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  1. #1
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    "Censorship Made Easy"

    Taken from today's Penny Arcade:

    Censorship Made Easy
    Mon, October 02 2006 - 12:00 AM
    by: Tycho

    When I started reading articles about Senator Brownback's bill - the one that would require that the ESRB play through games in their entirety - I expected to agree with it in principle, but take issue with its execution. The shrill phase of the site, where I would don armor and ride under the aegis of the true gamer no matter how mild the incentive, now rests in the reliquary with Xbox Controller Jokes and Jabs At User Friendly. I had chosen a singularly poor moment to become reasonable. Upon further examination, the Senator's plan (which I think may be rightly called a machination) is the sort of thing one might forge in the fires of Mount Doom.

    GamePolitics has more robust information than you might have seen projected in snark-studded editorials. The idea that the ESRB must "play through" all games is not the problem - the problem is that

    1. "Playing through" games would not have discovered the content that got us into this mess.

    Hot Coffee is one thing. That's low-fi erotica secreted away somewhere, dormant on the platter. But Oblivion is actually the better test, because it presents several cases that make the playthrough "thing" unworkable. Oblivion was re-rated based on a nude patch, i.e., user created content. There was some other rationale based on violence, but the ESRB was in an impossible position politically, needed to move, and Bethesda took the fall. But no playthrough is going to detect questionable content based on mods you have not installed. Oblivion also features in-house downloadable content, made by people who are not perverts - official enhancements and powerful horse clothes that can alter the experience. What's more, Oblivion is a vast, vast game - one that I'm sure some are still playing. This isn't a two-hour film or an album by controversial hip-hop firebrand Ice T. It's a dynamic experience based on player input - you might as well hire a cartographer to map the paths of electrons around a nucleus.

    There's no turn-key solution to this problem, and I think most people agree it is a problem. At first I thought our noble Senator was simply being naive. I can be forgiven for that, most of the mainstream "sins" we decry are due more to a paucity of experience with the medium as opposed to authentically nefarious intent. He's not naive, though, because

    2. "Playing through" games isn't really what the bill is about.

    That part is powerful, yes, but it's prestidigitation. Let me tell you that Gabriel will be angry at me for using that word. I hope you aren't - but yes, the notion of them playing games or not playing them is sleight of hand. The bill is actually designed to seize editorial control from the electronic gaming industry. They create their own terms for describing game content - we might call such a thing a ratings system - and then they gin up their own body to discipline this rambunctious industry that has been at the root of so much controversy. Indeed, one can almost imagine the American flag gently billowing.

    (CW)TB out.


    We'll toss this gem into the mix, too:

    http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/09/....ap/index.html

    Backstory from ArsTechnica on the Senate (not House) bills:

    http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060914-7751.html

    If passed, S.B. 2453 would legalize the NSA's current domestic spying activity, and permit the government to establish entire electronic surveillance programs with a single FISA warrant. The bill would also change the definition of surveillance to allow the government to intercept "dialing, routing, addressing, or signaling" data from purely domestic electronic communications without requiring a warrant. In essence, the government would be free to compile massive databases that track the source and destination of practically all domestic e-mail messages and phone calls as well as the web browsing habits of American citizens. The bill further expands the NSA program by permitting interception of the content and substance of purely domestic communications in cases where one party is located on "property or premises under the open and exclusive control of a foreign power," enabling interception of messages sent to or from foreign embassies located in America.

    S.B. 2453 would also allow the government to move all litigation and legal challenges to federal surveillance programs into the FISA courts, where only government lawyers are permitted to see and present evidence. The bill would permit the FISA court to "dismiss a challenge to the legality of an electronic surveillance program for any reason provided for under law." If passed, S.B. 2453 would easily put an end to the lawsuits pursued by the EFF, the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, and others. It would completely prevent public scrutiny of domestic intelligence gathering programs and silence those that have been subjected to such programs. Finally, the bill would expand executive authority by removing all restraints on presidential power from FISA. The bill allows the President to authorize domestic electronic surveillance programs without any judicial oversight at all...
    Any thoughts on these two separate (yet in my mind related) issues?
    Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.

  2. #2
    Joined
    Apr 2002
    Posts
    10,813

    Re: "Censorship Made Easy"

    Outside, even through the shut window-pane, the world looked cold. Down in the street little eddies of wind were whirling dust and torn paper into spirals, and though the sun was shining and the sky a harsh blue, there seemed to be no colour in anything, except the posters that were plastered everywhere. The blackmoustachio'd face gazed down from every commanding corner. There was one on the house-front immediately opposite. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption said, while the dark eyes looked deep into Winston's own. Down at streetlevel another poster, torn at one corner, flapped fitfully in the wind, alternately covering and uncovering the single word INGSOC. In the far distance a helicopter skimmed down between the roofs, hovered for an instant like a bluebottle, and darted away again with a curving flight. It was the police patrol, snooping into people's windows. The patrols did not matter, however. Only the Thought Police mattered.

  3. #3
    Joined
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    Location
    Montana
    Posts
    7,743

    Re: "Censorship Made Easy"

    The House bill seems somewhat reasonable, the Senate Bill will never see the light of day, and the ESRB is a waste of money.

    I don't see any parallels.
    Tyan S5397 2x X5450 16GB - SuperMicro H8DCI 2x 275 8GB - Iwill DK8X 2x Opteron 250 2GB


    Take a Kid FISHING!

  4. #4
    Joined
    Oct 2003
    Posts
    8,887

    Re: "Censorship Made Easy"

    Quote Originally Posted by smoked trout View Post
    The House bill seems somewhat reasonable,
    Somewhat, yes.

    the Senate Bill will never see the light of day,
    Well there are two competing, so we'll see.

    and the ESRB is a waste of money.
    True.

    I don't see any parallels.
    One is the ever-increasing grip the federal government exerts on electronic media. Its appetite for control (e.g. e-mail exchanges, online poker as in BD's thread, or the content available to the public via games) seems insatiable.
    Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.

  5. #5
    Joined
    Nov 2001
    Location
    Montana
    Posts
    7,743

    Re: "Censorship Made Easy"

    A rating system can actually be a valuable tool for parents that give a damn. Now if that rating system is dubious, why bother. ESRB has obviously ruffled feathers. What's needed is a little more honest cooperation from some game producers.

    The online poker thing was destined to be challenged. Too much money involved, and many states have laws prohibiting gambling. It's a legal quagmire, and the tax man always wants his share.

    I don't think either of those compare to the bills dealing with national security.
    Tyan S5397 2x X5450 16GB - SuperMicro H8DCI 2x 275 8GB - Iwill DK8X 2x Opteron 250 2GB


    Take a Kid FISHING!

  6. #6
    Joined
    Dec 2000
    Location
    MI
    Posts
    2,357

    Re: "Censorship Made Easy"

    Quote Originally Posted by smoked trout View Post
    parents that give a damn.
    A silent minority it seems these days. Must be too busy raising good people.
    Nuke em'.

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