Monday, November 27, 2006

COPA: Closing Arguments Heard Nov 20, now posted


The COPA Closing Arguments from Nov. 20, 2006 were posted today. They may be read here.

The parties have until Dec 7 for final submissions.

There is something interesting going on. The plaintiffs (including me, as an indirect plaintiff under EFF) seem to be inviting trouble by explaining why others will object to their materials. The government, in many places, is trying to say, “Oh you, we don’t mean material like yours.” But, of course, we have played the cards. Some people will think we should be good marks.

First, as far as I know, my own material (Exhibit 118) is still on the record, although it was not specifically named in the closing arguments. The government did say that many of us had no standing because we did not come forward to testify and explain how we had been harmed. But of course, the government had a right to depose us, and did not. If had, it could have challenged our concerns which led me to self-censorship, and also to fear possible prosecution or other adverse consequences in other scenarios tangential to COPA (possibly a dangerous thing to say in a deposition).

As often, there is a lot of quibbling about concepts, with the sides talking past one another. There is a lot of disagreement over the effectiveness of filters. The ACLU presents overwhelming charts that filters tend to be effective, and the government mounts the ironic argument that non-HTM sides are blocked, even sites containing political information about gay rights. On the credit card issue, there really is a lot of word salad. Right now, banks in general do not design their credit and debit cards to be used efficiently as identification outside of financial transactions. But it is possible to image new cards (like smart cards) to evolve that could solve problems with both transactions and identification efficiently and at little cost. That is a systems development and project conceptualization and management issue, as long as an understanding among publicly traded software companies that there is a legally-driven requirement and a bottom-line impact. It is possible that other new systems, like Idology, may be more cost-effective now than they could have been when COPA was written.

The government is right about one broad concept, that it is not unconstitutional to require agents who do business in public to incur reasonable expenses in protecting the public, especially minors. That observation has a potential huge impact in the free content area, with speakers with a lot of ideas but few financial resources to protect them. If I am going to expect a bank to protect me with due diligence when it gives credit, shouldn’t parents expect me to respect their difficulties in protecting their own kids?

Maybe. The government believes that COPA is aimed at large-scale commercial pornographers, and that there is a large volume of hard-core but non-obscene material to prosecute under COPA. This sounds like a dubious proposition, which Justice Breyer gave some credibility in his 2004 dissent. The social risk, with a “heard on the street” perspective, is that a person like me, not socialized by “competing” to provide in a “normal” way for a biological family, represents an enemy, putting dubious ideas within reach of kids and interfering with their own “socialization.” The majority of the Supreme Court in 2004 was not willing to go on a limb and narrow the law to the comfort of various speakers in our position.

When I look at COPA, I have to look at what the words in the three prongs really say, as if one were going to take a multiple choice SAT-style reading comprehension test on them. One reasonable interpretation, is that any material that depicts or “represents” sexual or excretory acts or body parts satisfies the first two prongs if it is presented in a gratuitous manner, beyond what is necessary to present a scientific concept. Dramatic presentations (as well, obviously, as images) might be more likely to be seen as “gratuitous,” as could “political self-incrimination,” a problem known from social networking sites. Mere subject matter (like gay rights as a political concept – especially when viewed as an issue of immutability) could not activate the prongs, but explicitness combined with gratuitous excess could. Then you look at the Third Prong, and here I have concerns that the school systems would seem to have an overriding influence on what is valuable to minors, in the minds of many juries. The government did emphasize, however, that the “older minor” standard is already well established in case law, but I don’t know what that is.

The ACLU, in talking about “taken as a whole” argued convincingly that the individual web page (individual file) is the “whole” and this is largely because the individual “page” is likely what will be found by a search engine. In my case, a book chapter or a screenplay script is likely to become the unit file “whole.”

In reading any law, a novice is left with the words and sentences themeselves, and must analyze them as literally as possible. A federal judge will be in a position to look at a long audit trail of case law to see how words like these have been interpreted in the past. It is true that over time, the law becomes comfortable with some literally nebulous ideas, such as Fair Use in the Copyright Law, which has generally become a pretty stable idea (outside of some specialized problem areas like the DMCA).

