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Do we really need filtering software?

By kafka in Culture
Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 02:59:26 AM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)

The public library in my city put has up this notice, "By Michigan law, we are required to install filtering software ..." I had read a lot about filtering software and its implications in many web log threads.

I have a few thoughts on the subject.

The Internet was the work of academicians and like minded contributors. Academics like to discuss things, share information and learn something from those activities. And since the academics created the network, the network will behave like academics i.e. it will be truly open. To ideas. And everything else.

This is achieved by sharing files. That's text and binary files.

Somewhere between then and now, came the following: internet pornography, IRC, e-commerce, streaming media, Napster and Gnutella. Nothing has changed, the Internet still is about sharing files. That's text and binary files.

Now, we have a bunch of people saying, "Make the Internet safe for children". I would like to draw a parallel here.

Internet and freeways.

The Internet is very useful. Just like freeways are. The Internet can be a dangerous. Just like freeways can be. Children will use the Internet as adults. The same with freeways.

The question is, "What are we doing to make the freeways safe for children to play in?" Answer is, NOTHING! Freeways are not playgrounds. And, as it turns out, neither is the Internet.

Children who're interested in computers must be given access to computers. Not computer networks. If children need to research material for school projects, they should use encyclopedias. They're clean, wholesome and safe.

Network access is an earned privilege. You have to be of a certain age. You have to be mature and responsible. The freeway parallel is the driver's license. But, there is no driver's license parallel for the Internet.

I'm not advocating an Internet license or any such thing. I'm just making an observation that power has dangerous side effects and we must come to terms with that. Any attempt to extract power, while filtering the side effects, is in vain.


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Do we really need filtering software? | 53 comments (34 topical, 19 editorial, 0 hidden)
Exactly the wrong way .. (4.52 / 21) (#5)
by Eloquence on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 01:52:18 PM EST

This is exactly what organizations like Peacefire have been afraid of: That the Internet becomes a place for adults only and that people under the magic age of 18 years are excluded because they are not "mature" enough. I agree that filtering software is unnecessary. But for a completely different reason: There is no scientific evidence -- none at all -- that sexually explicit content is harmful to minors. It has been a claim over the last decades, but those who support it have never done so with facts, more with statements of the sort "That's common sense" or "Think about the children".

The sexual paranoia in modern America is dangerous, and what you are promoting is the ultimate consequence of this paranoia: The exclusion of children and juveniles from valuable information (which includes sexual information, if they're looking for it I see no reason why they should not find it). "Encyclopedias should be enough" - yeah, and we never should've climbed down those trees. If these kids don't learn using the Net at an early age, they will never learn it! We might as well dump "that whole Internet thing".

It's similar to saying children shouldn't learn reading until they are old enough. After all, wouldn't that be the best solution to this non-existant problem? But oh, they can still look at the pictures.

Disclaimer: I am not a pedophile.
Copyright law is bad: infoAnarchy Pleasure is good: Origins of Violence
spread the word!

Re: Exactly the wrong way .. (4.16 / 6) (#7)
by BlackHoleSurferX on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 02:13:18 PM EST

I modded this up front for the point you make. Never stop a child from learning. As a country we are adolescent as far as the internet goes. We're always adolescent to new ideas and technologies that require discipline. We don't want to stop learning, we always push new envelopes. Right now fermi is building bigger and better machines to pull-apart an atom in ways we only theorize about; but noone is stopping that potentially dangerous seach for truth. That's what kids want... they want to know. That's it; so why are we so compelled to stop them from knowing?
"Where do you want to go today?"
I want to go to a place where noone can place a letter in my
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[ Parent ]
Re: Exactly the wrong way .. (3.28 / 7) (#10)
by grem on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 03:26:31 PM EST

There is no scientific evidence -- none at all -- that sexually explicit content is harmful to minors.

You're not seeing the whole picture. My life is also governed by morality. I don't see the need to expose my innocent children to the possibility of viewing sensuous images or contacting adults with questionable motives. As much as you might protest, children are not merely little people. Their character and personality continue to develop through their teen years. And I do have a legal right and moral (there's that word again) obligation to guide the character development of my children as my wife and I see fit.

I'll bet you don't have any children, do you? Some things have to be experienced to be understood. Parenthood and the accompanying protective instinct is such an experience.

