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Readers comment on free speech online

How would you modify an offensive Web page?

By Carolyn W.C. Wong

December  1996
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The comments are reproduced as received; only some minor spelling and punctuation errors have been corrected. -- Editors

Date: Fri Nov 1 10:58:27 PST 1996
The "average" person can usually pinpoint what is objectionable, even the perpetrator doing it for whatever reason. The modification depending on the institution should be suitable. A corporation and governmental agency held to higher standards than a university. One modification does not fit all. Each individual case must be decided for it's objectionable content.

Date: Fri Nov 1 13:02:44 PST 1996
In every case of an objection, the only action should be to provide a label (using the proposed standard for labeling of Web content... sorry I can't reference the specific standard title/number) identifying the objection. It would be quite useful if standard labels and contents were established for labeling based on the objections described. I believe that NO censoring should be attempted in any case. The Internet has always been ruled by anarchy, and Usenet before it. That is its greatest strength and should never be lost.

Date: Sat Nov 2 15:05:45 PST 1996
I think that browser creators and WWW creators should agree on something to transmit when pornographic material is about to be transmitted. Then people who don't/shouldn't see such stuff could turn something on in their software to filter it out. Other than that, I think that the prevailing laws on publishing should work okay for the Internet. ISP's should be treated as book stores. Corporations whose employees post/do might be responsible and should publish a policy on the issues. Educational institutions should apply the same publishing policies as they do for other student publications.

Date: Sat Nov 2 15:53:00 PST 1996
It depends on situation.

Date: Sat Nov 2 23:11:57 PST 1996
Ask contributor to modify content to please. If and only if no compliance remove page.

Date: Mon Nov 4 22:32:10 EET 1996
Basically, God has given us a gift: Freedom of choice. IAPs - An offending page have to be checked at least - most likely will result in lost time browsing rubbish. You do not cross a street on a red, right? And stop your car even if there is no pedestrians. Just following "rules of the house." Yet no force in the world can stop you from doing otherwise -- except self-control. IAPs are just roadbuilders, therefore roadsigns have to be installed -- they have to know where pits are, but they are not liable for the fact that you decided to cross well-marked "red-tape." Modification can include "red-tape" and/or disclaimer. Adults have a right to fall into pits on their free will :-) Foreign governments -- well, I'm sure Iran would!

Date: Tue Nov 5 02:22:18 PST 1996
Notify the creator of the material, and have him to do whatever necessary. Unless it is against the law or company policy, then there is really no rush.

Date: Tue Nov 5 09:21:33 PST 1996
Either have the content removed, or the content moved to a page, and the original page contains a link to it.

Date: Tue Nov 5 10:37:30 PST 1996
Removal altogether or modification to remove objectionable material. "Freedom of speech" should not constitute license to commit other crimes (slander, defrauding, etc.).

Date: Tue Nov 5 10:58:34 PST 1996
If the pages are modified they should be modified by the creator of the pages. If the person commited a crime by creating the pages then the person should be prosecuted and punished. If found guilty of a crime the pages should be modified by the creator or the ISP per the court's directions. The court could order a temporary change to the site pending the outcome of the trial, but could then be held liable for damages should the author be found innocent.

Date: Tue Nov 5 16:14:22 PST 1996
Removal and/or rearranging of the offensive material.

Date: Tue Nov 5 17:04:48 PST 1996
Depends entirely on what the content is.

Date: Wed Nov 6 20:04:52 PST 1996
Remove objectionable content.

Date: Thu Nov 7 04:29:50 PST 1996
Creat a disclaimer in the case of a objectionable content. Censorship only leads to a form of "mind control" and depicts a shallow org. Providing a warning banner on those pages in the case of a corp. might also be appropiate. In the case of a law enforcment involvement situation. That would depend if there is a local ordinance or state statute as to whether any censorship should be considered or removed. Any org. Law enforcment, private, or public that hosts pages or provides access, should not and cannot be held responsible for the actual contents of that page. Nor should they, after agreeing to host that content should they than say that due to the nature of that content, than subsequently remove it or censor it due to it's content, reguardless of the nature of that content. This is a obvious violation of the 1st Amendment of the constitution. I therefore cannot abide by such a notion or policy.

Date: Thu Nov 7 13:14:49 PST 1996
Up to them. If they don't think it will hurt their sales, there seems to be no reason to modify.

Date: Thu Nov 7 13:45:49 PST 1996
Remove or tone down the offensive material. Why do you distinguish between the opinions of yourselves and foreigners? We all have valid opinions, except Islamic terrorists.

Date: Thu Nov 7 14:15:54 PST 1996
A covering page that specifically makes the entity serving the page not liable for the content unless the owner of that content has relinquished his/her responsibility, in which case, the owner's page should be removed. A warning saying that access to the page may be logged for legal/statistical purposes. Also, a policy that makes the owner responsible for their own content AND providing the security guidelines and features to help the owner keep their data secure.

Date: Mon Nov 11 17:15:25 PST 1996
It depends.

