29 July 2009

Internet Filters and Pornography...


Not everything is as easy as installing a filter, this includes blocking pornography on the internet. The New South Wales Department of Education has installed filters on school computers presumably to ensure that students, and teachers, do not have the ability to access porn and to ensure that their time is productive in accessing appropriate academic and education-related sites.

Oops!

The filter has some problems. This is highlighted in the case of a Year 10 student who typed in the search term "swallow". Yes, I know, you can see where this is going already. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, for this particular Year 10 student, the sites that came up had nothing to do with a little bird but rather some hard core porn that dealt not with the little swallow but with a whole different set of swallow circumstances.

But, turning this into a farce is that harmless sites like the Minister of Education, Verity Firth's, own web page is blocked by the filter.

This is the problem with filters. They are not discriminating enough and too discriminating all in the same algorithm. It is perhaps better to err on the side of caution and block web pages and sites that are harmless if the filter could ensure that it was doing the job it was supposed to and filtering out all the harmful web pages and sites. However, this example clearly shows that the filters are not up to that task.

The reality is that even the constant updating of lists is of limited use. Pornographers are smart enough, and technologically savvy enough, to up and move their material to a new web page address and avoid the filter. Web / internet users are also generally sufficiently technologically savvy to be able to follow along with the pornographers, if they are so inclined to do so.

There must be a better way to ensure that access is restricted in a manner that prevents the access to pornography while maintaining access to the sites required by school-aged children.

This begs the question are the filters a worthwhile investment or a waste of time?

It would seem that at this present time filters are not working and it is time to invest in finding a better and more effective alternative.

10 comments:

GJ said...

Rob,

I think the best method is to have the computers in a high visibility area not tucked away in the IT lab and boxed up in their only little cubicle. Maybe external monitoring say by CCTV, just a thought.
Kids/bedrooms/PC's/internet asking for trouble.

GJ

Rob Baiton said...

GJ...

I guess that was what I was alluding to in that the only way to really ensure that kids are not downloading porn or accidentally accessing it while doing other legitimate searches is going to be more comprehensive supervision.

Aside from CCTV, maybe heart and blood pressure monitors so that teachers can see whose viewing what. Assuming that one's heart and blood pressure go up when viewing porn (?) :D

Your kids are older than mine. So, how are you dealing with it? Parental controls?

GJ said...

They are still a bit naive, which is a good thing. High visibility is the key and monitoring of email accounts/social networks etc. On balance they are better off accessing the web and finding the odd nasty than not accessing/learning is my view.

GJ

Rob Baiton said...

GJ...

Agreed. The pros outweigh the cons at the moment.

oigal said...

Interesting one however the kids will be exposed to unsavory things sooner or later, if not your place then school or friends place.

The trick is (and its not easy) starts well before the internet and kids being able to tell right from wrong.

Saddest part is explaining to kids there are some pretty nasty people outthere in the real world.

scrump said...

aren't those dreadful interactive group shooting games just as bad?

oigal said...

Interesting point..

What would or does cause me more concern... the kids coming across "the swallow" on the internet or being exposed to severed heads in all their graphic detail over and again on TV during prime time.

Rob Baiton said...

Stump...

Agreed it is a sooner or later thing. Later would always be better. By Year 10, I am guessing that young Will will probably already be aware of the big bad world around him.

Scrump...

Are you stalking the Stump?

I am guessing that you are alluding to the idea that children who watch violence are destined to be violent themselves?

Statistics are a great tool for proving whatever point of view you want to adopt.

Stump...

Indonesian TV :D

Yes, it is an interesting point. My take is that ultimately people, children included, become somewhat immune to it. Simply, it just becomes another severed head or mangled body part.

That said, the Indonesian Broadcasting Authority could do something about it if they wanted. A couple of substantial fines and the threat of pulling a broadcast license might do the trick.

anong said...

These comment boxes are becoming a grounds for bloggers to sue commentators it seems. Bloody unsafe work environment Id say.

Rob Baiton said...

Anong...

Interesting thought. However, where a vast majority of commentators adopt pen names or comment anonymously, then it is going to be bloody hard work to track down the commentators in order to serve them.

I guess, notifying them through social networking sites may become the norm. There was a recent case where this was permitted.

So, with a view to OH&S, or whatever it is called now, we should expect to see less of you as you seek to protect yourself from the dangers of the environment in which you have been working in the past? :D

Enjoy your day!