and we're sticking to it."

Oh hell, why bother, my audience of dozens has heard it before, and CDT sure doesn't care what I think.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on January 13, 2004 11:09 PM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
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There are the things we know, and the things we know we don't know, and the things that we don't know that we don't know, and then there are the censorware blacklists.

Posted by: Philip Dorrell at January 14, 2004 05:29 PM

Seth, stop being disingenuous.

You know and I know you know that a)IF2K is a product from a filtering company, b)that its blocking list is both minimal and CIPA compliant, c) can be modified to make it more minimal if the library client is so inclined, d) availible in its entirety to any IF2K client.

Rather than spending your time saying the CDT is dreaming you might get your hands dirty and send them an email saying you are aware of one filtering company which is, or is very nearly in compliance with their wishlist and CIPA.

Posted by: Jay Currie at January 20, 2004 10:17 PM

Jay, I can't honestly say that I believe IF2K is CIPA-compliant. I've read and considered the arguments made for it, and I just don't agree they work. Perhaps your advocacy would be better served if you made your case to CDT directly, and I'd be curious as to what they'd say.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at January 22, 2004 04:14 PM