Date: Mon Nov 11 22:48:47 PST 1996
If the Web page is reflective of the corporation, or the college, etc., than it is a "company" page, then if there is an objection, it should be considered in the light of differing customs and cultures. There is no need to gratuitously offend others. On the other hand, if the page accurately reflects the policy or beliefs of the company etc., and there is no other equally accurate way of dealing with the subject matter that would be less offensive, than it should be left alone.

Date: Tue Nov 12 08:33:14 PST 1996
Since I only think that corporations should censor or modify it contents I would say it is up to the corporation.

Date: Wed Nov 13 01:33:28 PST 1996
Just a mild warning about content.

Date: Fri Nov 15 23:42:54 PST 1996
When `should' is used in the questions, I read it as `should decide in their own self-interest,' and not `should be legislated to do.' Corporations should have the right to control their `official content' that is written by employees to express the views of the corporation. I doubt that this is much different than corporations rights regarding printed publications. Universities, ISPs, and other sites which rent or give space to other parties, but do not ask those parties to speak on their behalf, should, *in their own interest*, flag objectionable articles with a rating which can be used by filtering programs that users run to remove objectionable material.

Date: Mon Nov 18 09:03:32 PST 1996
I chose censorship only for the corporation, because it differs from the others in paying its employees to generate content, and pays for the equipment and support of the service to serve its own business reasons. If a relevant group of people responsible for the public image and legal status of the Web service determine that there is value in the content which can be preserved while removing the offensive material, then valuable content should be preserved. If there is no content or purpose beyond being offensive, then it should be removed.

Date: Tue Nov 19 09:25:49 PST 1996
So, that the page in question does not violate any laws. The contents of a page may be seen guestionable by an individual, but ONLY the goverment/ (or better, the law/the court) should have any influence on pages. Of cource, pages which obviously brake a law, should be removed. But a pure opinion must not be seen as a reason for any kind of censorship. A company may well have a policy what is allowed and what is not, and I see that quite reasonable. The equipment etc., after all, do not belong to the individual in question.

Date: Tue Nov 19 11:01:33 PST 1996
Use mainstream moral standards to determine if the content of these pages is suitable for all ages of Internet users.

Date: Tue Nov 19 22:23:41 PST 1996
For corporations: They should be able to have whatever they want on their Web sites. If management decides that a lower employee has put something not appropriate on the site, then it has the right and responsibility to have it changed. This is not censorship. It's business. If employees don't like that, they are free to set up their own Web pages as private individuals away from the corporation.

Date: Wed Nov 20 03:17:50 PST 1996
So that it follows established laws.

Date: Wed Nov 20 08:52:35 PST 1996
Either remove the objectionable content or provide prior notice of the objectionable content.

Date: Wed Nov 20 10:43:56 PST 1996
Corporation Web pages reflect the corportion's view and should be edited to reflect that. This editing includes responding to comments they receive from elsewhere. Other providers act as communication vendors and should not be responsible for content. Only if it can be shown that some content is in violation of the law, should action be taken regarding that content. The law applying would be the law in the jurisdiction of the server. (e.g. copyright violations etc.)

Date: Thu Nov 21 14:11:53 PST 1996
It would depend on the objection. Can an offending graphic be removed while still leaving word content. Is most of the content okay but one paragraph objectionable. It also depends on what the person is objecting to. Are they pointing out something illegal that the IAP (or other org) just may not have been aware of or are they complaining about something that is normally freely available to the general public (of all ages). If it is truly illegal content (in the country carrying the page) such as child porn, then the action should be "remove the page." Modify/censor would be used for stuff that isn't illegal but would be objectionable to the majority of the public. If it is only objectionable to a minority of the public, then a warning would suffice (eg. not suitable for children ). Going back to the question of newservers (since you didn't have a comment box there)...Since there are plenty of "free" newservers out there that carry every group you could imagine, there is no "free speech" issue associated with a particular provider refusing to carry objectionable groups. This is especially true of corporations. I see no problem with them only carrying newsgroups whose content is applicable to their employees job activities. If they want to read personal stuff, do it on your own personal account with an IAP.

Date: Sun Nov 24 15:32:53 PST 1996
It depends on the law enforcement agency involved. If a page ridicules a law enforcement officer or agency due to a faux pas on the officer/agency's part, leave it alone. We have something called the First Amendment. If however the page contains incitement to criminal activities or information on how to commit crimes, the page in question should be censored and the author should be prosecuted (Just like in the print world). If however the page contains material that should have a limited circulation, access control systems should be implemented to restrict access to individuals and organizations with a need to retrieve the information.

Date: Sun Nov 24 18:50:04 PST 1996
The Web server in a corporate setting is private property of the corporation, which may be made available to employees as a benefit which should be used within the parameters that management sets. If an employee wishes to put objectionable material on a company's network via the company sponsered Web page, management may wish to speak to the employee about modifying the offending posting or moving it to a commercial system, or they may just delete it.

Date: Mon Nov 25 00:58:52 PST 1996
Perhaps tone it down a bit!

Date: Tue Nov 26 19:27:05 PST 1996
Remove the objectionable content.

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