Some of you may have seen mention of a campaign ran by Premier Christian Media and SaferMedia called “SafetyNet”, this is a campaign to call on the Government to force Internet Service Providers to make accessing pornography an adult only opt-in service.
Ryan at crimperman.org has taken a look at the technical / practical side of this:
Why this won’t work
The campaign calls for ISPs to “block pornography” at “network level”, the consultation expands this into two options. Firstly a universal switch which enables or disables blocking (or “filtering” if you prefer) for the internet connection and secondly an array of questions which apparently will allow the parent to decide which types of content are permitted or not permitted through the same connection. The wording is phrased as if this filtering can be decided on a per user basis rather than a per connection basis but the type of filtering they are describing cannot be managed in that way. In brief the type of filtering they are proposing (regardless of which option is used) is unworkable and dangerous. I’ll focus on pornography here because that is the main thrust of the campaign but the same points can be applied to other content types. Here is why…
How do you define “pornography”?
You can’t (as the campaign does) try to get away with a dictionary definition because we are dealing with parents here who may well have their own idea of what is appropriate for their child to view. Limiting it to just ‘the explicit representation of sexual activity’ may not be enough. As an example if that were all that was being blocked I still would need to check what my 8 year old was stumbling across on Google images at which point the “protection” is not coming from the blocking but from me (as it does now). Additionally who decides what content fits into what categiry and what level of “risk” there is? One parent may consider it perfectly aceptable for their child to see say a scantily clad woman in a provactive pose, another may not and yet both would expect such a filtering service to met their needs. It can’t.
If you’re interested in this, I’d suggest reading the whole article over at crimperman.org