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Censorship

From Bess to Worse 146

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the won't-somebody-please dept.
Frequent Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton writes " From about 1996 to 2003, there were regular reports listing examples of sites stupidly blocked by blocking software. The genre has tapered off recently, probably as a result of the Supreme Court ruling in 2003 that the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was constitutional, requiring blocking software in schools and libraries that receive federal funds, despite all the evidence of over-blocking presented at the trial. The last high-profile story about a site blocked by blocking software was about the blocking of BoingBoing almost a year ago. But the lack of recent reports on blocking software errors doesn't mean that the software has gotten better." The rest of his essay follows.

One product that generated several reports over the years was "Bess, the Internet Retriever" from N2H2, which has since been bought out by Secure Computing, which also makes a blocking program called SmartFilter (the one that blocked BoingBoing) and now sells "SmartFilter, Bess Edition" which uses the same database as Bess. Different organizations and individuals published a series of investigative reports about Bess from 1997 until 2002, listing sites about gay rights, eating disorders, and other subjects that were blocked as "pornography". In Ben Edelman's supplemental report, submitted as testimony in the CIPA trial, he listed examples of erroneously blocked sites that he had reported to N2H2 in his first expert report, and which were still being blocked five months later.

Since Bess represents a set of data points showing how the accuracy of a blocking program can change, or not change, over the years, recently I began testing it again. I didn't know whether to expect it to be better or worse. On the one hand, advances in technology and greater revenue to censorware companies could have caused the software to improve. On the other hand, the number of Web pages, and the rate at which dynamic sites like blogs change content every day, has exploded. The result? I'm still tabulating data, but it looks as if the accuracy rate is roughly the same as it was in 2000, when about 30% of blocked sites were obvious errors. Then and now, I found most of the errors by starting with a large list of URLs culled from search engines and other sources, and simply running them through the software to see what was blocked.

Here is a partial list of some of the questionable categorizations made by Bess; as of this writing, all of the following sites are listed as "Pornography" when you look them up on Secure Computing's Bess lookup form. (This is not just a fluke of the lookup tool; I tested against a copy of the software that all of these sites really were blocked.) The "screen cap" link next to each site links to a snapshot of the results taken from the lookup form (you can check on http://database.n2h2.com/ to see if the page is still returning the same results, although the more obvious errors will probably be fixed after this article is published):

A long-standing point of contention while earlier reports about Bess were coming out, was whether every site on their blacklist had been reviewed by a human before being blocked. In 1998 the CEO testified before Congress that "All sites that are blocked are reviewed by N2H2 staff before being added to the block lists." However in their 2002 annual report the company finally admitted that not all sites were reviewed before being blocked: "Through automated categorization or human review, Web sites are identified as fitting into one or more of our categories". At one point an N2H2 employee also told me that when one site is blocked, they will often block all sites hosted on that machine or at that IP -- which of course means that those sites are also not reviewed before being blocked. In any case, it's possible to access some of these sites by IP address, such as the BC Art Galleries site via this link, or the or the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence via this link -- so if they're not sharing their IP with other sites, that wouldn't explain how they got blocked either. Smartfilter spokesperson Tomo Foote-Lennox said that one other blocked URL that I found, http://www.arbiol.org/, was the result of an experiment N2H2 once did with fully automated website ratings.

Foote-Lennox added, "In general, we find that schools are VERY sensitive to under-blocking. The would rather block a whole lot of useful reference sites to avoid exposing one porn site." Probably true, although keep in mind we're talking about liability issues, not actual moral outrage. (If they were really morally outraged, they'd be trying to keep kids away from uncensored Internet access everywhere, not just in school! That is in fact the approach that schools take with things like drugs, which do inspire moral outrage because they really are harmful.) Perhaps what is needed is a law explicitly shielding schools from all liability for what students do or see on the Internet at school, if the faculty had no knowledge of it.

(Obligatory interstitial advertisement for common sense: I still don't see what the big deal is about porn anyway. Ask yourself: Why is it harmful to see a picture of a naked person, or even a picture of people having sex? And try to find an answer to that question that doesn't involve, "Lots of other people think so." That includes all variations like "Our society has determined...", "We as a people have decided...", which are just re-phrasings of "Lots of other people think so." I submit that if you disallow those variations of grownup-peer-pressure as an excuse, most people can't really come up with any reason at all.)

