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Is a "KidNet" a reasonable alternative to mandatory filtering?

By Zero Whitefur in Internet
Thu Apr 05, 2001 at 02:41:39 PM EST
Tags: Round Table (all tags)
Round Table

The subject of Internet censorship and/or filtering has been on the minds of the general Internet using public ever since 1995 and the debate surrounding the infamous Communications Decency Act. In the six years since (which also included a Supreme Court ruling on June 26, 1997 that struck down the CDA) several companies have produced filtering software that claims to prevent a minor from accessing questionable material, a bill entitled the "Child Online Protection Act" has become law, and debates have raged over the topic of mandatory filtering in libraries and public schools. This latter debate has moved into the current Congress, under the consideration of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, chaired by Rep. Fred Upton (R) of the 6th District of Michigan.

I learned of this debate from a curious source; by listening to Chicago Cubs baseball. On Opening Day this season, Rep. Upton was in the WGN radio booth and when asked by play-by-play man Pat Hughes what business Upton would be attending to upon his return to Washington, the Representative replied that he would be holding hearings on the subject of mandatory Internet filtering in libraries and schools receiving public funding. That thought stuck in my mind all day, with slight indignation that Upton was proceeding full speed ahead with this without apparently considering its long-term effects and ramifications. I continued mulling it over until a thought suddenly struck me.

What if, as has been done with "Internet2", a separate TCP/IP network was established with the sole purpose of educating and informing young people? Such a network would be placed in schools, libraries, and any private homes in which parents wished to pay for their modem or broadband connection to this network. With such a network in place, I reasoned, free speech would have a chance to continue on the Internet with a lesser fear of hinderment or outright censorship by either the government or by corporations pushing their filtering software.

Upon further thought, though, it occurred to me that a battle would be fought over what would be and what wouldn't be appropriate for "KidNet". Even if it was just a very large reference section (A connection to the Library of Congress and several other great sources of knowledge, for instance) debates over just how sanitized KidNet should be could go on and on, with zealots on both sides attempting to bend it to their needs.

I will now leave this to discussion, with a few more points to make. I would not intend KidNet to be a total replacement for the experience of the Internet at all for a minor, but a supplemental network that could serve more as a vast encyclopedia than anything else. I worry that while well-meaning, Rep. Upton and his ilk could end up destroying or at the least significantly damaging free speech and expression on the Internet. KidNet, while by no means a perfect solution, could be the means to preserve freedom while allowing the education and enlightenment of America's youth without fear.

sources:www.house.gov and www.epic.org


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Is a "KidNet" a reasonable alternative to mandatory filtering? | 23 comments (23 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
I had a hard time deciding what to think... (3.50 / 2) (#1)
by maleficent on Wed Apr 04, 2001 at 07:19:47 PM EST

My first gut reaction was to agree with the author, because how well Internet2 has worked for higher education. A second later, my gut reaction was to deeply disagree, because deciding what belongs on a KidNet is to a certain degree a kind of censorship. At least with Internet2 it can be restricted to .edu domains; with KidNet there is no such obvious cutoff, so content choices would have to be made.

I guess I'm somewhere in the middle, leaning toward thinking that it's a bad idea.

Other advantages (2.50 / 2) (#2)
by DoubleEdd on Wed Apr 04, 2001 at 07:23:01 PM EST

The sanitisation is not the sole benefit as I see it. There is a huge stinking pile of worthless poop out there which is of no help when a kid is trying to research something. It'd be great if the sources on such a network were guaranteed to have some authority behind them.

Then again, maybe teaching our kids how to sort out the wheat from the chaff is a worthwhile skill. Perhaps the original internet could still be used for that under supervision.

The obvious route to providing a worthwhile Kidnet would be to start a seperate DNS system which only recognises selected services run by univiersities and colleges in a range of countries - ie select .edu, .ac.uk and similar domains. Having the universities in control removes risks of governments being subjected to pressure to authorise the 'wrong' things, or not authorise things which should be.... although universities might also face such pressures.

I know there's holes in this post - please pick them out because I can't be bothered.

Holes in the post (none / 0) (#3)
by DoubleEdd on Wed Apr 04, 2001 at 07:24:05 PM EST

I know there are holes in that post, like the grammar in the last line.