I do have another other issues tangential to COPA, many of them having to do with free entry associated issues, and I am likely to present more details as I can unravel them. They may be presented here, on other blogs, or on the doaskdotell site itself. The main page there is this.

More on Idology is at this blog thread.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

COPA: Serious Value (Third) Prong


Patricia Nell Warren's post last week (see a couple entries down) got me thinking also about the "serious value" prong. If there were a prosecution, and a website were found to have violated the first two prongs (discussed in other postings and often mentioned in the testimony), the publisher would have to show that the offening material "taken as a whole" has serious "literary, political, scientific or artistic value for minors."

Elsewhere I've mentioned the "Clark Kent Problem" where some government postings in the past suggest that it would sufficient if a reasonable minority of older minors could find value in the material. (Maybe this is the "Lana" or "Chloe" problem, for affaciandos of high school life in Smallville during the first three seasons). A lexical parsing of the sentence might suggest the idea that an "average minor" capable of some comprehension of the website would have to find "value" in the site, a very subjective idea.

On Oct 30, 2006, when I was present in the 17th floor courtroom as a viewer, I heard expert witnesses mention the standards of public school systems. I believe that the suggestion was that in a "serious value" analysis, public school curricula could provide a practical guide.

Of course, many of us (the plaintiffs) have material that public school boards, given political pressures from voting parents, could not approve for being part of normal curricula. There is a "heckler's veto" like problem, too, in that a large conservative block affects what is available to the public as a whole. The state of Texas, with normally more conservative social values, has a big influence on what textbook publishers normally include on more touchy subjects in social studies, health/PE, and perhaps biology.

Would public schools be viewed as arbiters of what is "valuable" to minors? I don't see that in the statute, but I fear that this could be a practical result. If a defendant could find material similar to his or hers in a public school course, that would probably add to the claim of serious value.

We have indeed had contentious debates, related to "abstinence education" promoted by the Bush administration, over whether certain kinds of information should be made available in school to teens, in the interest of pregnancy and STD (especially HIV) prevention. Logic tells me that such information is inherently valuable to minors, but it must always be applied with good judgment. Religious and cultural values of some people do not agree with that point of view. But compare this to curricula we normally consider relatively non-controversial. The contents of a chemistry course normally contain some information that is harmful if misused, but chemistry is taught in a supervised manner and usually to students who have proven that they have reached a certain level of intellectual and judgmental maturity.

Another question that might affect a "serious value" determination could be the reputation of the speaker. A well-established insitution or company might have more standing than a newbie like me. (This is the old "pay your dues" problem.) The "bricks and mortar" behavior of the speaker could affect his or her credibility to a jury. So the serious value question has the potential to raise deeper philosophical question about the "free entry" model so far promoted by ISPs and search engines.

An article by Paul Tough in The New York Times Magazine, Sunday, Nov 26, 2006, "What Ot Takes to Make a Student: Can teaching poor children to act more like middle-class children help close the education gap," p. 44, seems relevant to what has "serious value." Besides talking about the successful teaching methods of schools like KIPP, the author points out that middle and upper class kids are more likely to be encouraged by their parents to learn to think in abstraction, and like "apprentice adults." A minor who gets abstraction (as opposed to socialization and "fitting in") is less likely to find edgy material prurient, and more likely to get the intended purpose of "implicit content."

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

COPA: ACLU presents closing argument exhibits and mentions content rating


Although not all of the court testimony and arguments have yet been published on the web on PDF format, it appears that closing arguments were made in the COPA (Child Online Protection Act) case on Monday Nov. 20.

There is an account by Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Joseph A. Gambardello, "Internet porn trial ending: At issue during closing arguments was whether filtering offers effective ways to protect children," at this link.

The ACLU has an impressive exhibit list for closing arguments here.