[ Parent ]
Re: Exactly the wrong way .. (4.37 / 8) (#12)
by analog on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 03:52:46 PM EST

And I do have a legal right and moral (there's that word again) obligation to guide the character development of my children as my wife and I see fit.

You sure do; why then are you (apparently) advocating turning over the responsibility to do so to the government? Installing filtering software won't accomplish what you want; I've yet to meet the 14 year old who isn't clever enough to get around it if he/she really wants to.

As to the necessity of filtering software, I recently asked my son (who is nine and has an internet connected computer in his bedroom) if his school had it installed. He thought not; it turns out they do, but he and his friends have never visited a site that caused it to be invoked. He's being saved from seeing something he has no interest in. Yay for big government.

As you said, it's your moral obligation to guide the development of your child. This means that if he/she has access to the internet and might see something you don't like, you should either be there or make it known that going to certain places is unacceptable. Don't kid yourself into thinking that passing laws limiting what my children can do is meeting that obligation; it is shirking it in the worst way.

You might also want to keep in mind that it really is a big, bad world out there. Insulating a child from it completely and then springing it on them whole after they reach adulthood is not doing them any favors.

[ Parent ]

Re: Exactly the wrong way .. (4.33 / 6) (#21)
by Eloquence on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 06:38:45 PM EST

My life is also governed by morality.

Yup. But why should my life be governed by your morality? I'm not against the parents' rights to use filters. I am against mandatory use of filters in libraries and schools, just like I'm against bringing creationism into schools or outlawing abortion. I recognize that this may be a conflict with your morality. That's why we have science, which has provided answers in all three cases.

Some things have to be experienced to be understood.

Emotional understanding and rational understanding are two different things, and if you're not willing to argue on the rational level, you'd better not argue at all, for your emotions are far too subjective to be relevant.
Copyright law is bad: infoAnarchy Pleasure is good: Origins of Violence
spread the word!
[ Parent ]

Sex is Taboo? (4.85 / 7) (#34)
by Commienst on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 05:07:26 AM EST

I am guessing you live in the US by your sexual taboo. He is right seeing sexually explicit content is not harmful to minors. In Europe where they have a much lower crime rate than in the states they show sexual explicit material on network television late at night. I am sure many European kids have seen a dick or vagina late night on tv, but I have not heard of it traumatizing any of them. I guess you would rather have your children watch the gratitous violence of American television which is repressed in Europe.

Funny how most Americans believe sex is an experession of love, and they censor it as much as possible on tv. All the while turning a blind eye toward violence on tv, which is an experession of hate.

You should be the parent of your kids and not the goverment. If you had kids and want to raise them with your moral values you should oversee that those values are enforced, not the government. It is sad that people like you who would rather pass legislation to do some of the parenting for you are becoming the majority in America and that my rights will suffer as a result.

[ Parent ]

Re: Sex is Taboo? (3.33 / 3) (#47)
by 1111111 on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 05:31:50 PM EST

I am guessing you live in the US by your sexual taboo. He is right seeing sexually explicit content is not harmful to minors. In Europe where they have a much lower crime rate than in the states they show sexual explicit material on network television late at night. I am sure many European kids have seen a dick or vagina late night on tv, but I have not heard of it traumatizing any of them. I guess you would rather have your children watch the gratitous violence of American television which is repressed in Europe.
You can't reasonably draw that conclusion. In Europe foo, in America bar, therefore it's because American kids see too much violence, not enough sex, too much guns, not enough|too much drugs. There are a great many things which *might* be responsible for the difference. You'd need to isolate two groups where all things are equal except the tested factor. Comparing the population of all American kids vs all European kids is fairly pointless. Compare two groups of 1,000 European kids where the only difference is one has unrestricted access to porn and the other doesn't, then let me know how it goes. I am genuinely interested in the results.
Funny how most Americans believe sex is an experession of love, and they censor it as much as possible on tv. All the while turning a blind eye toward violence on tv, which is an experession of hate.
I can't speak to "most", but I don't allow my children to watch violent TV shows, but don't censor sexual themes that don't violate my morality. For example, PBS-ish shows dealing with reproductive themes are generally fine. Mr. or Mrs. Sitcom screwing whoever walks in the door is not, as I don't want to teach my kids that promiscuity is acceptable.
You should be the parent of your kids and not the goverment.
Agreed! This is where I'm confused. I *don't* want the government parenting my kids (providing unrestricted internet access to them whether I like it or not). I also don't want them parenting your kids by censoring the internet as a whole. You may bring whatever you want into your house and to your kids over your connection, but the government may not indiscriminately provide porn to anyone who can type. You may own a firearm or not, as you choose (I got my first as a literal birth day present--shortly after I was born), but the government shouldn't pass them out in school. We seem to be arguing for the same underlying point: let the parent choose.

