The great porn access debate

I get journalism, I do try very hard to, at least I think I do.  I mean sure you know the frequency of face palming during news bulletins and stories seems to be increasing…..but is it?  Or are we simply taking more notice?

As previously noted I am a career geek – I love technology and all that it can do for us – but I do have a problem and it’s with the people who repeatedly don’t get it.

I mean if my car starts to make a strange noise there’s a couple of things I don’t do; I don’t claim to have an innate knowledge of all things internal combustion nor would I presume to tell a mechanic that his opinion of the problem was wrong and that actually I felt it’s a problem with the flow rate of the flux capacitor or some other part.

But I digress, so let’s drag it back to the point and unusually for me to be wading into very much a en vogue issue of the moment, but yeah, what the post title says…..and yes I know I’m drawing conclusions from some recent stories and sighing deeply due to my perception of the comments within them but when will people finally wake up and realise that no sooner can you discover some new horrible problem with the internet than you ought to figure out that it’s been going on for years?

The internet is no longer the domain (pun intended) of a single entity or country, or body, it’s a living breathing organism, made up of billions of nodes and housed in equally as many locations, it’s a global device, there’s just no simple controls any more.  And there’s been nothing like it before either.

And so when something as seemingly straightforward as content access rears its head lets apply the above reasoning. It’s already been happening for years and there are no simple controls.

Let that sink in for a moment and dissect.

Happening for years.

No simple controls.

First off I’ll insult a whole peer group – shame on you parents of the world for letting your kids have access to something that’s simply not censored in any way shape or form, and that has been the case since the beginning – it’s the case here that ignorance is no excuse, a pertinent point when it comes to the hardest job in the world, being a parent.

A very simple test that I’ve employed for as long as I’ve been working with the internet is to use the “girls name” test.  I recall back in the 90s when testing the content management system for a local school – a system that was supplied by a well-known company at a significant cost (I mean local education’s budgets right?) – a top-level system designed to prevent pupils from accessing anything bad.

So open up a browser, find a search engine (the much missed Euroferret if memory serves) and perform a simple search for a girls name.  Go on, purely for research purposes try it.  Works every time. I mean sure, there’s more stuff on the internet now then there used to be, so you have to go through a couple of pages as there’s more Jennys and Catherines and Kates out there but the point is that a search as benign as a name brings up content unbecoming.

That being the case just how easy is it going to be to properly censor the Internet for the good of the kids?

Exactly.

Back to my liberal beating on parents.  In my humble opinion it should be treated in the same way as watching movies.  I can purchase all sorts of gruesome stuff and if I’m not mindful that my kids have found my copy of “Murder Death Kill Gore 7” and popped it into the DVD player they’re going to learn some new playground moves.

So I self-censor in my own situation, it’s really easy for me in any case.  I use a PC to watch TV and movies, so the children (at the moment in any case) don’t know how to; turn on the PC, load a DVD, load the software to play the DVD.  It’s a bit on the lazy side, but I know that right now they simply can’t access anything. It’s the same deal with the internet, no devices in their bedrooms and when they do do stuff online we monitor it.  I know, very dickensian right?  But safe.

Now, back to the matter in hand – how to restrict the content that’s delivered to our precious children?  What’s the simplest way to do this?  Prove your age?  Oh yeah, enter in your credit card details?  How many things are wrong about that idea?  Hand over your credit card details not for purchasing but just proof of age.  Would YOU be happy about doing that?  Any of these so-called experts heard of Data Protection, or PCI Compliance???

Some of these purveyors of questionable material don’t exist as entities, some are just like a travelling circus, content passed along via various servers and across borders, it simply doesn’t work like traditional corporations, the appearance of some huge content providers can be made by an 18-year old sat in their bedroom.

You can’t enforce a set of rules in such an environment any more than you can successfully censor the entirety of the internet, countries (and search providers) have tried and the populous just runs off to proxy services and the like.

Is it really going to be worth conducting an in-depth investigation into this?  How much money and time will be spent coming up with some unworkable solution that will only be partly deployed in the end?  Should we not all be looking at common sense solutions?

All this talk of parents not knowing what their kids get up to in their bedrooms?  It’s kind of right in front of our noses really, common sense it used to be called back in the day, we just need to use those meat sacks we carry around in our skulls and figure a way to sort this out that brings the onus back to the parents.  I’ll throw something together – I’ll just add it to the list!

Next one will be more positive, promise!

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THE PERSONAL BLOG OF CORNWALL-BASED COMPANY DIRECTOR // CHRIS RICKARD