Re: Filters for WWW - #6304

Phillip M. Hallam-Baker (
Sat, 3 Dec 1994 17:36:13 +0100

Appols for the later political bits, esp the imense confusion of the issues

In article <>, ("Daniel W. Connolly" ) writes:

|>>If there is to be any kind of 'filter', I feel strongly that it should
|>>be in the control of the client (or his parents....). I am very suspicious
|>>of wide area censorship or rating system in any form.
|>I see two possible solutions:
|>1. The quick-and-dirty "trusted host" strategy: somebody suggested
|>crippling your client's DNS service to only know about "approved"

Actually a friewall can be configured to do this. Most routers can be
configured to reject packets by source. My Workstation can even drop
TCP/IP packets at the kernel level if it dosen't like them...

|>The other model is the industrial-grade, cryptography-based solution:
|>2. You configure your client to not show any information unless there
|>is a certificate that says it's OK. The PTA (or whatever certifying
|>agency) could sign keys of various institutions, and those
|>institutions would provide digital signatures of the data they send.

|>Hmmm... now that I think about it, authenticated DNS will probably be
|>deployed long before widespread use of cryptographically strong SOAPs.

I very much doubt it. There are already enough users of S-HTTP for
backwards compatibility to be raised as an issue in the HTTP crypto

There is a practical alternative. Most publishers of porno material are
actually quite responsible and are happy to put an X-Rating or similar on
it. Provided they can publish to adults most companies do not want to
willfully "corrupt" children.

Voluntary identification of possibly offensive material at least provides
a first pass at filtering it out. There should of course be categories since
not everyone agrees about the definition of obscene. Some people consider
pictures of naked humanoids to be obscene (especially if they are engaged in
the action of making more humanoids). I consider the Republican party
platform to be obscene and immoral.

So first cut at a protocol -

Reject: nudity; level=0.1, obscenity; level=0.0...

Where Reject is in the same line as "accept", by default the reject filter
is Nil.

And on the reply:

Content-Censorship: nudity; level=0.1 ...

The tags would be:-

nudity content contains nudity. Levels:-
0.1 Mamary glands
0.8 Whole body
1.0 Gynecological close ups.

[gosh this is damn pointless]

Anyway it would not take much to add this into the clients and servers at a
fairly basic level - it would be permissible for a simple server to apply
the same ratings to all documents at that site.

What I refuse to do is to write out the damn rating guide. Actualy it is
a cultural-unification-complete problem. It is not possible to come up with
an acceptable set of tags unless you achieve cultural conformity. Since I
don't want that to occur anyway I will settle for a non optimal set of tags.


1) Yes I know this is a band aid with precious little effect but then
again how many copies of Penthouse are bought by pimply 15 year olds?
In any case if the aledgedly moral minority want secure censorship
let them work out a solution.

2) Culture clash. What is acceptable in some societies is aboslutely
unacceptable to the power elite in others. In some cases the destruction
of social values by exposure of the power elite to oprobrium is not
only justified but very necessary. Consider that the Egyptian
authorities are prosecuting several men for conducting Female
circumcision after the recent CNN report (which they initialy
made attempts to censor).

The clashes between censorily permissive societies such as the
Netherlands, Scandinavia etc and repressive societies such as Saudi
Arabia are well defined. At both extreemes the policies adopted
are primarily political. In the case of permissive countries the
policies back up a cultural self-determination whereby the virtues
of a small state in being able to reject despotism are asserted.
In the case of repressive societies censorship in the social sphere
is used as justification for political censorship and moreover
defers wider social changes which may be a threat to the power

3) "Moral", by which is really meant social censorship which encompasses
pornography cannot be separated from wider gender issues such as the
permissable roles for females in society.

In some societies the display of female ankles is considered obscene,
in such cases the role of such censorhip in maintaining the social
order is easy to see. Idealisation of the female form underpins a
wider idealisation of the role of females in society where idealisation
is to be interpreted in the sense of enforcing conformity. The argument
may be put in either patronising or demeaning forms - Women being
more perfect beings than men must not be subjected to worldly evils,
or Women being inherently evil must not be allowed to lure men into
licensiousness. The bimodal nature is required as a matter of social
stability since most men will be married and they can hardly marry an
inherently evil creature. The bimodal nature allows them to patronise
their wives and daughters and chose between being demeaning or
patronising to others.

There is a company offering to censor DNS space for schools for a mere
$50000 per annum. I think we can do rather better without cost, or at least
without opportunistic costing of that order.

Phillip M. Hallam-Baker

Not Speaking for anyone else.