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.
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.