[ Parent ]
Who's Morality (3.00 / 2) (#37)
by meadows_p on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 08:21:08 AM EST

So who's morality should be used then? Because it's such a subjective thing, as you pointed out yourself, then how can 1 person's morality be enforced on everyone else? It's your responsibility to enforce your judeo-christian USAian flavour of morality on your kids.

[ Parent ]
Re: Exactly the wrong way .. (2.50 / 2) (#42)
by sporty on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 02:15:19 PM EST

The only argument i have is this. You argue that some of these over-18 things to view are not harmful. Lets use sex, since its the easiest topic to argue about. So sex is more or less not harmful as long as its done right. What if I wish to teach my child celebacy until marriage. That prior knowledge does not say "go out and get screwed by every guy around" but its an argument to say "there is a permisive reason i can go out and have sex, i can use that". Its almost like the seperate but equal argument. By sepeerating out one group of people from another, you are implanting a reason into the heads of everyone seperated that your group is either superior or inferior. Of course, the prior opinions won out on that one. And because of that idea, black schools were treated as a school for inferiors even though they were to be treated equaly. The point is that just by saying it exists and it is a natural thing is an argument against what I might be trying to teach my kid. Yes, there are freedoms for children. If my morals, that celebacy 'till marriage is good, then I can't teach that to my children without them learning what I believe isn't a good way to live. Yes, it is my opinion and my moral, but it is what i believe right for me and my family and it doesn't hurt anyone.

[ Parent ]
Re: Exactly the wrong way .. (3.00 / 1) (#50)
by adamsc on Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 04:20:50 AM EST

There is no scientific evidence -- none at all -- that sexually explicit content is harmful to minors.
While we're on the subject of proof, have there been any studies which tested how likely it was for someone to find sexually explicit material without specifically looking for it? When I was in high school (1996), I volunteered in the school library - read: helped keep the students from running roughshod over a couple Macs that neither the school nor district had a clue about maintaining. Those machines were in heavy use on a daily basis, particularly given that we had a T1 while most students had 28.8k or slower modems.

We caught exactly one student looking at something dirty. He initially claimed that it was accidental but backed down when I pointed out that our logs showed him accidentally viewing a dozen dirty pictures in a row. (Logging software is good. It doesn't prevent legitimate use but does establish responsibility.)

Other than that, it was never a problem. That's one of the reasons why I'm highly skeptical about the whole filter concept. Even assuming that the filtering software actually worked (".. and here a miracle happens"), it wouldn't really stop anyone who wasn't looking for porn. Frankly, if your kid is actually searching for porn, you've already got a problem and they'll find it, on or off the web.

What we're seeing is really just that the web is new enough that parents haven't gotten comfortable with it. I've talked with some people who initially wanted filtering software but decided otherwise when I pointed out that it's not exactly as if you connect to the internet and immediately start seeing porno.

Frankly, I think they'd do a lot more good going after the TV/cable companies since it is much, much easier for kids to find objectionable content on the tube. It'd certainly be a lot more productive than forcing governments to give large amounts of money to the con-artists hawking filter software which just doesn't work.

[ Parent ]

Elitism (2.22 / 18) (#6)
by pretzelgod on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 01:56:36 PM EST

God forbid the unwashed masses disturb our precious network, right?

Ever heard of the School of the Americas?

Warning: extremely elitist viewpoint follows. (4.66 / 12) (#14)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 04:06:13 PM EST

Well, yes, frankly. This is probably the most elitist thing I could possibly say, but giving unrestricted access to anything even remotely technical in this, a world where general intelligence and competence are *not* stressed, leads to very, very bad things. As much as I think the freeway analogy used in the parent article stunk to high heaven, imagine if a driver's licence was not required; gridlock to say the least.

