IBM blames ISPs for ‘offensive’ Internet ... back in 1994

OS/2 version 3.0 (Warp) came with a warning

1994: It was a simpler time, when IBM sold an operating system called OS/2 version 3.0 (a.k.a. OS/2 Warp) and corporate lawyers could plausibly imagine people venturing onto the Internet and being shocked - shocked! - to find "objectionable" content there. So those IBM lawyers nearly 20 years ago fashioned a warning for such OS/2-using neophytes, a picture of which surfaced yesterday on Reddit.


Since it may be difficult to read, here's what it says:

Notice to users of Internet services

You are about to embark on an adventure that spans the globe. Information can be accessed across countries and cultures. These sources of information belong to many different organizations, companies, governments and people around the world.

Certain Internet services may contain language or pictures which some individuals may find offensive, inflammatory, or of an Adult nature. Such contents are the sole responsibility of the Internet service provider. We do not endorse such materials and disclaim any and all liability for their contents.

And since we're going there, here's some OS/2 Warp cover art.


A few things caught my eye about the IBM legalese:

The first is something that only an editor might notice: What's up with the capital A in "of an Adult nature?" Was it intended to convey a seriousness that a mere lowercase "adult" could not?

The second was that I found it odd that IBM lawyers would attempt to foist responsibility for objectionable Internet content onto the shoulders of ISPs, given that ISPs are not responsible for such content. Then a quick trip to Wikipedia informed me that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which carries the "safe harbor" provision shielding ISPs from such legal responsibility, was passed in 1996, or two years after this IBM two-step. Nevertheless, if I had to guess, I'd venture that the IBM lawyers knew darn well that OS/2 users would find no protection from the Internet's dark side when turning to their ISPs.

Now, of course, everyone knows it's all Google's fault.

(Update: A fellow on Twitter believes that IBM was not throwing ISPs under the bus: "I don't think you're referring to the same ISP. I read it then and now as provider of the offensive Internet service." Upon further review, that could be an accurate reading, though it would have been a poor choice of phrasing, even back then.)

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

IT Salary Survey 2021: The results are in