9 February 1997
Internet Labelling System Condemned
Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) has condemned the RSACi Internet labelling system, on the grounds that it is parochial, inflexible, and archaic.
The RSACi rating system is the creation of the United States based Recreational Software Advisory Council. Originally a scheme for rating computer games, it is now, in conjunction with the Platform for Internet Content Selection (PICS), being used to rate Internet content. It is probably the most widespread PICS-based rating system in use on the World Wide Web; the RSAC home page claims that over 15 000 sites use their system.
There has, however, been growing concern around the world about about the proprietary RSACi system.
EFA board member Danny Yee writes: "The RSACi system has no way of distinguishing material with artistic, literary, or scientific value. It is in this regard atavistic, a return to an era when Shakespeare was Bowdlerised and the penises were chiseled off classical statues."
"The definitions used in determining the four ratings -- for 'language', 'nudity', 'sex', and 'violence' -- were clearly chosen with computer games in mind and lack the flexibility required for a wider range of materials. It is ludicrous that such a system should be applied to novels, online libraries, art galleries, and other such resources."
"RSACi also displays a bizarre combination of explicitness and total subjectivity. The definition of Revealing Attire, for example, refers to 'the display of cleavage that is more than one half of the possible length of such cleavage' but also contains the phrase 'which a reasonable person would consider to be sexually suggestive and alluring'."
The RSACi system defines Profanity in Christian terms and uses that as a criterion for assigning the 'language' rating. "This is only the most obvious evidence of its US-centric parochialism", commented Yee. "RSACi lacks any sensitivity at all to cultural context. It makes constant references to 'a reasonable person', presumably ignorant of the fact that in some cultures 'reasonable people' consider nakedness normal."
"Application of RSACi to the global Internet is blatant religious and cultural bigotry. It is most distressing that a government agency such as the Australian Broadcasting Authority has labelled its own web site with RSACi and is encouraging others to do likewise."
Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc - http://www.efa.org.au/
representing Internet users concerned with on-line freedoms
RSAC home page
RSACi ratings dissected
The Net Labelling Delusion
RSucky - an RSACi parody
- The ABA Web site