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ICRA vs. h2m

In his blog, Lawrence Lessig advocates that the law should require content producers to tag "harmful to minors" content, perhaps using a "<h2m>" (X)HTML tag.

This proposal requires the content producer to make a judgment call in labeling as to whether content is "harmful to minors". In this, it differs from requiring the use of ICRA, PICS, RDF or similar standards to describe the contents of content, e.g., "contains nudity".

The key difference is in where the inference from "this content contains such-and-such" to "this content is harmful to minors" is made: by the producer when the content is made, or by the consumer when it is viewed. Since consumers differ across time and location and will make different judgment calls, having the consumer make that decision is more robust, allowing the content to be accessible without a change in markup to more people for more time.

This does not take away from the undue burden issue raised in other comments; if anything, it strengthens that claim, as the list of possible descriptors, worldwide, is huge. Requiring content producers to mark up their content with descriptors for each audience puts an undue burden on the content producer.

Moreover, any such scheme is doomed to technological obsolescence: eventually technology will advance to the point that producing such content descriptors, and the legal judgment calls based thereon, will be largely automated. Any legal framework for content-based access restrictions should account for and handle this.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 22nd, 2007 09:59 pm (UTC)
all of the sites I have ever created have either an ICRA or PICS tag on them (usually 0,0,0,0 as it happens) but you are completely right in that the definition of *which* minors is the key point here.

To compare it to tv and film, there are plenty of things which were acceptable 20 years ago for viewing by any age which are now restricted from minors, and vice-versa. To create any such framework is never going to work as I see it ("ooh look ... a painting by Gaugin ... oops ... CONTAINS NUDITY!!!! OMG!!1!!" etc ...)
Mar. 23rd, 2007 08:17 pm (UTC)
Yes, isn't it clear that putting restrictions on content production will raise the threshold energy required to produce content, and thus lead to less content overall? *sigh*
Mar. 25th, 2007 08:14 am (UTC)

Sadly, if they try to pass a law about it... they are likely to succeed.  Not because people will feel that this is the the moral thing to do, but because the vast majority of Americans will vote yes on anything that takes the burden of responsibility off of their shoulders.  They'll vote for it because it will be one less effort that they'll have to put into parenting.

And minors will gravitate toward that content just because of the tag.

Mar. 25th, 2007 02:51 pm (UTC)
Part of Lessig's position is that by requiring such metadata on content, filtering software becomes far more straightforward.

Lessig is right in one respect: if filtering software could rely on the presence or absence of <h2m> tags, or the PICS/etc. equivalent, and such tags conveyed all the information that those who want filters care about, then filtering would be straightforward.

Unfortunately, both assumptions are false.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )



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