That's what is happening on the web, simply because nobody is being expected to learn any new skills. During a recent site building project I worked on, I was advised that the word "index" as part of the UI was too technical for the expected users, which shows the state of affairs online in my opinion.

I *do not* expect everyone who uses the web to be able to troubleshoot a failed server, or even understand why a site may display differently between their AOL connection at home and their NN4.7 at work, but *some* level of understanding is vital, lest we wind up with a web that is forced to be as stupid as the dumbest user. Instead of appealing to the lowest possible common denominator, why not require a certain (small) amount of learning from perspective visitors? It's better for the web and it's better for those who use it.

The fact that people who aren't able to understand what an "index" is are simply patted on the head and told that "it's okay if you're too stupid" benefits no one in the long run. Just look what it's done to our social climate.

[ Parent ]

Bad analogy (3.50 / 2) (#36)
by meadows_p on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 08:17:38 AM EST

You can't compare the road system and the internet. No-one's going to die if someones "on the internet" and doesn't really know what they're doing. The potential for death is REAL on the roads. If there was a test for a licence, surely it would focus on how to use the browser, how to click buttons etc. rather than how to keep kids away from porn.

[ Parent ]
Re: Bad analogy (none / 0) (#41)
by cesarb on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 01:44:28 PM EST

Viruses. Worms. Trojans. Scams.

Do I need more examples of why the Internet can be dangerous to unexperienced people?

Of course, age does not matter -- in fact, younger people tend to be more conscient of what they are doing online.

[ Parent ]
What a load of... (4.21 / 19) (#8)
by A. Nut on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 02:22:04 PM EST

<ObEditorialNote> I want to see this hit the front page, only because I think it'll get roasted :-)... </ObEdNote>

The Internet is very useful. Just like freeways are. The Internet can be a dangerous. Just like freeways can be. Children will use the Internet as adults. The same with freeways.

Gee. Thanks for making the equation that maybe seeing a nekkid person is as dangerous as being hit by a semi at 80 mph. Uh-huh.

Or maybe it's not the nekkid people that you're worried about? Maybe it's the fact that the internet allows anyone to speak their mind, and not just those with certain (i.e., your) viewpoints?

If you shelter your children, you'll get adults who don't know how to defend themselves.

The question is, "What are we doing to make the freeways safe for children to play in?" Answer is, NOTHING! Freeways are not playgrounds. And, as it turns out, neither is the Internet.

The internet can be a playground, or a library, or whatever. I was on the internet when I was nine. I'm well adjusted. I haven't killed anyone. I haven't unprotected sex (mainly cuz I can't get laid, but that's beside the point), and don't exhibit violent tendencies. On a side note, I love extremely bloody and violent video games.

The reason why I'm so well adjusted after all of that baaaad and damaging input? MY PARENTS PAID ATTENTION TO WHAT I DID! If I did something that they didn't approve of, they told me. If I had questions about something, they answered them. At the same time, the let me have freedom to do and see what I wanted to do and see. As a result, I had a much greater base of general knowledge than others my age.

Children who're interested in computers must be given access to computers. Not computer networks. If children need to research material for school projects, they should use encyclopedias. They're clean, wholesome and safe.

Why shouldn't they be able to access their encyclopedia on the internet? Britannica.com is wholesome and safe too! :-) If you don't think that your kids will be doing wholesome things while on the internet, (wow, here's a fscking revolutionary idea...) WATCH THEM! They'll be a whole lot less enthused over the idea of going to penthouse.com if their parent is watching them over their shoulder.

Oh wait. All this requires that the parents get off of their collective asses and pay attention to their children. Never mind then.
You should reverse the fish in my e-mail address

Re: What a load of... (3.50 / 2) (#38)
by ksandstr on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 09:48:44 AM EST

Actually, everything2.com is a lot better for actual information than britannica.com, although it can't be considered "wholesome" in any way by a rabid moralist bible-thumper. If I had offspring who needed to do research for a school project (or something), I'd point them at everything2 instead of britannica.com. But then again, I'm not USAnian.

[ Parent ]
What the??? (3.18 / 16) (#13)
by h0tr0d on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 03:58:43 PM EST

Network access is an earned privilege. You have to be of a certain age. You have to be mature and responsible.

