[clug] Internet Censorship - Advice?

Alex Satrapa grail at goldweb.com.au
Thu Dec 4 07:41:51 GMT 2008

On 04/12/2008, at 17:29 , Jason wrote:

> I wonder if we could not come up with a better technical solution to  
> the clean feed system.

We already have better solutions in many ways:
  - Parental supervision of children
  - ISPs that provide ISP-level web filters and firewalls
  - the option to not let the kids use the computer (just like you  
have the option to forbid your children to use condoms)

> In fact I'm sure there already are better systems already in  
> existence and fully implemented.

No, there aren't. The problem is a social one, not a technological one.

The general rule with these things is: you cannot solve a technical  
problem using social means, and vice versa.

The main problem is that we have a minority voice (Steve Fielding,  
Nick Xenophon) rattling cages and telling people that their children  
are at risk if they use the Internet without porn filters in place.  
Sure, it would be mighty satisfying to lock those charlatans away so  
that the cause of the problem disappears immediately, but that will  
just open the way for the next single-platform party to get a single  
seat in parliament and thus open the way for the next Bread and  
Circuses Act to get tacked on the back of a "think of the children" Act.

> I imagine a system like the current certificate system on websites,  
> concerned surfers run their browsers in a mode that warns them if  
> they are about to go to a site that hasn't had its certificates  
> signed by one of the surfers approved authorities.

You want the rest of the world to do dancing dog tricks just to  
protect your children?

Who will be the first to use such a system? People expecting to make  
money. Where is money spent on the Internet? Porn sites. Who will be  
the first to use the kid-safe-certificate system to trick you into  
visiting their sites? Yup.

> Parents who want to stop there children going to unapproved sites  
> would have a browser implemented solution stopping any sites not on  
> the approved list.

Parents who want to stop their children going to unapproved sites  
would simply stop their children clicking on the links to sites they  
don't their children going to. Because, you know, they're there with  
the children, rather than using the computer as a babysitting device.

They had the children, they take care of them. That's what this  
argument boils down to for me.

> Best of all we could probably get a system like that up and running  
> with a bit of bandwidth and a firefox plug-in. No  need for isp  
> involvement or slowing down anyones computer, or millions of dollars.

Where's the money going to come from to set up the certificate system?  
Centralised administration of trusted PKIs is not the kind of thing  
you do just for the fun of it.

> I'm taking the white list angle because I think by the nature of the  
> Internet ...

Try it for yourself first :)

See how long it takes before you turn the whitelist software off  
because you just can't do anything. There's a reason that only about a  
third of the parents who started using the NetAlert filter are still  
using it.

The key in this discussion is this: where is the money coming from?   
Who is going to be issuing these "trusted" certificates? How will they  
remain trusted if they can't fund the ongoing maintenance of their  
trust system? Who pays for the certification of a site?

How much will it cost, and where's the money coming from? The cheapest  
measure a parent can take to protect their child from nasty stuff on  
the Internet is to turn off the computer. It's also a great way to  
ensure the child gets adequate exercise and regular sleep habits.


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