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Claim BBQT - U.S. Abandons Net Censorship

Category: Science & Technology:Internet JUDGED at 100
Owner:22
Judge:3126, Varulv
created:1996/06/11
due date:2005/01/01

The Claim

"Big Brother" (read U.S. Government) will come to realize by 01/01/2005 the futility and unreliability of internet censorship. Most likely this will be decided in a Supreme Court Decision - a variable which impacts on the claim not at all.

WHY WOULD THE GOVERNMENT TAKE SUCH A STEP?

Perhaps because...

The following are examples of possible causes and or outcomes related to the claim and do not represent the actual claim in any other fashion then conjecture.

  • Access to internet will become reliant and password protection for age validation, allowing those with sufficent resources to track individuals and their specific interests.
  • A uncensored U.S. public will be more likely to involve themselves in internet activities which could be tracked and used in future "blackmail".
  • Off-shore and international internet services will provide materials unavailble on "censored" U.S. nets, causing an economic imbalance in the market.
  • Crytpography will make enforcement implausible.
  • U.S. Consumers will refuse to pay rising costs of internet access, and or taxes so associated with providing censorship.

Judge's Statement

Ambiguity clause: I will judge this claim based on its precise wording, unless this wording conflicts with my perception of the intent of the claim. If both intent and wording are ambiguous, I will look for a solution that causes the least damage to FX as a market and game. If you have any questions, or think you may have found a loophole, please contact me!!

I will judge this claim NO if, on 1/1/2005, a US law is in effect restricting content on the Internet based, for example, upon its perceived obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, indecent, immoral, racist, religious, political or subversive nature, except for general First Amendment restrictions that are not media-specific, such as national security, copyright, defamation etc... I may still judge YES in this case if such law seems unenforceable, and does not seem to have any significant chilling effect on the content providers.

If no such laws have passed either House or Senate within the previous 3 years, and the Justice Department has not been hassling content or service providers based on existing laws that do not hold for all media (e.g. FCC), I will view that as an implicit recognition on behalf of the government that such efforts are futile. Otherwise I will require an explicit action that shows the government realizes this, and which makes the possibility of any such laws within the next three years very unlikely. Such action could include an official statement by the President, House or Senate leaders, and/or a very broad ruling by the Supreme Court excluding the possibility of such censorship on the Internet.

In case of a statement or action by the government indicating its abandonment of net censorship, I may delay judgement until it is clear that this statement or action will not be reversed (or overridden by another branch of government).

I will use the definition of "Internet" as given by the US Federal Networking Commission (see http://www.fnc.gov/Internet_res.html). In particular, bulletin boards which only have a dialup connection would be excluded from this, but anything accessible through ftp, gopher, telnet, Usenet, WWW would be included.

I would judge obligatory labeling of content to be a restriction, considering this would effectively make unlabeled content illegal.

UPDATE: June 26, 1997, the Communications Decency Act has been struck down by the US Supreme Court, in large part because of its "overly broad" nature. This verdict is not general enough to exclude the possibility of further censorship laws. In particular, it leaves the door open to a more narrowly focused bill, possibly using required tagging of content. See http://www.ciec.org/ and http://www.ciec.org/SC_appeal/decision.shtml for more details.

UPDATE: July 16 1997, the president and vice-president announced their support for parental control tools as opposed to net censorship legislation (see http://www.vtw.org/archive/00970716_163622.shtml). If there is a similar statement from House and/or Senate majority leaders, I may judge BBQT true early. Passing of legislation such as HR 774 or HR 1180 (see http://www.vtw.org/bigboard/ may also be a step towards early judgement, but in this case I would delay judgement until Congress's attitude towards further censorship legislation is clear.

UPDATE: November 8, 1997, introduction of Senate bill S. 1482 by Sen. Dan Coats, R-IN, banning commercial online distribution of material that is harmful to minors. This bill pretty much goes straight against the Supreme Court decision, so it stands little chance of being upheld.

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