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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Internet Filters and Online Safety

This quote is from a young man named Tom Wood who was able to crack an $84 million dollar internet filter in 30 minutes. Article is here Student cracks Government's $84m porn filter "Tom stressed the filters were missing the mark by a long way regardless of how easy they were to break. 'Filters aren't addressing the bigger issues anyway,' he said. 'Cyber bullying, educating children on how to protect themselves and their privacy are the first problems I'd fix. 'They really need to develop a youth-involved forum to discuss some of these problems and ideas for fixing them.'" So many people are focusing on the issue of filters for keeping kids away from things adults would rather they did not see. Many of the arguments I hear center around librarians being unable to work in loco parentis, and that it is a parenting issue and not the library's responsibility what kids view online on our computers. Are filters censorship? Of course they are. So, therefore they have no place in our public libraries, right? But, don't we also keep certain titles away from our children's departments because they are not age appropriate? In essence I am not against filters, per se. I can understand their function, and the desire to protect children and to respond to community needs. But, I think they are more trouble than they are worth. This article perfectly displays how expensive it is in both effort and money to create these filters. Kids are smart! They pick up on tricks to get past blocks and filters so quickly it will blow your mind. If they want to see it, they will find a way. What I find fascinating about the quote from this precocious teen is that I think he's being quite astute. The trick isn't to blindfold kids, but rather to teach them the skills necessary for safely travesering the online world. How to protect themselves, their information, and their families should be a priority.


Eric said...

Ha! That's really something. Like you said, the problem is that kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. And as this particularly ingenious 16 year old said, we should be focusing on the bigger issues like privacy, cyber bullying, etc.

The problem as you said is that many are expecting the librarians to babysit the kids. I remember one particular story from my hometown when a woman dropped her young child (somewhere between 4-6 years old) off at the library with a note telling the librarian that if there were any problems to call her (the mom) at work. I know that's getting away from the issue of filtering, but the point is that we can't be all things to all people whether it is a parent who makes sure that their child doesn't look at porn on the internet or a babysitter.

Anonymous said...

Focusing upon only the technical issues (the other is a critical, but separate issue): filters do perform a vital function of denying inadvertent or casual encounters. Education is a critical and absent factor as well. I doubt, for at least a few years, someone younger than 16 years will know enough to bypass any filter; which is an age group that filters should not target to protect. And, lastly, the folly/largess of government IT spending: $84 million for development would translate 1/1000 of spending in the private sector.