The exhibits tend to suggest that filters are effective, and that the main problem in practice is the inability of many parents to learn how to use them. In some cases (such as Justin Berry's notorious case), very determined minors may bypass them. But the overriding issue here is a "haves" and "have nots" problem among parents; as I said in earlier blogs, "who picks up the tab".

The ACLU also has a chart presenting the argument that COPA is far from the least restrictive means to achieve a reasonable state goal, protection of less intact minors. It is interesting that the ACLU now mentions the idea that statutes requiring labeling of sites or web pages with HTM material, or a national rating system (comparable to movies) could be less restrictive means. The technology is something that I have been promoting on this blog.

You have to tread carefully, though, before passing a statute requiring ratings. The software companies would have to develop the software tools and infrastructure (both for web publishing and for browser settings). Right now, PDF files still can't be labeled, although images can be watermarked. Probably Congress would imagine that with legislation in place, the companies would do the job. I hope so. I guess it could provide employment for me in "retirement." But one has to be very careful about this, in the basic analysis. Right now, for example, ICRA requires every file on a site to be individually labeled, and every site belonging to one entity to be labeled before the ICRA seal can be used. One would need automation tools that don't really exist yet. WTC standards for browsers and XML to HTML come into play, but browsers would have to be much more consistent. (Consider the issue of XSL in browsers other than IE.) Source management techniques well known for two or more decades from the mainframe world (like Endeavor, CA-Librarian, Changeman, Harvest) would have to be applied to small business or personal business sites, perhaps. All of this would have to be thought through carefully with careful project management, among the companies involved in such a software development effort.

This is another iceberg to look at. But it is good to see other ideas being proposed.

Gambardello's story also indicates that the government believes that COPA is aimed only at "pornographic teasers" and not at sites with legitimate artistic content. (This agrees with the general tone of government briefs in the 2001 and 2004 appearances before the Supreme Court.) The problem here is the "eye of the beholder" problem, and the cultural problem that some parents do not want their kids exposed to certain ideas, whereas other parents do want their kids to learn about the same ideas. Remember the fracas on the show "Everwood" when Dr. Andy Brown tries to educate high school students about STD prevention.

We don't want to wind up with a "private" but bureaucratic rating system where it costs $15000 to get a site rated. Anyone seen "This Film Is Not Yet Rated"? The whole media world is becoming more and more seamless, even for the newbies.

It is important for us to see the actual text of the closing arguments as soon as possible.


The main page for ACLU coverage of the trial is this.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Reply to ACLU COPA blog entry by Patricia Nell Warren


This is also entered on the ACLU COPA blog at this address.

Here is my reply:

Have the closing arguments been completed? When will the PDF files be posted?

I do feel Ms. Warren's sentiments myself, but I am trying to get at the bottom of what really has been argued, with some sense of "objectivity."

The devil in all of this is in the details. Yet, I really do understand the philosophical perspective (on individualism, v. "socialization" by the family) that underlies the intention of a law like COPA (whatever the words in the act "literally" say).

You can email me if you like at JBoushka at aol.com or look up the contact info at my site and call.

---
I am hoping to see the closing arguments on the ACLU site soon (as PDF files) so that I can assess what was really said in detail. I believe that the arguments were completed Monday Nov 20, 2006, but I am still trying to find out. Anyone who knows is free to comment.

My concerns with this case are existential, beyond the letter of the law, and I have not depended on writing for a living, but in "retirement" I want to, and I don't want to be kept from talking about some things just because these matters, when public and easily found, make certain people uncomfortable in their own family or religious environments. Ultimately, we get down to that kind of a debate.

Warren's blog entry makes another subtle argument: since the Internet and Web are indispenable now to book marketing, and since publishers and search engines want to make books searchable online, enforcement of COPA (at the subject matter level) could make books that deal with sensitive subject matters unpublishable, even in hardcopy, as an indirect result of the way the Web markets hardcopies. As a whole, commercial book publishers and search engine companies have shown little interest in or concern about COPA (as potential plaintiffs).