How in the world did you ever come to this conclusion? And what did you do to earn your privelage to the internet?

First off, I have yet to meet more than a handful of people who posses driver's licenses who are actually mature and responsible. And secondly, they didn't do anything to earn their privelage of having a driver's license other than to turn 16 years old and pass a test that a trained monkey could pass. This submission is so far off that I wish there were a filter on K5 that would have kept it from being moderated. Ce la vie.

-- It appears that my spleeing chucker isn't working again.

(3.60 / 15) (#16)
by psicE on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 04:10:52 PM EST

I don't suppose you thought this when you were a child. Was that because [a] you didn't have access to the Internet, [b] you weren't mature enough to understand why what you're saying would have any validity (which, ironically enough, it doesn't) or [c] you wouldn't want your own Internet access denied?

Was a subtone of this article that you want to keep kids "in their place"; you don't believe they become real people until the day they turn 18, and suddenly they can see everything out there on the Net and not get hurt? What happens between 17 years + 364 days old and 18 years, that is significant enough to make any change in a person's life?

The Internet is one of the only things left that is not mandatorily censored. Let's leave it this way.

And yes, I am a kid, and yes, if I wasn't allowed on the Internet you wouldn't have had to read everyone (including me) make fun of your trolling.

On a separate note: How do you expect to go about censoring kids from the Internet? At least on highways you can have police checking everybody. On the Internet, you'd either need to give everyone video cameras, smart cards+readers, or only allow access at public computers. And all of these choices are BAD.

Moderate Disagreemant... (3.75 / 12) (#18)
by Dirac Tesseract on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 04:38:22 PM EST

Okay, I'll come right out and say that I gave this discussion a -1... but I did not do so because I thought that the author was totally wrong in his thinking. I was brought up without the Internet for all of grammar school and about a quarter of high school, and it is not as if I was unable to survive without it. Just as the author notes, I had an encyclopedia set and a number of other resources at hand to use for reference. That said, the Internet would have been a great aid to my studies as a young kid. I am fully aware of the crap that exists on the Internet, as well as the general "adult" content (not necessarily crap, but I still wouldn't want my kid to see it) and I would be lying if I were to say that I thought this stuff is good for a child to see. But, the reality is that I still managed to learn about all the crap and all the adult stuff long before I was officially considered an adult and thus worthy of the right to view it. The difference isn't in the fact that this information came to me, but that I knew how to control my curiosity for it.

I guess what I'm trying to put across here, is that no matter how hard you try to hide children from the truth about the world, they will find out on their own, and that is OK. Just as we should not inundate our children with the crap and adult material, so should we also not deprive them of the opporotunity to learn about any knowledge - and "dangerous knowledge" is included in the general word "knowledge". If you have taught your children to think for themselves and to understand when enough is enough, they will put 2 and 2 together - kids aren't stupid, after all. And if you have taught your kids _really_ well, they might even come to you for advice when they encounter such material.
Sendmail may be safely run set-user-id to root. -- Eric Allman, "Sendmail Installation Guide"
(4.33 / 12) (#19)
by aragorn on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 05:41:31 PM EST

I think a better parallel to draw would be that between the Internet and 'R' rated movies. Now, I'm not saying that the entire Internet is bad or anything like that. The point I'm trying to make is this: the parents should take responsibility. It's not illegal for a kid to watch an R-rated movie, but the parents have to go out and get it and bring it into the home. Same goes for internet access. It shouldn't be illegal for children to use the internet, but the parents can bring it into the home if they want. With that comes the responsibility to keep your kids out of trouble. Now, the real point of this seems to center around computers in public places. Again, one can draw from experience with movies. In a library or at an Internet cafe sort of place, just require that you be 18 or accompanied by an adult to use the machine. If filtering software were better, I would suggest that a couple of machines be set aside for the kids to use, but I can't say that I've seen any filtering software that really does the job. Anyway, there's no subsititute for parental supervision.

Besides, in America anyway I've noticed that most parents hardly know their own kids. They don't spend enough time with them. This would be a great opportunity to sit down with your kids and get to know them.

One other thing I'd like to say is that 18 isn't necessarily the right age... I'd have to give more thought to that one. And maybe it would be different by state or municipality. Who knows. The general idea stays the same, though.

