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Re: The alt="" attribute

From: Boris Zbarsky <bzbarsky@MIT.EDU>
Date: Tue, 26 Aug 2008 17:33:27 -0400
Message-ID: <48B476A7.2020409@mit.edu>
To: "Philip TAYLOR (Ret'd)" <P.Taylor@Rhul.Ac.Uk>
CC: public-html@w3.org

Philip TAYLOR (Ret'd) wrote:
>> To make a decision on this <img> issue I also have to make some 
>> ethical determinations. In particular there is a conflict between 
>> allowing any author to publish content, and requiring all authors to 
>> publish content that is usable by anyone. 
> I see no conflict.  We allow anyone who passes a driving
> test to drive, but that does not give them a mandate to
> drive without consideration for other road users.

Philip, being allowed to drive a car on a public road is not a right, 
but a privilege.  It's a privilege granted conditionally on following 
certain rules.  Were you to drive on a private road, you would need 
neither a license, nor consideration for other road users, a priori. 
Last I checked, there's not much consideration for other road users in a 
car race, for example.

In contrast to this, freedom of expression is a fundamental human right 
(or at least is so considered by various countries and organizations). 
Now there are limits placed on the exercise of this right when it's 
harmful to others.  The "fire in a crowded theater" example is the 
canonical one, and the libel laws in the UK are in a similar vein.  But 
typically, the bar for infringing freedom of speech is pretty high, and 
involves demonstrable harm to someone.  This freedom is currently being 
eroded, especially the "demonstrable harm" aspects where "hate speech" 
is concerned, but I view this as a bad thing.

The bar for revocation of a driver's license is much lower, and need not 
involve any harm to anyone.  Mere violation of certain procedural rules 
is sufficient.  This is perfectly acceptable given that it is in fact a 

I would certainly hope that you see a fundamental difference between 
freedom of speech and driving a car in terms of rights vs privileges. 
If not, I'm afraid it's very difficult to agree on anything that would 
involve possible restraint on the freedom of speech, which is the 
situation we're faced with here.

Received on Tuesday, 26 August 2008 21:34:14 UTC

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