Patricia Nell Warren has been well known for years for her novels, which include The Front Runner (1977) which has sometimes been sold in special printings as a collector's item. Her publishing company is Wildcat Press. IMDB.com shows an in-production listing for a film of this book. Her posting mentions her time in fascist Spain several decades ago, and there is a new film from Picturehouse (New Line Cinema) dealing with the fascist period in Spain, Pan's Labyrinth.

Another famous writer for comparison would be Patricia Highsmith, who wrote many suspense novels with wicked plots, some of which have been successful (if somewhat anti-social, in the minds of some people) films like Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley, often with homosexual characters and undertones.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

How I looked at censorship in 1997


When I wrote my first book (details here) and published it in 1997, I suggested the "renovation" of the Bill of Rights with a new constitutional amendment. (I know that "constitutional amendment" has become itself a "bad word" in view of all of the anti-gay marriage amendment referendums.) The text of the chapter in which I proposed it is here.

One section of the "Amendment" was a reaction to the Communications Decency Act (CDA), and it was written before the Supreme Court struck down the Act in June 1997.

The text read:

"Section 12.

When anyone is charged with an offense of making indecent or otherwise unsuitable material available to minors, a successful defense is made when the actor makes a good-faith effort to publish in an area not normally or immediately accessible to minors, or to use customer age-screening technologies available at reasonable effort and cost."

Obviously by today's debate this is overbroad. At least, credit cards and adult-id screening hasn't been shown to be available and effective at "reasonable effort and cost."

But in 1996-1997, I did have a different idea of how the Internet would play out. I perceived the book becoming known by word-of-mouth (to some extent this happened, as I got on television once with a university speech in early 1998 after moving to Minneapolis for a job transfer). I perceived the website (which at the time was called hppub.com -- now all moved to doaskdotell) as maintaing the accuracy of the political and social research material as events continued to unfold -- for people who already had the book. Most of the site was arranged as "consolidated footnote files" when first put up in the summer of 1997, and it was duplicated on "Hometown AOL."

In fact, I added this footnote on one of the files:

Ch. 6 Page 306, Provision 12. I would now add the provision "without an unreasonable burden upon adult speakers and readers of electronic media."Ch. 6 Page 306, Provision 12. I would now add the provision "without an unreasonable burden upon adult speakers and readers of electronic media."

I was fortunate to have an ISP hosting owned by a coworker, who quickly educated me on the value of search engines and agressive presence. It turned out that the domain was much more stable and important than I had originally expected.

By late 1998, I realized the importance of search engines in being found by people, and that one could build up a public brand reputation with essentially "free entry" and passive marketing. When COPA was written, I realized that this model was at risk for newbies. It does seem that if a newbie has a book to sell and markets passively (with free content) to attract attention to a self-published book, this could fit the meaning of "commercial". (Maybe, however, the word "commercial" is narrower, such as conducting business transactions on the site.)

It is good to go back and read the slip opinion about the CDA in 1997, here.

In those days, commentators were referring to the "indecency" standard as too overbroad, and the "harmful to minors" standard (not used in the original CDA) as narrower. However, it is clear that this is not the case. We still don't know what an "average minor" is (across age ranges or across cognitive ability) or whether "minors" refers to average minors or the "best" minors (the "Clark Kent Problem"). We don't have a clear idea of what a national standard for "... with respect to minors" really would mean.

I do have to admit, however, that in 1997 I imagined that one could write a very narrow law (maybe Prong 2 without the word "represents") and require adult access technology, consistently and without discretion or subjectivity -- and that was partly because I saw Internet publishing as still a bit like book publishing. But it is not. Even in 1997, the Supreme Court indicated that First Amendment protections apply to online content, and content-based restrictions are presumptively invalid. I was, of course, concerned mainly with the implicit content and subject matter question, but even some explicit content is arguably very valuable socially to many minors (such as STD prevention, cancer detection, disability issues) and objection to the materials comes more from ideas about socialization of minors according to some peoples' religious and family values, than about anything objective.

