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The Forum > Article Comments > Reflections of a millennium mum > Comments

Reflections of a millennium mum : Comments

By Rosie Williams, published 19/2/2009

As the internet takes over as a medium for more and more daily activities, continual supervision becomes increasingly unrealistic.

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Part I
Unfortunately it's not clear the the Government's proposed filter will do anything good for children at all. I've taken some time to crystalise the issues involved, and I suggest you read them thoroughly if you're interested in protecting children online. I have also considered freedom of speech.

The important thing to recognise here is that filter opponents don't want to see children abused, or terrorists helped, nor are we indifferent to these issues. We want to actively help eliminate these problems. When intepreting any ambiguities, please keep this in mind.

The arguments presented here are only concerned with the censorship of legal content and the safety of children. There are other issues surrounding filtering.

Read on and ask yourself the questions that follow.

NOTE: The filtering proposed is two levels, both activated by default. Only
the obscenity/inappropriate filter may be deactivated. Lets start with
the one that can't be turned off:
Posted by Ben Sand, Thursday, 19 February 2009 9:37:55 AM
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Part II (you'll have to wait a day for the next one because of posting restrictions)
Mandatory Filter For All Connections

Please note, at present the Government is ploughing ahead with filtering trials without telling us what will be part of the mandatory filtered list. For sure is illegal material, but also some legal content,
along with the very open to interpretation "unwanted content". When asked for clarification, the Government has kept repeating this unclear term. Further to that, the block list will not be public, thereasons a site is blocked will not be given and there will be no appeals process.
* IMPORTANT: This is not ANYTHING LIKE the censorship applied to Books & TV. When these forms of media are censored a reason is given and the content in question and the reason is public knowledge and appeals can be made. Should a mandatory filter be allowed to go ahead if the content in question and the reason for filtering is secret and no appeals are possible?
* Given filtering is trivially easy to circumvent by those with ill intent (web search for "anonymous proxy", "anonymous VPN", or "onion routing"), wouldn't the money spent on mandatory filtering be better
spent on policing, which actually works?
* The vast majority of the worst stuff, such as child porn is traded in areas that can't be accessed easily and will be impossible to filter, and all of which can be encrypted easily (making their contents completely unknowable), such as chat channels, encrypted web sites, peer to peer and Usenet. The effective policing methods involve infiltrating the groups operating these services and gaining the
members trust. Effective policing against child groomers additionally involves law enforcement officers masquerading as under age children and catching predators when they attempt to meet up. Given the filters won't have only a negligible impact on child porn, why not just invest the money in policing?
Posted by Ben Sand, Thursday, 19 February 2009 9:41:08 AM
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Maybe I'm missing something here, but I didn't read this article to be about mandatory ISP filtering at all, but about the age-old problem of "how to best bring up our kids".

The author tries to make a case that it has never been so difficult as it is now,

"Pity the parents and teachers who have to compete with this 24/7 stream-of-anti-consciousness and try to teach their children that consumerism is not a value, celebrity is not a role model and the media advertorial is not the fourth estate."

From the experience with my own three kids, I am forced to disagree with this basic premise.

We are told that we are...

"...face to face with the reality of the loss of parental control over the kind of material to which children have access."

Can the author honestly point to a time when parents have had this control? Certainly, mine never had a clue what I was reading, or sneaking into the cinema to see.

Yes, there is today a greater volume of dubious material, and yes, it tends to be relatively easily available.

But the contention that "the worst material parents had to worry about their children getting hold of was a Playboy Magazine" is just a little naive. Much printed pornography, even from way back in the Victorian era, shares the unsavoury characteristics of much of today's online stuff. And I clearly recall that it was always easy to find, even back in the 'fifties.

In its essence, the problem hasn't changed one iota, despite the volume and availability issues.

The author also provides the obvious solution.

We need to...

"...formulate boundaries within which our children can grow into their adult selves. Raising the issue of sexuality with children and rebellious teenagers creates certain challenges but also gives parents an opportunity to reconsider their own beliefs: to either discard or reinforce them."

This is no different to discussing with them smoking, or their homework, or their favourite music, or drugs, or crossing the road.

And the experience is often quite educational.

Mostly for the parent.
Posted by Pericles, Thursday, 19 February 2009 1:26:47 PM
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I take issue with your use of the "Little Children are Sacred" report and notes of the use pornography being related to the sexual abuse of the children. These communities have very little or no access to the internet and their access isn't broadband in most areas. You are referring to subscription television which is a different issue and would not be reduced/affected by mandatory internet censorship.

Most abused children are the victims of the activities of their own families, relatives, friends and people in positions of power that the children know. Cases of child abuse involving complete strangers are a tiny minority. While the debate over censorship hits the media, real children are being abused and the child protection agencies in all states of Australia are starved of funds, short of qualified staff and lacking in resources to accommodate real children in real danger. See the recent DOCs report in NSW putting this number as around 20000 children in real danger and several news reports of children dying as a result of abuse.

At the moment the proponents of censorship are claiming an imaginary moral high ground based on their opinion of what should or shouldn't happen. As yet, over 7 or 8 years of lobbying they have not produced one piece of independent, peer reviewed academic research to support any one of their opinions - either the presumed harm or an effect on behaviours.

Secret censorship is dangerous and open to abuse by any lobby group and any future government. Broadcast classifications are open for review, this proposal is not and the material has never been subject to a judicial review. It is the opinion of ACMA that the material may be classified or refused classification. No review and no public scrutiny.
Posted by ilago, Thursday, 19 February 2009 1:33:36 PM
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I can't help but feel that these debates about kids' exposure to all the nasties of cyberspace are really just the softening up of public opinion to bring the Internet under political control.

Technical control of the Internet is a fantasy - it can't be done. However, political control of the Internet - through the surveillance and monitoring of service providers and website managers, and the criminalising of certain web activities, to name a few - is well and truly possible, but only through a complete restructuring our all our current laws on civil liberties and freedom of expression.

This can be achieved by nurturing and maintaining a climate of continuing paranoia about a fictitious causal relationship between the Internet, increasing moral decay and ultimate social anarchy.

The real danger lies not in kids watching pornography etc, but in kids and adults learning more of the truth about the kind of society we really are. With the traditional political/media gatekeepers no longer in control of the supply and demand of information, there is virtually no limit to what we can now access.

Rosie and her millenium mums may be getting anxious, but nowhere near as much as the millenium mediaocrats and the powerful interests they strive to protect.
Posted by SJF, Thursday, 19 February 2009 3:06:34 PM
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Well said SJF.

Education is the key, the better understanding of the human condition our children have the less likely they are to be harmed by those who would exploit their naivety and ignorance.

The idea of an internet filter is more about political control than it is about protecting children.
Posted by Fractelle, Friday, 20 February 2009 11:16:54 AM
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