Tuesday, April 25, 2006

What's In A Label?

In its unflagging dedication to customer satisfaction, Big Bubba's Bait Shop and Bar in Pungo, Virginia has installed new, padded bar stools. US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should be pleased.

The new bar stools fall under laws that require labels on upholstered furniture, mattresses, pillows, duvets, comforters, stuffed dolls, and teddy bears. In the US, unless it's a turkey or a piñata, if it's stuffed it gets a label certifying the safety and cleanliness of the contents. The Commonwealth of Virginia employs Bedding and Upholstered Furniture Inspectors to make sure the labels are properly applied. Although they report to State Bedding and Furniture Inspection Supervisors rather than the Department of Homeland Security, the labeling regime seems to be effective. The new bar stools are not stuffed with unwashed wombat hair, used leper bandages, chemical, biological or nuclear material, or other substances dangerous to the public. The content labels are useful.

Gonzales seems to agree that labels on content are useful as well. He has called for a mandatory website labeling law to “prevent people from inadvertently stumbling across pornographic images on the Internet.” (Unfortunately, the AG’s proposal will not prevent the editor of H I from stumbling over the new bar stools after a night at Big Bubba’s Bait Shop and Bar in Pungo, Virginia.)

In any case, the idea is to place appropriate “marks and notices” on each sexually explicit webpage. Images of shagging, bonking, naked cavorting, whipping, caning, and groping will get marks and notices. Basically, if an image has anything to do with people getting stuffed, it gets a label. Just to make sure that there are no loopholes in the law, “close-ups of fully clothed genital regions” will also be included. Apparently images of the Attorney General from the waist up can be displayed without a label.

The AG would like to see a second law that imprisons website operators who use “words or digital images” hidden in their site’s source code to direct visitors to porn sites. Gonzales really knows dangerous content when he doesn’t see it. There are, however, serious constitutional issues with this suggestion. The American Civil Liberties Union would immediately rise to the defense of a website called Mary Had A Little Lamb that pops up an image showing Mary actually having a little lamb.

Luckily for democracy, political websites are exempted from the proposed law. Embedding words or digital images to direct visitors to expectations of campaign promises actually being fulfilled are ok. Alberto clearly believes that content control requires a light touch.

Costs to enforce these new laws have not been established but it’s fair to say that it won’t be cheap. With tens of millions of websites in hundreds of languages, there are probably not enough people in the United States to enforce the new labeling requirements. This might be an opportunity to develop a new area of cooperation between the US and China. After all, China already makes most of the upholstered furniture, duvets, comforters, stuffed dolls and teddy bears in America. China knows how to do labels. And they also do a pretty good job of making sure only legally approved stuff gets on the Internet.


Anonymous Antoine said...

Alberto should get stuffed

9:08 AM  
Anonymous dv said...

Brilliant. And you can understand where AG is coming from. After all, it wouldn't do for people to be unexpectedly redirected to pages where they can see live, uncensored action of politicians stuffing the electorate. People might get entirely the wrong idea.

1:51 PM  
Blogger Abby Taylor said...

if it weren't for pop-ups, i'd have no sex life at all

7:35 PM  
Blogger Amal said...

Bloody brilliant as usual. You H I
could never disappoint.

10:33 PM  
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