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The Censorship Letters

In 1997, there was a debate on the Toronto Webgrrls mailing list concerning the ethics and politics of Internet censorship, and, in particular, of filtering software. I had been intending to write up a page with some of my own views on the matter to accompany my mirror of Peacefire's anti-CYBERsitter page, but then I realized that almost every point I might have made there had arisen in the Webgrrls debate, plus many more from other people.

The debate was interesting in that, while we all pretty much agreed that government control of the Internet in any form would be A Bad Thing, we disagreed, often strongly, on what methods were acceptable or likely to be effective in combatting it. As the first message shows, the debate was originally touched off by discussion on the problem of racist hate sites on the Net, but quickly moved into much broader territory. A lot of very important issues were raised, on all sides.

Unfortunately, it did not occur to me to start saving the messages right from the beginning, but I began saving them partway through with the intention of eventually putting them on this site, and with the help of another list member I was able to put together an almost-complete set of messages.

One explanatory note: my message of March 29, listed second below, was accompanied by an extract from a column I had previously written on the topic of filtering software; that's why there are two separate replies from Brandi. The first refers to the column excerpt.


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