My original 1998 affidavit is here.

I am not sure what happened Thursday, but to the best of my knowledge final closing arguments may occur on Monday Nov. 20. Please comment if you know differently.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ad hoc conversation about labels and filters

I had a phone call from an IT recruiter today, and the conversation wandered away from mainframes to what I had been doing, and we wound up with a spirited conversation about the problems underlying COPA.

The mood out there is that parents want the tools to control what their kids do, and they don't want or need the government telling them how to do it.

One item came up in conversation quickly, about adult-id cards and credit cards. If a webmaster for an individual or small business kept these on its own server, it just would be adding to its own security and downstream liability problems. That point gets missed a lot.

We talked a bit about ICRA and labels. Content management software has been around and well established for something like a decade, and the label protocols ought to be set up in them, with some kind of consortium.

Then, however, webmasters might find themselves required to use purchase and use more modern systems of automated content management and change control, procedures well known in business systems that process consumer transactions, most of all with legacy mainframe systems where change control is well integrated into security to guarantee the integrity of the load modules that run in production.

Yet, that could be the direction that this heads eventually.

Recently ICRA announced that RuleSpace, a supplier of parental filtering software, had joined ICRA. The story is here. This kind of alliance could eventually result in real progress in really constructive technical, rather than moralistic and political, solutions to these problems associated with protecting minors. This is a direction our debate needs to go.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Implicit content, filters and labels


An important concept introduced in the testimony of the COPA trial on Thursday Nov 9 is implicit content. This idea came up in testimony that discussed the way Internet filters (to protect kids from inappropriate content) have to parse sentences and language to deduce meaning. The concept would appear to refer to the meaning that a visitor gets from content based on the mindset of the viewer, context of the content and likely knowledge of the reader about the speaker. The concept also applies to ordinary verbal speech, as demonstrated in the testimony.

I have been concerned about this idea particularly with respect to the Second Prong of the HTM definition. Concept might not itself be explicit but might "reference" something that is explicit (this reminds me of the concept of "CALL BY CONTENT" or "CALL BY REFERENCE" in various computer programming languages; it is especially important in Object Oriented Programming). Therefore, the immature visitor might be disturbed by the referenced material being brought to mind and, given some sets of circumstances, might feel enticed to do something inappropriate. The "reference" wording might make dramatic or narrative writings more vulnerable to HTM classification than intellectual essays, and it might refer to the idea that the author went ("gratuituously") beyond what is necessary to communicate a legitimate intellectual concept. (However, the event or object "referenced" must be of an explicit nature itself; part-objects, it seems, would not trigger this prong.)

It's important to note that content labels would allow the web master to set up his/her own "filter" based on the belief that some content, because of a contextual meaning, is inappropriate for some age ranges. This idea is well known from movie rating systems, already discussed on Oct 30. Automated filters in common use may have much more difficulty doing this.

Again, let's reiterate that content-based regulation of speech in any media is presumptively invalid. What is so difficult to determine is what speech is really affected by any law, and the trial has a way to go in establishing that. It looks like it (the government) runs at least through Nov. 16.

I am particularly concerned over the idea that the HTM concept could involve "implicit content" as well as explicit items. I realize that this interpretation is open to dispute. This might have more effect on me than on others. I can imagine the Educational Testing Service or some similar agency making up an SAT test with the COPA text and then making up multiple choice alternatives in a reading test questions as to what HTM would mean in one situation or another.

My links are here.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

My ICRA label looks like this

Just for the record, I ran the ICRA label test on my domain doaskdotell.com. The test worked, and here is what it returned:

http://www.doaskdotell.com
This site gets a green light!

