posted Dec 08, 2000

SmartFilter - I've Got A Little List
Free Speech
12/8/2000; 11:34:29 AM

'Censorware blacklists provide one of the best validations ever seen, regarding the slippery slope theory of censorship. Consider the preceding examination of the Extreme or Obscene category. The words certainly sound scary. Extreme ... Obscene ... Child Pornography ... Excessive Violence ... Mutilation. Only upon very careful and precise reading does one realize that the category definition is akin to Mother rapers ... Father stabbers ... and creating a nuisance. They have mixed in very severe and legally-meaningful First Amendment terms such as Obscene and Child Pornography, with vague and broad phrases such as push the limits of acceptability and may be related to sex, bodily functions, obscenity, or perverse activities. This allows them to start the electronic book-burning with a claim of Constitutional justification. But then it reaches everything from Jerry Springer to punk rockers to difficult artists. Or even gay and lesbian Mormons.'

An investigation of the SmartFilter blocking list. I know we've seen these before, but I have to admit it's a little amusing to see what sites are blocked for what reasons.  The page also has a comment on the DMCA's Library of Congress censorware investigation exemption, re-inforcing what I've been telling people:

'BUT, there's a catch involving the DMCA exemption for censorware. As with all things law and legal, this is a fiendishly complicated subject. Does the exemption only technically apply to the actual process of investigating a censorware blacklist? (i.e, "circumvention" itself, provision "1201(a)(1)" ) There's another part of the DMCA ("1201(a)(2)" ) which deals with prohibitions against "manufacture, import, offer to the public, provide, or otherwise traffic in any technology, product, service, device, component, or part thereof, that -" roughly, are for circumvention. Yet a third section contains a a virtually identical prohibition concerning a technological measure that effectively protects a right of a copyright owner ("1201(b)(1)" ). Whether the anticensorware circumvention exemption is extremely narrow, or implies some broader protection for making tools to aid in investigating censorware, is the subject of possible future civil-liberties litigation .'

What little exemption there is for this activity is anything but unambiguous. The person at whom the exemption was aimed is too scared to share his techniques, leaving us unable to verify what he's saying. While I believe him to be a trustworthy source, you may not, or others may not, and how is he supposed to prove he's right?


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