Everybody wants to make the web safe. For the kids, of course. And the weapon of choice in that battle seems to be electronic censorship filtering.
In Australia, the government is testing a new system that requiring ISPs to do the blocking of all the bad stuff, despite the fact that three different studies paid for by the government show that ISP-level filtering doesn’t work.
In light of the evidence supplied by the Australian government’s own studies, it seems unlikely that an ISP-level filtering system will function as expected. False positives will likely frustrate users and pornographic content will all but certainly slip through the government’s net. The ISP-level filters will also probably not provide parents with the same level of administrative flexibility as PC-based filters.
Meanwhile, closer to home, the state of Utah also wants ISPs to install filters to keep out all that nasty stuff and legislators there are proposing a rating system to identify providers that are doing a good job.
HB 407, introduced by Rep. Michael Morley (R), would designate some ISPs as “Community Conscious Internet Providers” if they meet certain criteria. In order to be certified as a CCIP by the Attorney General’s office, an ISP would prohibit its customers by contract from posting pornography or other material that’s harmful to minors. Customers of the G-rated ISP would also be prevented from reaching what the bill refers to as “prohibited material.”
However, they may have trouble finding many ISPs to participate in this plan since it will involve some heavy-duty records keeping. And, oh yeah, there’s the matter of a $10,000 fine each time something bad leaks through to the kids.
So, if the electronic walls governments are so fond of don’t do the job, what’s the alternative?
Critics of the filtering plan [in Australia] say that the money should be spent on Internet safety education programs because they believe that child predators who operate through social networking sites pose a more significant risk to children than pornography.
None of this is different from the approach required of most schools and libraries in this country by the FCC.
We spend lots of time and money on electronic filters that do little but give everyone a false sense of security when we should be putting our resources into helping teachers learn to manage and use the power available in their classrooms.
And teaching our kids how to be responsible and ethical users of the same tools.
That’s not a 100% solution either. But it will be far more effective in the long run.