COPA and unintended consequences

Here’s why I couldn’t predict how many posts I’ll do over the next nine days…

I just read this post by Larry Lessig and watched the 18-minute lecture (with Lessig’s apparently famous one-or-two-word PowerPoint slides, which seem to generally be loved, and which I find I love even less than typical PowerPoints, but that’s another post that’s probably never going to get written…but I digress*).

The post starts out being about COPA being struck down yet again, but then goes into a Lessig recommendation to Congress, having to do with mandatory HTML labeling of “harmful to minors” content.

I’m not going to get into that argument. Comments at the post begin to pick at it; I’d expect that Seth Finkelstein and others will continue to discuss it.

Nope. I’m just going to point out a slide that has two words and one symbol: Very clear, very blatant, and maybe very unintentional at least taken out of context (but there’s no disclaimer later on). At least I assume this stance isn’t intended by a professor at that big private university just a little north of here in Palo Alto.

The slide’s contents?

private = bad

What Lessig is trying to say, I think, is that leaving identification of “harmful to minors” entirely up to private enterprise (filters), in the absence of good legislation, yields bad code. But that’s not quite what it says.

And, capitalist pig though I may be, I’m not quite ready to accept that government regulation is always necessary for good outcomes. Maybe it is in this case; I’m not sure.


* If I ever had a tombstone, which I sincerely hope won’t be the case, “but I digress” would be a wonderful epitaph.

7 Responses to “COPA and unintended consequences”

  1. walt Says:

    A clarification on the footnote. Not wanting to have a tombstone has nothing to do with wanting to live forever–which I don’t.

  2. Seth Finkelstein Says:

    I earlier sent Lessig email with some extensive thoughts. I’ll probably pass on a detailed comment conversation. I can say things in private email about matters of history and free-speech politics that would be dangerous to put in a public comment posting.

    I think it’s loading too much on the little PowerPoint slide to expect it to carry such a heavy weight of nuance.

    The private/public argument has a very, very, deep history. It’s not hard, if you understand the framework, but it is sometimes counter-intuitive.

    For example, read
    http://sethf.com/anticensorware/history/sims-liberties.php

    That’s historical, some of positions mentioned there have changed since it was written, many bits have flowed over the net. But it does give a flavor of the contentions.

  3. walt Says:

    “I think it’s loading too much on the little PowerPoint slide to expect it to carry such a heavy weight of nuance.”

    Absolutely. But it sure does look, um, absolute and lacking in nuance–even with the audio behind it.

    One more reason I don’t use PPT. (Of course, I don’t speak much lately either.)

    [I read the stuff at the link. I was aware of most but not all of it. Rarely have a I seen a strawman quite as classic as the one you quotequoted in the post! ]

  4. Seth Finkelstein Says:

    Note that post is not written by me! (that’s another story … a very long story …)

  5. walt Says:

    Sorry. Corrected.

  6. Blake Says:

    “For example, read
    http://sethf.com/anticensorware/history/sims-liberties.php

    I’d love to except I’m at work now and the filters have it blocked! Irony with my donuts on Friday morning

  7. walt Says:

    Isn’t it funny how intelligent writing on censorware gets blocked by censorware? Gee, who would guess?


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