[ Parent ]
Who'd pay for it? (4.00 / 4) (#4)
by weirdling on Wed Apr 04, 2001 at 07:38:25 PM EST

The plethora of information on the internet comes from two sources: companies with profit intentions and people who figure they'll find information from someone else. In the first case, profit margins aren't all that great with kids unless you're Disney or some other such, so there's not likely to be a wealth of medical or scientific knowledge on it like a WebMD or one of the science magazines. In the second case, information put out will not be generally available or will have to be duplicated, one sanitized. This will probably make fewer people deal with the kid's network.
It's a good idea, though. We just need to figure out how to pay for it and make sure that the government does not *require* that all schools limit access to this network.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
A smut-free Internet is... (4.12 / 8) (#5)
by elenchos on Wed Apr 04, 2001 at 07:43:18 PM EST

...just what parents and teachers want, so that they can feel good about using a machine to babysit their kids for them, leaving them free to go and do the things they would really rather be doing. But as long as our beloved Internet home remains a wretched hive of scum and villiany, there is a slim hope that maybe they will feel compelled to actually parent their kids themselves.

Aw hell, who am I kidding? They'll just leave their kids in front of the TV instead, won't they?


KlanKids, et al (4.25 / 8) (#6)
by SPrintF on Wed Apr 04, 2001 at 08:17:52 PM EST

So, what happens when the Ku Klux Klan wants to put up it's educational site for the betterment of lil' rednecks everywhere?

Scientology: sounds educational to me. (Got that "ology" thing in it.)

But, better leave out the sites that discuss reproduction, biology and geology. Don't want to offend anyone, right?

Better drop any Buddhist sites as well. Don't want the Taliban on yer ass.

I'm all in favor of an "opt-in" TLD (a simpler solution to the same problem, IMHO) that would be "for kids" material. But, to avoid censorship, the site owner would have the sole authority to determine if it was ".kids" appropriate material.

And what are "kids" anyway? < 13? < 18? Can I put up my "Truth About Santa Claus" site without being hounded off the net?

Did you want to be more useless? (1.50 / 2) (#9)
by Miniluv on Wed Apr 04, 2001 at 10:57:33 PM EST

I'm all in favor of an "opt-in" TLD (a simpler solution to the same problem, IMHO) that would be "for kids" material. But, to avoid censorship, the site owner would have the sole authority to determine if it was ".kids" appropriate material
Then what the hell is the point? Why bother setting up the TLD if you aren't going to police it to any extent at all?

You set it up, and I'll make sure I register assfuckers.kids and ruin the whole thing for you just to drive home my point.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]

Not exactly (4.50 / 2) (#7)
by psicE on Wed Apr 04, 2001 at 09:30:25 PM EST

I'm much more in favor of an opt-out instead of an opt-in policy, where sites that are considered objectionable can rate themselves with an RSACi/SafeSurf-like system and browsers can be set to block sites with certain criteria, decided by the parent (Internet Explorer can do this, and does a very good job of it). The scary thing about opt-in policies is that theoretically, no one could opt-in, and the kids are left with nothing to look at. With opt-out, kids might accidentally see something objectionable once or twice, but they'll guaranteed be able to access real information.

The main difference between advocates of opt-in and advocates of opt-out, actually, is that opt-in people think that it's more important for kids not to see content that should be censored, and opt-in people think that it's more important for kids to see content that should be available to them. The basic principles of western democracy are that it should not restrict anything unless it violates someone's life, liberty, or property, and opt-in policies violate kids' liberty and 1st Amendment rights.

Two things, sort of (4.00 / 1) (#8)
by nurglich on Wed Apr 04, 2001 at 10:25:01 PM EST

Guess what a library is, folks. Some group (government even) decides what they will make available, and controls the quality of what they put on the shelves. Libraries certainly do not buy every book in existence and throw out ones people complain about. Schools couldn't ever try to teach everything there is to know, and let the kids sort out what they want to learn.

For schools and libraries, for example, I wouldn't mind at all having a seperate "Internet" set up with access to the Library of Congress, major journals, newspapers, collections of periodicals, web-based mail sites, etc. that was basically the default resource available to the kiddies. There would be easy access to sites of actual use, and little else. Of course, a parent could always lift the restriction and give the child access to the "real Internet", but the vast majority of stuff out there is of no educational value. If they want more access, its still there, they just need approval to use it. Though I wouldn't look up porn at the library even if it were OK.