Re: Movie ratings (none / 0) (#52)
by Michael Leuchtenburg on Fri Sep 22, 2000 at 04:46:23 AM EST

Actually, kids not being able to see R-rated movies is not legislated. The industry regulated itself so as to avoid governmental regulation.

Oh, and parents don't have to "bring the movie into the home", they can also accompany the minor to the theater (and during the movie).

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[ Parent ]

Internet License (3.47 / 17) (#24)
by eann on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 09:34:29 PM EST

Nah. There really oughta be an Internet License.

Question 1: Identify AOL for Dummies:

  1. One of a long line of reference books that attempt to bring computers out of the realm of the total tech-heads.
  2. True.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.

Problem lies in anonimity??? (2.83 / 12) (#31)
by HiQ on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 03:31:56 AM EST

I think that a part of the problem lies in the anonimity. It's possible to draw a parallel with real life: in any major city you've got red light districts, you can buy drugs, there is criminality etc.. But a kid can't get in to a brothel, or a bar, can't buy booze or cigarettes, because people can see who you are and can also ask for an ID.

On the internet, you are (virtually) anonymous, so everyone can go everywhere, no questions asked. A filter is just a brute force solution for this problem. For a library to block these sort of sites is completely wrong; when they start doing that, they should also dump an awful lot of their books. In a library, I can research the social aspects of, say, (child) pornography, or criminality, or fascism, or drugs; there are plenty of books on those subjects. But I cannot research this through the Internet?

So why not get rid of the anonimity?
How to make a sig
without having an idea
just made a HiQ

Re: Problem lies in anonimity??? (4.33 / 3) (#39)
by ksandstr on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 10:02:24 AM EST

Because if you open your mouth wide enough and out comes anti-government or pro-democracy or $UNPOPULAR_POLITICAL_VIEW and you happen to be in a place where they do that sort of thing, you're about to get persecuted by someone, be it the government or a megacorporation or somebody else with enough power. That's why.

By advocating the elimination of anonymity, you're advocating the active logging of everything that anyone does, as well as mandatory digital identification. Goodbye, freedom of speech.

[ Parent ]
Re: Problem lies in anonimity? (5.00 / 2) (#40)
by Stargazer on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 12:21:04 PM EST

I agree with the previous reply -- removing anonymity from the Internet is too big of a technical effort and, more importantly, too big of a threat to free speech for us to even consider it. However, I also have something to add.

One of the many reasons that the Internet has become as popular as it has so quickly is because it allows for anonymity. It allows people to research and/or discuss sensitive or taboo topics without the threat of being noticed. Legal, practical, and other types of advice concerning divorce, information about and support for various sexualities, and help for victims of various crimes -- all among many other things -- can be retrieved, anonymously, over the Internet. Without that anonymity, many fewer people would take advantage of these resources available to them.

Anonymity is a double-edged sword, but the troublemakers' side is extremely dull in comparison to the societal gains we get from having it so easiloy availabe.

-- Brett

[ Parent ]

Re: Problem lies in anonimity??? (none / 0) (#53)
by Bad Mojo on Fri Sep 22, 2000 at 06:12:51 PM EST

As with all things in life, anonimity has an opposite to it. That's the power of voice and identity. People argue on and on about the value of being unknown, yet few people see the natural balance of being identified by those who see/read/hear you. Being anonymous has it's pros and cons, and one of the largest cons is that being anonymous deprives you of identity. Imagine your friends online never knowing what your next e-mail address would be. You'de spend more time trying to convince them who you were than getting anything done. And if you use your identity to spam people, eventually your identity won't be worth anything.

If the Internet has given us anything, it's the ability to be both known and unknown at the same time. To have more than one point of interaction with an entire "world". As more and more real life transactions move online, identity will be really worth something online instead of just a `codeword' by which your friends can send you a message.

-Bad Mojo
"The purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure pure reasoning, and inhibit clarity. With a little practice, writing can be an intimidating and impenetrable fog!"
B. Watterson's Calvin - "Calvin & Hobbes"

[ Parent ]
The lowest common denominator (4.61 / 13) (#32)
by Tatarigami on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 03:44:01 AM EST

I hate that you felt you needed to include a disclaimer.