As far as we can tell, everything on this page is fully labelled.
green light

* No nudity
* Sexual material may be, but is not known to be, present
* No violence
* Mild expletives
* Content that creates feelings of fear, intimidation, horror, or psychological terror
* No user-generated content
* This material appears in an artistic context
* This material appears in an educational context
* This material appears in a news context

The label declares that it was issued on 2006-1-9

Now I can't legally put the ICRA label on my site because ALL files on a site have to be individually labeled. This is difficult with older sites and particularly sites that aren't generated dynamically, but that a lot of static files (I have over 900 files). Furthermore, I don't have a way to label my PDF files yet (including the screenplays generated from FINAL DRAFT). There are ways to watermark the image files (JPG's and presumably the MPG movie segments).

None of the image files on my domains have any nudity or explicit content. Many of the pictures are similar to what you can see on this blog. I have noticed that about once a month all of the MPG's are accessed 5 to 7 times a piece (with page requests) and maybe they are being checked for the COPA trial.

The URL with ICRA's information on labels is here.

The blog entries that follow this one are about the COPA trial, and they go back into October. I encourage the visitor to check the archives on the left side, for October particularly.

COPA: some important concepts need to be reiterated


A couple of points come up in reviewing the 2002 Supreme Court Opinion (which had sent COPA back to the Third Circuit after rejecting the Third Circuit's detour into the area of "community standards").

One of them is that the Court did seem to have a notion for what "pornography" means. It has often been said that this term is undefined in the law, and for that reason the three prongs of COPA are laid out the way they are ("with respect to minors").

If fact, in discussion the Communications Decency Act, much of which the Supreme Court threw out in 1997, the Court wrote in 2002:

" ...this Court found that the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA)Congress first attempt to protect children from exposure to pornographic material on the Internetran afoul of the First Amendment in its regulation of indecent transmissions and the display of patently offensive material."

This particular word, in some declension, appears over 25 times in the Opinion, so the Court obviously believes that the word has a relatively concrete meaning.

Later the Court writes

"It also forbade any individual from knowingly sending over or displaying on the Internet certain patently offensive material in a manner available to persons under 18 years of age. See 223(d). The prohibition specifically extended to any comment, request, suggestion, proposal, image, or other communication that, in context, depict[ed] or describ[ed], in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards..."

Note that comments or suggestions could be invalidated or made illegal, as well as images or teasers themselves.

Then,

"In addition, because the CDA did not define the terms indecent and patently offensive, the statute cover[ed] large amounts of nonpornographic material with serious educational or other value. Ibid. As a result, regulated subject matter under the CDA extended to discussions about prison rape or safe sexual practices, artistic images that include nude subjects, and arguably the card catalog of the Carnegie Library..."

What seems clear to me, it that the Court understands the meaning of the "p word" but that what is prohibited to be placed within the easy sight distance of minors could go beyond the "p concept". Conceivably it could include material that would disrupt the socialization of minors into the family unit. At least, a jury, encouraged by a politically ambitious prosecutor, could be manipulated to believe that COPA was intended to accomplish that, even if the Government maintains today that the HTM concept does not mean that.

Later the Court writes about the first COPA injunction in Fen 1999:

“The District Court granted respondents motion for a preliminary injunction, barring the Government from enforcing the Act until the merits of respondents claims could be adjudicated. 31 F.Supp. 2d, at 499. Focusing on respondents claim that COPA abridged the free speech rights of adults, the District Court concluded that respondents had established a likelihood of success on the merits. Id., at 498. The District Court reasoned that because COPA constitutes content-based regulation of sexual expression protected by the First Amendment, the statute, under this Courts precedents, was presumptively invalid and subject to strict scrutiny. Id., at 493. The District Court then held that respondents were likely to establish at trial that COPA could not withstand such scrutiny because, among other reasons, it was not apparent that COPA was the least restrictive means of preventing minors from accessing harmful to minors material.”

That is, content-based regulation, due to the prevelance of certain concepts or ways of assessing people, is itself presumptively unconstitutional, and legitimate state interest in protecting minors (or, say, at least indirectly, good order and discipline in public school systems) must be accomplished with the least restrictive means available with known or expected technology.

This is reiterated in the 2004 Supreme Court Opinion, where early in the document the Court writes

"When the plaintiffs challenge a content-based speech restriction, the Government has the burden to prove that the proposed alternatives will not be as effective as the challenged statute."

