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W3C NOTE-PICS-Statement-19980601 published

From: Joseph M. Reagle Jr. <reagle@w3.org>
Date: Thu, 04 Jun 1998 16:56:53 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: pics-interest@w3.org
 [1]W3C NOTE-PICS-Statement-19980601
 Statement on the Intent and Use of PICS:
 Using PICS Well
 W3C NOTE 01-June-1998
    Latest Version: 
    This version:
    Previous Version:
      * Joseph Reagle, W3C, [4]reagle@w3.org,
      * Daniel J. Weitzner, Center for Democracy and Technology,
      * Stephen Balkam, President, Recreational Software Advisory Council
      * Tim Berners-Lee, Director, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
      * Alan Kotok, Associate Chairman, W3C
      * Jim Miller, Co-Chair of PICS Technical Committee, Lab for Computer
        Science, MIT
      * Martin Presler-Marshall, Editor/Co-author PICSRules, IBM
      * Joseph Reagle, Policy Analyst, W3C
      * Paul Resnick, Chair, PICS Interest Group; School of Information,
        of Michigan
      * Daniel J. Weitzner, Deputy Director, Center for Democracy and
    [Those interested in becoming signatories after this is posted as a
    note will likely be listed on a separate page.]
 Status of This Document
    This document describes the intent of PICS development and recommends
    guidelines regarding the responsible use of PICS technology. While it
    is relevant to the [6]PICS specifications it was not created as part
    of the PICS Working Groups (which are closed). However, it was
    submitted for review to the W3C Policy and PICS Interest Groups before
    publication. It has no official W3C standing. Comments to the editors
    or endorsements are welcome.
    The signatories state the following with respect to the intent, and
    usage of PICS (all PICS specifications):
    In August of 1995, leading members of the Internet community came
    together to begin the development of technical specifications that
    would enable users to 1) easily find appropriate content and 2) avoid
    content that they consider inappropriate or unwanted, either for
    themselves or their children. These specifications were designed to
    ease the creation of, and access to, labeling schemes (and associated
    content selection and filtering mechanisms), allowing various people
    or organizations to label Web content in ways that best suit their
    different viewpoints. The PICS specifications were not intended to be
    limited to applications regarding potentially offensive content.
    Rather, it was hoped that PICS would be used for many purposes, such
    as third-party ratings on the timeliness and technical accuracy of a
    site's content.
    Final technical specifications were completed in early 1996. Since
    then PICS has been incorporated into a number of [7]products, a
    variety of PICS-based rating [8]services have been (and continue to
    be) developed for the web, and a number of stand-alone [9]filtering
    tools are PICS-compatible.
    Many who were involved in the creation of PICS recognized that the
    World Wide Web provides access to an extraordinary range of content,
    some of which some people consider either inappropriate, unwanted, or
    harmful for some users, especially children. The global nature of the
    Web, and the fact that it serves numerous communities with a great
    diversity of values, suggested that national, or even international
    laws restricting certain kinds of speech on the Web would neither be
    effective nor necessarily desirable for the Web. Instead, PICS was
    developed to accommodate a wide range of communities online.
    The original PICS proposers based their work on a general set of
    principles, detailed below. In the time since PICS and other content
    selections tools have been deployed on the web, much has been learned
    about the use of PICS-based techniques. This note builds on those
    Principles a set of functional guidelines for implementing PICS-based
    components of the Web infrastructure, PICS rating services, and
    PICS-based content selection tools to assure that they are designed in
    a manner that comports with the original PICS Principles and the free
    flow of information on the Web.
 Restatement of PICS Principles
    The original 22+ organizations that proposed the PICS Specifications
    also adopted the following statement of principles to guide their
      We believe that individuals, groups and businesses should have easy
      access to the widest possible range of content selection products,
      and a diversity of voluntary rating systems. 
      In order to advance its goals, PICS will devise a set of standards
      that facilitate the following: 
           enable content providers to voluntarily label the content they
           create and distribute. 
    Third-party rating: 
           enable multiple, independent labeling services to associate
           additional labels with content created and distributed by
           others. Services may devise their own labeling systems, and the
           same content may receive different labels from different
           enable users, parents and teachers to use ratings and labels
           from a diversity of sources to control the information that
           they or children under their supervision receive. 
