Warning: This post contains pornographic words

Apparently few things matter more to David Cameron than protecting children on the internet. Perhaps he’s planning to increase the funding available to tackle online child abuse, which would be useful. Apparently not, which is a pity because Jim Gamble, chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, sounds like he knows what he’s talking about.

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So what is David going to do to protect children on the internet? Nothing very useful as far as I can tell. In fact, probably the opposite. The internet, like life, is complicated. In the simplest terms I can think of, the internet is not safe for children, but actually that’s ok, and is no different to a lot of other things.

You wouldn’t expect young children to be using a chainsaw on their own, but you would also find it pretty difficult to cut a tree down with plastic safety scissors. You wouldn’t expect older children to use a band saw on their own, but it would be ok if they were supervised while learning to use one safely.

I would agree with the suggestion that parents aren’t given enough help, but a ‘one click’ on/off filter on a shared internet connection is really really not the answer. You need lots of tools; maybe playpens for the very young, corner protectors when they can walk, right up to an idiots guide to the internet for older politicians!

Aside from the fact that blocking and filtering just tend to annoy people who are trying to access perfectly legitimate content, and MPs haven’t even really defined what they want to block, there are downsides to creating a UK intranet. There are already more than enough places with over zealous filters, like O2 and Orange, or libraries, and there can already be real financial implications to manipulating search engine results with no transparency or oversight.

Perhaps even this post/blog has been blocked. Ok, the world wouldn’t be much worse off in that case, but I am more concerned about other sites which are likely to be blocked unintentionally, especially now that I have a child. You see, it’s not quite as simple as the Prime Minister makes out. I may face some very tricky conversations as my child grows up, and they would be more difficult if they and I aren’t able to search for information and support. I had naively assumed that banning rape porn would be one simple thing that everyone would agree with, but even that subject isn’t quite as straight forward as you would hope. I hope that reading challenging articles about difficult subjects will prepare me for being a better parent. I know that a web filter won’t.

I’ll be holding on to unfiltered internet access as long as possible.

(Of course the internet isn’t the only place children might see porn. I assume they’ll be announcing a filtered version of the Sun tomorrow…)

Photo © Anne Petersen (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

4 thoughts on “Warning: This post contains pornographic words

  1. As a mother*, I see it as inevitable that when the filters are shown to not work (eg one child murder happens) the politicians will say they “must do more” rather than review whether they were ever doing the right thing.

    As a mother, I wonder if when a site is filtered will the owner and/or users be told? I saw a BBC Click programme from Dubai showing how the UAE’s filters present blocked sites: a page saying it’s blocked and a form you can use to request the site be reevaluated by the authorities. The IWF’s pattern so far has been for a 404, pretending there is no censorship, so you need to hire a networking expert to work out why an unelected body has taken your (eg seaside postcard) business offline. As a mother, I fear the subsequent feature creep will make this a problem for far more than just porn companies.

    *I’m not, but saying I am apparently means my opinion trumps everyone else’s.

  2. I don’t think my blog has been blocked yet, but this one has, probably because of the number of posts discussing the issue. If you can reach it, the Cameron ‘Porn’ Advisor’s website ‘hacked’ – Threatens/Libels Blogger post is worth reading if you didn’t see the recent tweets from Claire Perry.
    These kind of blocks being of a somewhat random nature for now, I had no trouble reaching The genie of unlimited filth is out of the bottle and no law can stop us polishing our lamps. Easy to see how discussions could be manipulated though.

  3. Pingback: Unfiltered | Notes from a small field

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