It's important to note that restricting Internet content about certain topics because of the "free entry" and because of the ease with which minors will find it (given the practical policing ability of many parents), certain ideas (for example, faith-based ideas) will be disseminated within the culture more easily than others, and the integrity of political and social debate, at least with respect to intellectual honesty and objectivity, will become compromised.

All of this goes to the fear of many of the plaintiffs that valuable content (from a social and political viewpoint) can be lost from debate if Congress were allowed to use "the lowest common denominator" in protecting children. Again, there is the question, "who pays" and "am I my brother's keeper?" In a pluralistic society, for example, you have to accept the idea that information that helps prevent transmission of sexually transmitted diseases or information that enhances sexuality (including within marriage) of disabled persons or information about non-gender-based psychological polarity (in my sites) is valuable, even if this goes against notions of family, religious and social solidarity of many people.

In my case, as evident throughout the blogs and sites, the issue is even more subtle: it is about self-expression v. relationships in the definition of the human personality. It is the psychological chicken and egg.

This will turn up in other blogs soon, as one I will put up about teachers today.

Related post about COPA and teachers, here.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

COPA: The government will present soon


I was working on the Elections today (as an official)--itself an interesting controversy with its own legal minefields. There was a last minute systems analysis drill in balancing and interpreting numbers. More about that some other time.

I see that the ACLU blog indicates that government testimony starts very soon. It will emphasize the "effectiveness" of credit card and adult-id cards, and the "ineffectiveness" of filters from a lexical point of view.

My general impression of the filters issue goes along with my interest in content labels, which I think are a more promising solution. But you have to sit down and figure out how much responsibility webmasters, software companies, and parents respectively will have. "Who picks up the tab." Who is his brother's keeper? We know that some of the plaintiffs are parents themselves and have no difficulty with teaching their own kids how to react to adult materials. So this is somewhat of a class and weatlh and education issue, as Justice Bryer noted in the 2004 dissent.

I see that I am apparently Exhibit 118 (I think those are probably materials from my "Do Ask Do Tell" books and from my experimental screenplays, especially "The Sub" where a substitute teacher gets into trouble when tempted. I note that on Nov 6 there is testimony to the effect of the continuity of concerns over prosecution, over a variety of materials presented by the plaintiffs that provde a variety of possible visitor responses. For example, some visitors, even minors, would find safer sex information (or info on condoms) helpful in preventing STDs (hence serious value), whereas some parents would view this as prurient and against their family values. Some parents would view materials such as mine prurient with respect to minors more as a result of cultural or situational context (including what is known about the author) and what may seem like shocking ideas of admissions of temptation, than anything like explicit sex, as my materials have little or no explicit sex but have sometimes greatly disturbed (or "offended") some people. (remember, by the way, that vulnerability to mental "Tempatation" is not itself defamatory; Jesus himself was tempted in the Bible, as are many religious right members every day, as we know from the news.) And some people need to be offended once in a while for their own good.

The idea of labeling content that is disturbing in nature (with metatags) make sense to me just the way movie ratings make sense (remove the bureaucracy, please). But credit cards and adult-id cards could not work at all. Again, most outright porn sites already put most of their material behind credit cards and make people pay for it. The sites that the plaintiffs have are totally different in nature from these.

I have not testified (at least not as of now) or been deposed. Anyone who wants to contact me can find cell phone the info here.

Friday, November 03, 2006

COPA: Photos from my trip to trial Oct 30


On Oct 30, 2006 I took the Amtrak from Washington to Philadelphia to sit in on the COPA trial. Before catching the return train, I visited the National Constitution Center and the surrounding area, that includes Independence Hall. There are 11 photos from my visith here: Look for "Philadephia" on the page. Pictures 3, 6, 10 and 11 show the James A. Byrne United States Court House, where the COPA trial is being held. The inscription on the building reads "The Guardian of Liberty," the same name (almost) as ACLU's newsletter.