The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) warned yesterday that US government plans to rate Internet content may threaten the principle of free speech. In a white paper, 'Is Cyberspace Burning?', ACLU said: "It was not one proposal or announcement that caused alarm ... it was the failure to examine the long term implications of rating and blocking schemes."
The Supreme Court's decision earlier this year to overturn the Communications and Decency Act, which would have restricted legal content on the Net, appeared to be the watermark of Internet censorship, and the free speech lobby carried the day.
Subsequent negotiations between government and industry have raised concerns anew, and ACLU suspects that Internet operators may be willing to compromise hard won freedoms. IBM, for instance, is encouraging use of the Recreational Software Advisory Council's rating system, while Netscape and Microsoft announced support for the Platform for Internet Content Selection (PICS) at last month's White House Summit. This rating system would enable easier rating and censorship, and it may lead to widespread blocking of 'unsuitable' sites.
If the government accepts that electronic communications should be accorded the same status as the printed or broadcast word - and ACLU fears that the White House is not far off that position - the Internet may be censored or rated along the lines of television, a move that would almost certainly set the pace for other regions of the world.
ACLU warns that the Internet could become a bland environment and that controversial speech or content will be available only to a small minority with the technical savvy and tools to penetrate past industry self-regulation and censorship.
Citing the First Amendment, ACLU warned the US government that it is prohibited from imposing a mandatory rating system.
IBM and Technical University of Munich team demonstrate how Shor's algorithm, which can't be cracked by conventional computers, can be solved quickly with quantum computing
Hubble Space Telescope finds superflares from young red dwarfs could strip away planetary atmosphere
Younger stars are 100 to 1,000 times more energetic than when they're older
Two of the big four supermarkets will use the system to control sales of restricted products
PUBG news and updates: November's Update #23 to bring new Skorpion pistol and changes to blue zone visibility
Genuinely useful side-arm coming to PUBG in Update #23