Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Friday, April 24, 2009
Essentially, the act would require sites such as Facebook and MySpace to provide prominent links for users to report offensive content, and to investigate and report to law enforcement where appropriate.
The site itself is entitled to $1000 in damages from anyone posting a 'sexually offensive communication' to or about a minor in New Jersey.
Librarianship and Traditional Cultural Expressions: Nurturing Understanding and Respect
Read the American Libraries Article about some of the objections.
There is also an overview of the settlement from ALA and ARL: A Guide for the Perplexed: Libraries and the Google Library Project Settlement, by Jonathan Band, JD.
The text of the proposed settlement is available here.
In case you missed it, Amazon has been classifying certain books as ‘adult products.’ An Amazon customer service rep explained via email to author Mark R. Probst that “[i]n consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude ‘adult’ material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using
sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.”
In February, Craig Seymour noticed that his memoir of being a stripper in gay clubs in Washington, D.C. was no longer showing up in searches, and had its sales rank removed. While his title was eventually restored, by April 12th over 50, 000 books had been impacted, including Brokeback Mountain, Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, Heather Has Two Mommies, and False Colors The fact that books of Playboy centerfolds and memoirs of straight sex workers were not impacted led many to conclude that gay and lesbian titles were specifically targeted. In fact, the top results for searches on the keyword ‘homosexuality’ were titles on preventing and curing homosexuality. News spread like wildfire around the Internet over the weekend, most notably via hundreds of twitter messages a minute tagged #AmazonFail – now a synonym for the whole incident.
In a statement that was not at all reassuring for people concerned with filtering, Amazon spokesperson Drew Herdener asserted that it was not just homosexuality that was targeted, but also material in categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. Indeed books like The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability were also reportedly affected.
Ultimately, Amazon faulted employee error in conflating the concepts of ‘adult,’ ‘erotic, and ‘sexuality’ causing books to inappropriately be removed from rankings and search results.
While this explanation satisfies some who were worried about an anti-gay agenda at Amazon (and doesn’t satisfy others who see many unanswered questions), it still leaves open the idea that some books that Amazon sells are appropriately filtered from sales ranks and recommendation features.
Libraries learned long ago that attempts to narrowly filter a category of material that someone finds offensive quickly winds up blocking access to materials that virtually everyone agrees should not be filtered. Obviously, Amazon does not have the ethical responsibilities of a library. That’s why libraries remain more interesting and more integral to democratic society than bookstores. But while Amazon certainly has the right to limit its selection, search results, and recommendations by any criteria it wishes, much of its appeal is that Amazon can carry everything, unlike a physical bookstore that is limited by space concerns. If Amazon sabotages its own search and recommendation systems, it looses much of that appeal.
It is unclear why Amazon would need to filter ‘adult’ products. Customers are required to be adults, and it seems that a truly explicit thumbnail image of product description would be rare enough to be handled on a case by case basis.
Amazon should, in consideration of their entire customer base, offer full search and discovery options for all the products they sell. -David Hurley
Called to the Bar in 1948, Mortimer was made a Queen's Counsel in 1966, and retired in 1984. On “taking silk” (as becoming a Queen’s Counsel in known, referring to the silk robes the QCs wear in court) he began defending criminal cases, including obscenity charges. In 1968, he successfully defended John Calder and Marion Boyars on appeal of their conviction under the Obscene Publications Act for publishing Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby. This case is considered a turning point in British censorship law.
In the early 1970s, the Obscene Publications Squad, with covert blessing from conservative elements in government, went after radical underground publications to divert attention from the real pornography they'd been bribed to ignore. Mortimer was one of the few barristers willing to defend in such cases. He defended Richard Handyside who published an English edition of the Danish Little Red Schoolbook guide for students to sex, drugs and rebellion. Handyside lost and eventually appealed to the European Court of Human Rights which helped to define how free speech would be handled across national boundaries.
Oz, an underground magazine, produced one issue (#28) written and illustrated by students, but the crude humor of “Schoolkids Oz” provoked prosecution under an archaic law, “conspiracy to corrupt the public morals,” that had no limit on the possible sentence. Mortimer defended the publishers in the 1971 “Oz conspiracy” trial, the longest obscenity trial in British legal history, and the harsh sentence was quashed on appeal. In his summing up for the jury, Mortimer said, "The case stands at the very cross roads of our liberties, at the boundaries of our freedom to think and draw and write about what we please."