And I really hate the "if you're not against it you're for it" logic used by pressure groups in their efforts to legislate morality.

I work in security email for a fairly large ISP, so when people get concerned over the things they see on the internet, they write to me. A small percentage have genuine reason for concern, the rest just seem to share a common viewpoint: If I don't like it, it's bad.

There are times when I've had to write back to customers to tell them "I'm sorry, we don't prosecute people for sarcasm."

There is a segment of internet-users who are not interested in information, or in being part of a community and are actively hostile towards people who are. To them the 'net is cheap entertainment and they won't be happy until it's as generic and predigested and safe as prime time television. And sad to say, it's a segment that's growing.

I keep praying for them to finish Freenet and other projects like it so we can pick up our online communities and move.

This ISP is intended for a General Audience (G) (3.70 / 10) (#33)
by Commienst on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 04:53:55 AM EST

Would it not be a better idea to not get goverment involved in this mess at all. There are tons of people who would love to see the internet censored and there should be ISPs that cater to this demographic. I am surprised no ISP has marketed itself as kid safe as of yet. I believe AOL is moving toward this direction with their backwards intranet, where you can disable web surfing and restrict their access to chat rooms and key words. This way the moralists are appeased without censoring and legislatin the internet to death.

Re: This ISP is intended for a General Audience (G (2.00 / 1) (#46)
by 1111111 on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 05:08:13 PM EST

There is. Mayberry USA is an ISP that caters to those who want filtered content.

That said, filtering library computers, or at least those kids can get to, is not "censoring and legislatin the internet to death". You are welcome to use a commercial provider to download porn to your heart's content. I'll concede government should not forbid you from making that choice for yourself and your children. Please concede that similarly, the government is not obligated to deliver it for you.

[ Parent ]

Perhaps there is some point in this (2.77 / 9) (#35)
by grahamsz on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 07:58:46 AM EST

I think it might benifit everyone on the net as a whole if people had to sit a simple 'driving test' to use it. Give everyone a simple idea what an IP address is, what protocols are and why they shouldn't send me warnings about opening happy.exe and the likes.

I am however opposed to any age limitation since I've been online since i was 15 and it's never had any negative effect on myself. Quite the opposite i feel.

Sell your digital photos - I've made enough to buy a taco today
Porn and Kids (3.66 / 6) (#43)
by Joshua on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 03:23:26 PM EST

When I was 12, I was just getting into computers and I heard there was porn there. Being a 12 year old human, I obviously wanted to see all these pictures of naked people doing fun looking things to each other

I promptly aquired a UNIX shell account (the only kind they offered at the time I think) with my local ISP.

Then, my friend James and I spent several weeks learning the basics of UNIX and of the internet in an attempt to look at porn. We had MS-DOS and 2400 baud modems of coure. We learned how to use choosenews, tin, uudecode, zmodem download, and even eventually found a DOS program for viewing JIFF and JPEG files.

It strikes me that curiosity about sex is simply the most natural thing I can think of. I question the foundation of the taboo on it, and I will not try to stop my kids from understanding and knowing it.

I resent attempts to legislate that choice from me.


Re: Porn and Kids (3.50 / 2) (#44)
by 1111111 on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 04:56:50 PM EST

I resent attempts to legislate that choice from me.
And so would I, if that was what was being done. This is a persistant, and I fear deliberate, misunderstanding.

You may give your kids access to pornography if you so choose. Filtering software in libraries funded by public money doesn't infringe your freedom to do this in the slightest. To use the original analogy, the public library is not the freeway. It's the city park, and it is reasonable to require that 12-year-olds be turned loose to do their research projects in it without being accosted by prostitutes. Similarly, I don't find a need to regulate the XXX shop 1 mile from my workplace out of existance, but I don't think it should be allowed to operate out of City Hall.

Curiosity about sex is very natural. We're the product of evolution which, contrary to apparent popular opinion, is a mindless beast which promotes reproductive success, not advancement. Curiosity about sex is reproductively successful because, not surprisingly, it tends to lead to sex. "Hey, looks good, let's try it!" I was certainly curious looooong before I was old enough to be a responsible parent. Natural is not necessarily good, unless you define good on the basis of maximizing your genes expression in the gene pool. I suggest that in today's society, having many children starting early on is not a successful strategy.