"There are no bad guys or innocent guys. There's just a bunch of guys!" --Ben Stiller, Zero Effect

Library Booklists (none / 0) (#22)
by ZahrGnosis on Thu Apr 05, 2001 at 05:56:52 PM EST

Actually, you can find a lot of strange things at libraries; certainly plenty of things that most parents wouldn't want their kids reading. (Not that I agree with them, but that's not the point). I've met a few people that stock books for libraries, and while they make a solid attempt to get books that people want, they also make a strong push to get a wide variety of books.

That said, there ARE a variety of library networks in place that only allow you to search library holdings, books and book reviews, periodicals, and all that jazz. Most of those are proprietary and backed by large companies who can spend the time indexing non-electronic texts and selling or networking those indexes. Any library you go to probably subscribes to two or three of these services.

[ Parent ]
Internet2 = KidNet!? (1.80 / 5) (#10)
by davidduncanscott on Wed Apr 04, 2001 at 11:21:01 PM EST

I think the Internet2 people are going to be surprised that their effort is "was established with the sole purpose of educating and informing young people". They're under the impression that it's:
a consortium being led by over 180 universities working in partnership with industry and government to develop and deploy advanced network applications and technologies, accelerating the creation of tomorrow's Internet. Internet2 is recreating the partnership among academia, industry and government that fostered today´s Internet in its infancy. The primary goals of Internet2 are to:
  • Create a leading edge network capability for the national research community
  • Enable revolutionary Internet applications
  • Ensure the rapid transfer of new network services and applications to the broader Internet community.
I think you might be confusing them with another project.

Internet2 != KidNet (none / 0) (#11)
by Zero Whitefur on Wed Apr 04, 2001 at 11:33:28 PM EST

I was only using Internet2 as a comparison.

[ Parent ]
My mistake (none / 0) (#16)
by davidduncanscott on Thu Apr 05, 2001 at 07:48:08 AM EST

although I think an understandable one -- the sentence was somewhat ambiguous. By way of comparison, may I offer "What if, as has been done with Physical Education Department, a separate division of the college was established with the sole purpose of molesting children?" Mightn't a gym teacher be offended on the first, second, and maybe even third reading?

If I might suggest a revision, I think, "What if a seperate TCP/IP network, like Internet2, were established, but with the sole purpose of educating and informing young people?", would make it very clear.

At any rate, sorry for the distraction and on with the real discussion...

[ Parent ]

Confused? (none / 0) (#14)
by RadiantMatrix on Thu Apr 05, 2001 at 12:47:03 AM EST

I think you might be confusing them with another project

Pardon, but it appears that you are the confused one. A careful reading of the article bears this out: What if, as has been done with "Internet2", a separate TCP/IP network was established with the sole purpose of educating and informing young people..."

If you had read quickly, as it appears you did, you would not have noticed that the comparison the author was making to Internet2 involved creating a separate network. Otherwise, the author would have sounded foolish saying "What if, as has been done".
I'm not going out with a "meh". I plan to live, dammit. [ZorbaTHut]

[ Parent ]

The crucial questions (none / 0) (#12)
by Estanislao Martínez on Thu Apr 05, 2001 at 12:22:12 AM EST

Who would build this "KidNet"? Who would be allowed on it?

If recent experience is any indicator, the government would put this in the hands of a few megacorps, who would have control over what to put on this network. Think about all the early '90s "National Information Infrastructure" talk, which from the beginning was planned to be corporate built and controlled. Think of how the govt. gave away the net, which it had built, to the corps.

The concept, in principle, is interesting, but the political and economical realities of the US make it very likely that it will *not* turn out to be what you wish. Already large corporations do all they can to market their products to kids in schooltime; Channel One is a prime example.


PornNet (3.66 / 3) (#13)
by mami on Thu Apr 05, 2001 at 12:44:22 AM EST

Is it legally and technologically possible to implement a separate PornNet ?

Real life example (4.50 / 2) (#15)
by RandomPeon on Thu Apr 05, 2001 at 01:26:38 AM EST

In my hometown, a creationist tried to donate some books to the school libraries. After a hell of a lot of chest-pounding and dumb arguments from both sides, a committee rejected the donation on the grounds that the books weren't based on sound science. This led to another round of chest-pounding and school board meetings, yadda yadda.

You see the problem, though. A "kid's internet" would have the same problems on a much larger scale. Instead of causing a stir in suburban Minnesota, Mr. Creationist could get himself national attention by demanding that the books be put in the database.