In 1977, Mortimer defended Gay News editor Denis Lemon who was charged with Blasphemous libel in Whitehouse v. Lemon for publishing James Kirkup's poem "The Love that Dares to Speak its Name." The poem uses homoerotic imagery about Jesus to reconcile faith and same-sex love. The magazine was convicted and fined but Lemon's sentence was quashed on appeal.
The title of the 1977 Sex Pistols album Never Mind The Bollocks, uses a British vulgarity that brought Virgin Records and one of its' shops' window displays into court charged under the 1899 Indecent Advertising Act. Mortimer's defense included a professor of English who observed that “bollocks” appeared in englsh placenames without stirring any sensual desires in the residents. In his summing up, Mortimer asked, “do we live in a country where we are proud of our Anglo Saxon language? Do we wish our language to be verile and strong or watered down and weak?” The album title was acquitted of indecency.
Mortimer also used his character Horace Rumpole and the people he defends in London's Old Bailey, to illustrate his beliefs and promote his causes. He was against the death penalty as well as censorship, and a strong advocate for the right of all accused to a fair trial. Particularly in his second full length novel, Rumpole and the Reign of Terror published in 2006, Mortimer challenged the erosion of liberty in the name of national security. Despite criticism from his colleagues and his wife Hilda, Rumpole defends a Pakistani doctor accused of being an al Qaeda terrorist. The barrister condemns Britain's Anti-Terror Act as an assault on Magna Carta, aiding terrorism by undermining the rule of law. The fictional case also examines Britain's struggle with its new diversity.
After Labour's victory in 1997, Mortimer had been rewarded with a knighthood, but he became a persistent critic of the government's disregard of individual liberty. In both careers, he helped make criminal defense work respectable and police procedures more trustworthy. He always asserted that defense of individual liberties was the only justification for the profession of law, and its highest calling.
Librarians met with diverse focus groups across the US to ask what concerns people have about privacy. We heard that privacy is a right necessary to human dignity and individual integrity, but it is personal and individual. Many folks commented on the gossip that pervades media and affects our concept of privacy.
People fear that partial and mis-information will result in them being misjudged. At the same time, people use new technology to learn more about others to protect themselves. New technology has heightened awareness of privacy implications. Privacy within a family and especially between a parent and child is judged differently.
Some say privacy is lost because we no longer know how to protect it. Others question “what are you trying to hide?” Many would trade privacy for convenience and convenience for security. Still others make a connection from privacy to financial security, health care, and employment prospects. The people who want government protection of privacy don’t trust the government’s intentions or ability to foil hackers. Though public safety and national security are invoked in opposition to privacy, people recognize that security is necessary to protect privacy.
The outcome of these focus group discussions is an ‘issue map’ that presents three alternatives for who or what could be in charge of protecting privacy: the marketplace, the government, or the individual (“my self”).
The full Privacy Issue Map is available here.
Actions to Implement
Purchase security measures
Use spending to reward business that respects privacy
Use public opinion, boycott against intrusive businesses.
Set up an office like Canada
Use courts to enforce checks/balances
Enact legislation that protects privacy
Monitor credit, stay informed
Demand transparent processes
Pay cash, avoid EZpass
Supporters would say
Innovates to protect privacy
Keeps up with new threats
Is motivated to please customers
ID theft threatens profits
HIPAA, Libraries are good examples
Privacy implied in First Amendment
Protecting rights is government role
Clarifies public value for public servants
“Who will watch the watchers?”
What should be private is individual
Individual carelessness is main threat
Only one who can detect/correct errors/theft
Opponents would say
Targeted marketing is invasive
Data mining is profitable
Susceptible to government pressure
Public has limited leverage
No universal definition of what’s private
Susceptible to demagoguery
Cannot keep up with changing threats
Always tempted by secrecy
Too hard, too much work
Public is lazy, won’t demand privacy
Individuals don’t have the power
Can never be sure you’re safe
Savings through targeted sales
Escalating security expenses
Public safety & National security
Complex bureaucratic rules
Time & effort & inconvenience
No one to blame but self