Tracy Westen, founder and CEO for the Center for Governmental Studies, has just outlined some pointers on thinking about the regulation (or lack of regulation) of media content.
He suggested breaking the field up into offensive content, harmful content, and missing content. Offensive content is that sort of material that can be avoided through filtering and other blocking systems. Harmful content may be that which may represent a clear and present danger. Missing content is that which isn’t, for whatever reason, isn’t produced by the marketplace.
He concluded with these principles:
- Whatever you know now will change because of new technologies.
- We should try to avoid censorship.
- In the western word, there is a a presumption of a lack of harm from speech. Other societies place a much higher value of security. We need to have a neutral and respectful dialogue about free speech versus security.
- The line between offensive speech, in which filtering will work on, and dangerous speech, dangerous people would be drawn to, is porous.
- The new models of the Internet disrupt social constraints. On social networking – do we put constraints more like it is as it were a television, or as though it was a telephone.
- Globalizion is making all of this more difficult, harder, or more interesting.
- Preserving free speech is a process; censorship will never be overcome.