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Keeping kids "safe"

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 9:09 pm    Post subject: Keeping kids "safe" Reply with quote

The "Keeping Kids safe" meme has been (mis-)used to mean censoring kids books, movies, TV and internet access. Now politicians in Australia have caved in to religious fanatics and are requiring Aussie ISPs to censor every Australians Internet link. And I thought our politicians were a bunch of spineless toads! This meme came up yesterday on Farber's list, and Brock Meeks (Director of Communications for the Center for Democracy&Technology) wrote a brilliant reply. Here it is, complete and unedited:

From: Brock N Meeks
Sent: Tuesday, January 08, 2008 12:50 PM
To: David Farber
Subject: Re: [IP] Re: Australia to Require Mandatory ISP Filtering of "Inappropriate"

David {not djf} asks, "what wrong with offering 'opt out' instead of 'opt in'
filtering... this will help keep kids safe." Well, thanks for the
hanging curve balls, David, I suppose you're being generous because
of the holiday season.

The first thing wrong with "opt out" is that a consumer must take
proactive steps to rid him or herself from a mandate that was never
asked for. Opt out is a really twisted way of saying that the
consumer is given a choice; if you force a mandate on me and then
tell me, "Oh, if you don't like it, just jump through XYZ hoops" I
don't consider that a "choice."

And then there is that niggling little phrase "help keep kids safe."
Yes, yes, and it helps keep kids safe if they never use a public
restroom where they're exposed to all manner of sexually-oriented
graffiti, some of it very explicit, and anatomically correct. (how
someone manages to do that with a big tip Sharpie, well... that's
another discussion...) And yes, yes, it helps keep kids safe if we
never let them socialize with little Johnny Dude, whose father,
Spike, leaves his porn laying around and doesn't care if Johnny takes
the accelerated, self-directed, sex education short course and
decides to mentor your kid when he goes there after school to play.

And trust me, as a father of four boys, it's astounding how much
information they pick up and how early they pick it up... and they
hardly needed to go poking around porn sites to glean that information.

Oh yes, I know that modifier "help" provides the big political cover
for such nefarious ideas, for as we both know, nothing can be
guaranteed to keep kids 100 percent safe. I just think you have to
look at the payoff of using blunt instrument tactics under the guise
of "helping" kids.

Mandating that ISPs filter "inappropriate" content suddenly makes
them de facto government agents; they now become gatekeepers of
content as mandated by government. But darker angels lurk here.
Once the infrastructure for such monitoring is in place and they've
kicked all the bugs out of it, then the pipes can be used for more
nefarious actions. Does the government suddenly want to start
monitoring the Internet activities of a certain group of people??
Well, just head on over to the local ISP and switch on the covert
monitoring, because, damn, the ISPs are already serving as government
agents by proxy in performing their filtering mandate, surely they
won't object to little extra-curricular snooping. And on and on.

You know, this crap just never stops does it? It used to be the
fight song included the theme of "keep the government out of my
bedroom," now I'm into the second chorus and it's "keep the
government out of 'helping' me raise my kids."

Bah. You want to keep your kids safe? Pull the f**king plug on the
computer, give them a hug, and read them a book.

Brock Meeks
Director of Communications
Center for Democracy&Technology

On Jan 8, 2008, at 11:21 AM, David Farber wrote:

> From: David Burt []
> Sent: Tuesday, January 08, 2008 10:50 AM
> To: David Farber
> Subject: Re: [IP] Australia to Require Mandatory ISP Filtering of
> "Inappropriate" Content
> But what's wrong with offering "opt out" instead of "opt in"
> filtering, as long as it's relatively easy and private to opt out?
> This will help keep kids safe. Heck, even the ACLU agrees
> software is the better solution, per this Oct 23, 2007 entry on
> their website:
> "Keep Kids Safe with Software, Not Censorship"
> Software,-Not-Censorship.html
> Mandatory "Opt Out" filtering of pornographic sites by ISPs I think
> is the next wave in democratic countries. Japan is also planning it
> (see story below). I think this is a trend that will accelerate in
> democratic countries as societies look for new ways to protect
> children from the inundation of pornography on the Internet. Would
> this work in the U.S.? I think the ISPs would fight it like hell,
> and the civil liberties groups would too. But if "opting out" were
> easy enough and reasonably anonymous, I think the current Supreme
> Court might uphold it.
> Eweek story on Japan's opt-out filtering proposal :
> In response to complaints from parents, the Japanese government in
> December ordered mobile carriers NTT Docomo, KDDI, Softbank and
> Willcom to begin implementing mobile phone filtering for minors.
> Mobile phone online filtering already is available by the Japanese
> carriers, but according to<>, few use the
> option. The proposed regulations would strengthen existing policy
> by requiring online filtering to be the default setting for phones
> intended for minors. The filtering could be turned off with the
> explicit request of the minor's patent or guardian. http://,1895,2242756,00.asp
> More stuff on my blog at<http://
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