So, as someone who thinks schools and libraries shouldn't be on the internet at all (it *IS* the freeway, excellent analogy!), and favors admittedly flawed censorware if boneheaded politicians insist our 7 year olds need to be on the net, I defend your right to raise your kids in the way you describe on the grounds that I might be wrong. I similarly refuse to help you with the consequences if they end up young moms and dads with no means of support for their new families.

Good luck with the kids.

[ Parent ]

I like the direction, not the specifics (4.00 / 5) (#45)
by QuantumAbyss on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 05:05:36 PM EST

I agree with what is being said generally - the Internet is an untamed beast, and should remain so. If a kid gets access to the Internet, then expect that kid to find porn - I certainly did when I was younger (and kids find it in other ways anyway, better to look online than shoplift or some other such thing). But this article started out with a note about the public library and Michigan law. Well, if we follow the analogy of the freeway, and don't admit children to the internet, then what are we going to do - ban children from the library? Don't think so. If the thought is that we're going to have librarians stop kids from using the computers, then that IS the license bit, and it in fact backs what is being done. I think kafka just didn't think that one through, but I hope I understand what he means. My take is that if a kid wants to find it, they will. If a parent wants to stop a kid, they'll try. Somehow those forces need to balance out to such a degree that the kid doesn't go too far and the parent doesn't have absolute control. What that balance is is always hard to find. I don't agree with filtering software though. Filtering software in a library is like banning books - and I bet you can find a ton of contentious books in that very same library.

Science is not the pursuit of truth, it is the quest for better approximations to a perception of reality.
- QA
Be Responsible: Pay Attention (4.60 / 5) (#51)
by thppt on Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 09:45:48 AM EST

As a number of other folks have pointed out, neither government nor filtering software nor morality legislation can do a parent's job when it comes to raising a child according to "proper moral code" (where, like it or not, each family does define their own moral code. I'm not a moral relativist, just a moral realist). If you as a parent are so concerned about what sexual/violent/moral content your child experiences, then pay attention to them. Talk with your children. Impress upon them what you feel is appropriate, inappropriate, right, wrong, moral, immoral... but most importantly, even if you feel that they're too young to rationalize such a thing (BTW, you're probably wrong about that... always try to gently overestimate your child's abilities, and if you've got a good relationship with them they'll suprise you!), talk about WHY you feel the way you do. Simply going through the process of expressing your views on life, the universe, and everything is certainly going to help their development, but it will also help you to focus your beliefs into a coherent structure. How are you going to pass on your world view if you can't express it yourself?

My wife and I are homeschooling our children (welll, let me be honest on that one... our first is due in December, so, um... we will be homeschooling...) because we believe that the most important thing is to pay attention to our children. Period. If you're so concerned that Johnny is going to stumble across porn at the local library, don't you dare put right-wing filtering software on that computer that is going to prevent MY child from accessing the National Orginization of Women, breast cancer discussion sites, the AIDS quilt site, etc. (see PeaceFire). Get a high bandwidth connection at home, put a terminal in the family room or the kitchen, and surf with him! Make him feel comfortable about coming to you with any questions about things he sees on the web when you're not around. And if Johnny isn't comfortable talking to you about sex, porn, drugs, or anything else you might consider dubious, then that's not the Net's fault. I'll leave it as an excercise to the reader as to where that problem lies.

Finally, take kafka's freeway analogy (could we please get away from the "Information Superhighway" meme?!? Al Gore may be wrong about having pioneered the Internet, but he sure had a lot to do with getting that terrible term into popular use.). Filtering the Internet would be analogous to placing computer-controlled gates at every interstate exit: "The National Transportation Safety and Morality Board must regretfully inform you that you are not allowed to take this exit due to the questionable activities of the inhabitants living in the adjoining neighborhoods. Have a nice day." You must learn to drive if you're going to get on the freeway. Very few people can afford to hire a professional to do the driving for them. And almost no-one expects the government to step in and drive their car for them. So why do people expect the government to step in and drive their Web browsers? You ride in the passenger seat when your kid learns to drive, so ride in the copilot's seat when your kid starts flying a computer.

Do we really need filtering software? | 53 comments (34 topical, 19 editorial, 0 hidden)
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