Is This Censorship?
Some web page authors have been slow to use PICS ratings systems such as Weburbia's Safe For Kids scheme. One of the reasons for this is that they see it as censorship which is an anathema on the internet. So is it censorship?
Safe For Kids is a system designed to help parents, teachers, librarians and others control access to web site content from private or public access points. This is to prevent children from accessing adult material on the web when parents are against it. Some people regard this as a form as censorship, but it is very different from the kind of government censorship which many people are against. Censorship is the banning of material to stop it being available to the public. Schemes like Safe For Kids are better referred to as "web filtering" or "access control". Is it necessary? The following message was spotted in a k12 newsgroup:
I teach at a high school. We're on line now, with several dozen pentium's in the library. Most of our little darlings are using them to log on to porn sites, getting around the firewall with ease. Anyone have any suggestions as to how we might encourage more proper use?
Even more serious dangers are posed by chat rooms on the internet where children may encounter adults posing as friends. Cases where this has led to serious safety issues are rare but they exist. Proper parental control can easily prevent trouble.
Continual supervision is neither practical nor desirable. This is why some sort of web site rating and filtering system is essential while wider censorship which restricts free speech is not. Web filtering systems are analogous to the various measures used to prevent children from buying or viewing adult material in books, magazines and films.
Weburbia's scheme is designed not to help authorities who wish to ban material from all public and private view. This is why the Safe For Kids ratings do not distinguish between different types of adult content and why authors of adult sites are advised not to rate their sites unless they are not concerned about strong censorship issues. The hope is that people who create pages for a general audiance will rate their pages as "safe for kids" or "parental guidance". It will then be possible to set up a safe environment for children on the web when and where it is desired.
Weburbia is strongly against any system which attempts to ban material from the internet except where the material is of a type where the vast majority of the public is in favour of banning it.
Page created 8 February 1998,