      PICS members believe that an open labeling platform which
      incorporates these features provides the best way to preserve and
      enhance the vibrancy and diversity of the Internet. Easy access to
      technology which enables first and third party rating of content
      will give users maximum control over the content they receive
      without requiring new restrictions on content providers. 
 Guidelines for the Usage of PICS
    In addition to the principles above, we recommend that systems and
    services based on PICS ought to be implemented with the following
    guidelines in mind. These guidelines promote the principles of
    diversity, disclosure, control, and transparency.
      * Using PICS Rating Systems and Services: The Web, through PICS
        implementations, ought to support access to a variety of labeling
        systems that reflect the diversity of moral and cultural values
        held by those that use the Net.
          1. No single rating system and service can perfectly meet the
             needs of all the communities on the web.
          2. The ability of multiple organizations to use PICS  to create
             lists of suggested content is an encouraged means of using
             PICS. These lists may be distributed through label bureaus
             and be used for searching, or as "white" lists of materials
             that should be permitted even if they would otherwise be
          3. Filtration and labeling schemes should be designed such that
             the combined effect does not lead to a chilling of expression
             or the creation of significant barriers to diverse opinion
             and content. Small and non-commercial sites should continue
             to be a part of the Web available to all users.
      * Creating Labeled Content: The creation of content that is labeled
        should be done in a way so as to maximize the transparency and
        integrity of the Web.
          1. PICS-based systems should facilitate disclosure of the
             criteria used to rate content.
          2. Content rating should be as simple as possible for authors
             and content providers who wish to label content.
          3. The decision to self-label should be at the discretion of
             content creators and publishers.
          4. If a content creator is concerned about the accuracy of a
             third party rating, she should be able to investigate how her
             materials are rated and have some means of requesting a
             change in the ratings where they do not match the stated
             criteria of the rating service.
      * Using Labeled Content: Users should have the ability to understand
        and control the choices made in the selection of content in an
        easy and transparent manner.
          1. Users of PICS-based content selection systems should have
             easy access to information about the filtering criteria, the
             values or principles underlying them, and to the
             configuration of the content selection systems. This can be
             accomplished by providing the following information in the
             product documentation or at the Service URL:
               a. a clear statement of the methodology used to create the
               b. a contact (both physical and virtual) for questions or
          2. When access to a particular URL is blocked through an
             implementation of PICS, error conditions or other user
             interface functions ought to specifically indicate that the
             URL is not accessible because of blocking by a content
             selection tool. Relevant information could include:
               a. the rating system whose value is out of range (if more
                  than one is being used) and which variable and value led
                  to the blocking of a URL.
               b. some indication of where the blocking occurred.(i.e. is
                  it part of the browser and under local control, or is it
                  a proxy and if so who owns and/or operates the proxy.)
          3. It should be as easy as possible for an authorized user to
             install and modify filters. In particular, we recommend that
             filtering software have the ability to import filtering
             preferences that are specified using the PICSRules language.
 Other Documents
      * [10]Platform for Internet Content Selection (PICS) Home Page
      * [11]Internet Summit Technology Inventory
      * [12]PICS, Censorship, and Intellectual Freedom FAQ
    1. http://www.w3.org/
    2. http://www.w3.org/TR/NOTE-PICS-Statement
    3. http://www.w3.org/TR/1998/NOTE-PICS-Statement-19980601
    4. mailto:reagle@w3.org
    5. mailto:djw@cdt.org
    6. http://www.w3.org/PICS
    7. http://www.w3.org/PICS/#Products
    8. http://www.w3.org/PICS/#Developers
    9. http://www.microsys.com/pics/software.htm
   10. http://www.w3.org/PICS/#Products
   11. http://www.research.att.com/~lorrie/pubs/tech4kids/
   12. http://www.si.umich.edu/~presnick/pics/intfree/faq.htm


Joseph Reagle Jr.  W3C:     http://www.w3.org/People/Reagle/
Policy Analyst     Personal:  http://web.mit.edu/reagle/www/
Received on Thursday, 4 June 1998 16:56:43 UTC

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