That's the problem with any filtering scheme - the gray areas. If a particular piece of content is rejected some will complain that children are being denied useful information while others will applaud the decision as protecting children from falsehoods. Is website for gay teens a valuable resource or a scourge? Is a creationist website a valuable alternative viewpoint or utter nonsense?

You haven't solved the problem with censorware - we can't agree on what's good for kids because we can't agree what's right and wrong. Kids should not be exposed to the wrong things, but what are they?

Cphack blocked now.org and gay.com, for example. I would contend it should block flatearth.org and creations_cience.net (both of which I just made up) but others would disagree.

It'll replace the web anyway (4.00 / 2) (#17)
by hardburn on Thu Apr 05, 2001 at 09:22:48 AM EST

I would not intend KidNet to be a total replacement for the experience of the Internet at all for a minor

Thats whats going to happen, but it'll be for everyone. No one will be able to get on the old Internet, because doing so would signal your "evil" intentions. It'll be much easier for the FBI or whatever other BB orginazation to get some carnivore-like device in a new network then it would be to bolt it onto the old.

while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }

KidNet in libraries? (none / 0) (#18)
by j on Thu Apr 05, 2001 at 10:24:31 AM EST

Having KidNet in libraries would imply that kids are the only ones who go there. Although I don't use our local library much (since it closes at about the time when I come home from work), I assume that there are adults who actually do use public libraries to do research. I agree that they don't have any constitutional right to get their porn fix at the library, but they also shouldn't have to deal with a 'dumbed-down' version of the Internet.
Solutions? No solutions. Keyword filtering is a joke. RSAC ratings have some potential, but are hard to enforce. In the end, we might just have to face the fact that technology can't take the place of a human educator quite yet.

KidNet (none / 0) (#19)
by J'raxis on Thu Apr 05, 2001 at 11:43:36 AM EST

"Real" internet on the computers that adults are allowed to use, KidNet on the computers in the children's section of the library. Simple enough.

-- The Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

Computers in Libraries (none / 0) (#20)
by j on Thu Apr 05, 2001 at 12:05:22 PM EST

"Real" internet on the computers that adults are allowed to use, KidNet on the computers in the children's section of the library. Simple enough.
Wow... you actually have that? I guess I assumed that all libraries were like ours: Just one long desk with 5 or 6 computers and that's it. You don't live in Pennsylvania, do you?

[ Parent ]
Sloth (none / 0) (#21)
by ucblockhead on Thu Apr 05, 2001 at 01:47:16 PM EST

The obvious analogy to "KidNet" is the textbook industry, creating special books geared just for kids. That analogy makes one doubt the utility of the idea when you read stuff like this, an article in "Science News", which describes how the state of middle-school science textbooks is abysmal.

The idea has a lot of merit in theory, not so much from the "protect the kids" angle, but because the internet today is pretty damn useless for younger kids. A couple years back, I watched over my wife's shoulder as she did all the Internet research for her second grade class. They were doing a rainforest unit wherein each kids picked an animal, a was to research it using the internet as part of the districts self-congradulatory (and idiotic) push to computerize. Imagine putting "jaguar" or "sloth" into a search engine. We had fun looking at the various deadly sins" pages and there's one guy who has a great fascination for jaguars and women.

This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

A second internet (none / 0) (#23)
by FeersumAsura on Fri Apr 06, 2001 at 10:12:58 AM EST

If a second internet develops it won't be for children/porn/guns or freedom of speech. It'll still be connected to the existing internet but many of us won't be able to access it. Yes those of us who don't have broadband, the latest hardware to run the latest browsers and who can't get all the plugins.
Only a few countries have easy access to broadband and only in selected areas. Huge chunks of telecommunications third world areas will be blocked. Those of you with broadband forget about us with our expensive calls, slow dialup links and flakey connections. The attitude that if you don't have the latest browser you should upgrade is a mistake. This is an idea fed to us from birth by marketeers, the endless mantra of upgrade, upgrade, buy, buy, consume. I know people in countries where a P90 is still considered fast and only the very rich have anything above 400MHz. These people are running Linux, Win 3.11 and Win95 using IE3, Netscape 4.xx and occasioanally IE4. Java is always disabled and Javascript and flash cause endless problems. So when you design your next site of upload your next file remember those of us who have no bandwidth.

I'm so pre-emptive I'd nuke America to save time.
Is a "KidNet" a reasonable alternative to mandatory filtering? | 23 comments (23 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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