Censorship and sensibility

Australia's newly elected government has been discussing imposing state-level government filtering of the internet to filter out content inappropriate for children. This would have Australia join the likes of states like China.

There are three problems I have with this kind of policy. First, internet filtering doesn't work very well. Generally internet filters work by searching for keywords in sites to determine if they are, for example, pornographic or violent. However, it's very easy for keywords used in pornographic sites to simply evolve to avoid being detected by filters. Second, state sanctioned filtering lends itself to abuse, as is the case with the 'Great Firewall of China', where the state-level filtering is used to filter out unwanted political material. While I doubt things would get this out of control in Australia, the mere potential for this to occur is reason enough for concern. Finally, state-level filtering is another step towards a nanny state, where the government deprives us of the right to decide how to live for ourselves. I trust that parents are quite capable of deciding for themselves what measures they ought to take to protect their children from unwanted material on the internet. Having the state dictate this is a step away from the right of the parent to decide how to bring up their children.

In my mind, a far superior option to state controlled filtering would be for the state to make freely available 'Net Nanny'-like software, that parents can install on their PC's as they see fit. This proposal has been proposed on numerous occasions, but for some reason I don't understand it seems to have been swept under the carpet.

In the name of preserving liberty, if there is going to be any form of internet policing it ought to be opt-in, not opt-out.

One thought on “Censorship and sensibility”

  1. I didn’t know about this!

    I agree that something like NetNanny should be provided for free instead. Or, these “clean feeds” should be opt-in. Both should be used in conjunction with parental supervision. That is a parent’s job, after all. Child porn is not the only danger. There are also paedophiles in chat rooms, cyber bullying, etc. Clean feeds won’t stop those.
    There is also a legitimate demand for adult porn by adults.

    I think that maybe the government should make its advertising more clear. Instead of just alerting parents to potential dangers, they should be more specific, like, e.g. “If you have a young child, don’t let them access the internet without supervision. Put their computer in a public area of the house where parents can constantly view the screen.”

    I also think there is a legitimate need for teenagers to see some sex-related content. Given that sex education in this country is a joke, only the internet provides the best info for:

    1. What STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) can look like and their transmission modes. Particularly important is the concept of “asymptomatic viral shedding”.
    2. How to pleasure chicks (i.e. know what things like a clitoris and g-spot are and how to stimulate them).

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