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Link Exchange responded to me, and addressed my concerns. Below is the response to the e-mail I sent Link Exchange (the red part is what I wrote, and the black text is the response). While I am not in complete agreement with their policy, or what is considered "offensive" and what is not, I was pleased to receive clarification on Link Exchange's policies. I appreciate Jason's, at Link Exchange, willingness to answer my questions.

Date: Mon, 11 Aug 1997 11:19:32 -0700 (PDT)
From: LinkExchange
Subject: Re: LinkExchange

Hi Carolyn,

Sorry to take so long to get back to you - although we try to respond within 24 hours it sometimes does take a little longer. Although I'm the person who dealt with most of the banners when they first came up, I wanted to take the time to research some of the newer cases.

I don't have the email anymore, but I believe I sent it around the middle of July, 1997...around July 12-14. I'm sure, since I no longer have the email, that it would be very difficult for you to find it in your records if it was received, so I will state here what was said in the other email.

Thanks, it probably would have taken a while for us to find it.

Basically, the email asked for clarification on ILE's terms regarding

Just a side note, but we prefer LE to ILE (we changed our name from Internet Link Exchange to LinkExchange last year).

banners, specifically those that dealt with President Clinton and similar issues. Since you sent this e-mail, you obviously have been to my web site, so you have an idea of what I am referring to. While looking through some sites using your Surfpoint Search engine in July, I came across the "Clinton Impeachment Home Page" banner. (the one seen on the web page http://www.gargaro.com/ilepage.html) Since similar banners were not allowed, I was curious as to what made that banner acceptable.

Our position has always been that we will not advertise banners which are inflammatory (i.e. designed to rile people up), and that banners must maintain a neutral tone. This policy was first applied to the "first felons" banner. There, the problem was not with the fact that they wanted to impeach Clinton, but rather that the banner was potentially libelous. While our policy hasn't changed wholesale, we have moved towards being a lot more inclusive with banner content.

I wasn't sure if your policy had changed, or if there was a subtle difference that made that banner acceptable.

Although our policies have changed slightly over the past year, in this case I think it is the "subtle difference". We're fine advertising a banner which says "Impeach Clinton '97 - Right on the Web". However, we can't advertise one which says "Stop the Clintons. Do it for America. In you're Heart You Know They're Wrong". Again, I should point out that the sites were fine - our problem was only with the banner that they wanted to advertise over our network.

Here is our current policy on banners with political content:

Banners with political content must maintain a neutral tone. They should not contain belligerent or disrespectful wording and imagery, and should not be inflammatory. Banner content must surpass the standards established for site content as listed in the terms and conditions of membership.

Every banner is reviewed on a case by case basis. In the event that a member's banner does not meet the above policy, the member may request clarification of how this policy applies to their banner.

I was curious because I felt it would not be fair to have a page about banners that were not accepted in to ILE if in fact those banners would be accepted now.

Some of those banners always would have been acceptable. Part of the problem is a miscommunication - our banner checking program is highly automated and the form letter is a bit harsh. The actual letter says (or said at the time):

I'm sorry but we have a policy against allowing members to have material on their banners that might be considered inappropriate or offensive.

Most people took that to mean that we thought their banner was offensive, when really what we meant was that it was inappropriate for advertising on the network.

The banners are all checked in by hand, and there is a lot of discussion about the banners. In some cases, if the individual writes in we'll review the banner again (as noted in our policy above). Unfortunately (as was the case with the first felons banner) the first response we get is occasionally an expletive-laden hate letter.

Or at least point out on my site that while some banners are still unacceptable, (if that is the case) that some other banners of similar nature are now allowed in ILE, and an explanation of why.

I do want to point out one mistake I made in my last letter - the Clinton Impeachment Web banner, which I did not think had been submitted, actually had been. Its fine, and should have gone in.

Also, I was just curious as to whether the banners which were not accepted to ILE a while ago would now be accepted? I ask because, for instance, I was told that the "abortion causes breast cancer" banner was not allowed (I do realize that they submitted another banner which is now running) because it had the word abortion on it. There are other banners now in ILE circulation with that word, so I didn't know if the policy had changed?

It wasn't the word "abortion" alone that caused me to ask them to change the banner - it was more the statement as a whole, which at the time was pretty hotly debated. As it is now, that banner is acceptable (as mentioned, we've moved to be more inclusive with the banners we accept).

Also, I know that banners regarding impeachment of the president were not allowed before, but there are banners now in ILE's circulation with that info now. I can't really tell a difference between the impeachment banner running in ILE now and the ones that were not allowed. So, I was wondering as to what the difference was between those banners......

I think we've already covered this. The "Impeach Clinton '97" banner was accepted and advertised, the "Clinton Impeachment Web" SHOULD have been. The other two were not allowed and would not be today, either.

Does this make sense or have I confused you? :) I've almost confused myself with this email! :)

Well, I just hope you can get a clear sense of what I was trying to say from my rather scattered response. If you have any more questions, please let me know.