Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Should online references use content labeling?


Should compendiums and online encyclopedias label their articles with ICRA (Family Online Safety Institute) labels or similar ratings labels?

Most reference information, like what one finds in a library in print, is general enough in nature that it is suitable for all audiences. However, online encyclopedias (like Wikipedia) are delving more deeply into controversies, as well they should. The recent emphasis (in Wikipedia, for example) to keep material objective or factual and documented with independent, external reference citations may seem to mitigate the question. Still, some parents might not want their kids (younger kids at least) to be able to reference certain articles.

The question comes up more seriously with proposals that I have advanced (on my main blog under my name) to categorize political arguments, cross-relate them, and link them to “incidents” and the incidents in turn back to objective, external (hopefully fact-checked in the journalism industry manner) sources in a professional manner. I have thought about the idea that “incident” records on such a database should have content labels, although programming this concept to work properly with current labeling systems could be a big deal. I expect to follow up later.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

S 49 would require webmaster to "label" sites with troublesome content


While waiting to see what happens with a possible appeal to the Third Circuit of Judge Reed’s March 22, 2007 on COPA, one may want to checkout a summary writeup by
Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner.

This article discusses a few other legislative efforts, like the Deleting OLP Act (H. R. 1120) and Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act (S 49). (Go to Thomas.loc.gov and key in “S 49” and fill in the radio button.) The bill would require websites do display warnings of explicit content on index pages of commercial websites, domains or subdomains, under regulation of the FTC. The bill could provide quite a headache in practice for sites with “legitimate” but explicit information, in terms of required “warnings”. I believe that the ICRA content labeling concept, already developed on this blog, is a more appropriate way to accomplish the goals of this provision, but it would require that parents know how to use label filters, as well as some more development in the software industry (especially with browsers). This bill does have a “safe harbor” provision regarding content posted by users, reminiscent of the old CDA “Section 230”.