UC Law SF Communications and Entertainment Journal


Rating systems provide an impressive solution to the problem of sexually explicit speech on the Internet. Members of the Internet community are rightly enthusiastic about the benefits filtering software promises. Those benefits, though, come at a cost. Sites may be stripped out of the filtered universe because of deliberate political choices on the part of ratings service administrators, and because of inaccuracies inherent in the ratings process. If a ratings service is to categorize a large number of sites, it cannot simultaneously achieve consistency and nuance; the techniques it must rely on to achieve consistency make it more difficult to capture nuance, and make it less likely that users will find the ratings useful. The necessity of excluding unrated sites may disproportionately bar speech that was not created by commercial providers for a mass audience. These concerns are especially troubling because it seems likely that many adults will reach the Net through approaches monitored by filtering software.