OK, flame-retardant suit off, lab coat back on. Previous reports have listed absurd examples of sites blocked by Bess, and looking at any one of those examples or the ones listed here, I'd say that in terms of public policy discussions -- specifically, whether a blocking software company should be trusted to decide what students can look at -- any one of these blocked sites would be more significant than, say, the blocking of BoingBoing which got so much attention. BoingBoing got blocked because of a non-sexual picture of a bare breast on the cover of one of the books they reviewed -- and in fact they were blocked only in the "nudity" category, which includes only "non-pornographic images of the bare human body". So the block on BoingBoing really only revealed that Secure Computing was a bit heavy-handed. (The real problem is that SmartFilter has the category for non-pornographic nudity blocked by default, even though the CIPA filtering law certainly doesn't require schools to block non-pornographic artistic images!) On the other hand, the fact that EFF Austin and the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence are currently blocked as "Pornography", suggests that in many instances the blocking companies have nobody at the controls at all. To focus on stupid-but-not-completely-insane blocks like BoingBoing is letting them off easy.

So why did the laundry lists of blocked sites released over the years never become as widely known as BoingBoing, or the guffaw-inducing examples like "Beaver College", which had to change their name in part because of students reportedly being blocked from accessing their website? I think it's because the news favors a good "punch line" -- a fact that anybody can understand that makes us feel smarter than the computers making these dumb mistakes. "Oh, I get it, it was blocked because it was called Beaver College!" But the "punch line" anecdotes are precisely the ones that let the blocking companies off lightly, because it gives them a plausible-sounding excuse for making an error. On the other hand, when the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence gets blocked as "Pornography", that could probably force the blocking company to answer some tough questions if it got more press, but there's no good punch line there, so the story just fizzles.

So, while I'm looking through the rest of the data, let me try and come up with some punch lines for reporters to make these blocked sites newsworthy. OK: Why was GardenMentor.com blocked? To keep kids away from all the dirty bitches and hoes! Get it? Ha ha! Why was the Catalina 380 yachting site blocked from kids? Because teens are too vulnerable to pier pressure! Hey, where are you going?

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From Bess to Worse

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    From about 1996 to 2003, there were regular reports listing examples of sites stupidly blocked by blocking software. The genre has tapered off recently, probably as a result of the Supreme Court ruling in 2003 that the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was constitutional, requiring blocking software in schools and libraries that receive federal funds, despite all the evidence of over-blocking presented at the trial.

    ... but I'm not seeing the cause / effect here.
    • I would have to agree here. Maybe reading the whole article would help this make sense, but IMHO, the summary does not.

      RonB
    • by torstenvl (769732) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:50AM (#18096462)
      CIPA = constitutional; CIPA mandates school internet filtering; therefore schools are required to have internet filters
      Schools are required to have internet filters; Stories about false positives were to prevent schools/libraries/etc. getting internet filters; therefore the issue of false positives is moot and can't do much good
      The issue of false positives is moot with regard to school filtering; there are few other reasons to give media exposure to such stories; therefore such media exposure is now rarer than before
    • The effect is censorship caused by requiring schools and libraries to have filters "for the sake of the children". Where I work the strangest sites are blocked by Barracuda as porn: Dilbert, exile.ru, wonkette... It doesn't make any sense especially when it doesn't block a number of real pr0n sites.

      Now consider how many people don't have internet access and rely on public terminals in libraries. These people aren't children, but are forcibly treated like ones due to CIPA. Worse, they are not only censore
  • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:54AM (#18095682) Homepage Journal

    Fund for Humanity, a San Francisco non-profit supporting environmental organizations and organizations that assist the poor. (screen cap)
    I know them! Someone donated in my name as a Christmas gift. [wikipedia.org]
  • Woohoo! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mwvdlee (775178) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @10:57AM (#18095716) Homepage
    My photography site, which contains some minor nudity on some pages and properly labels these pages in the HTML headers marking them as "some nudity", isn't blocked! That either means they understand my artistic views as a photographer or my site just isn't visited by anybody.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You've listed your site's address and indicated (on slashdot) that there is pr0n^H^H^H^Hminor nudity on your webpage. I don't think you have to worry about it not being visited anymore.
    • Maybe it's because it's in freaky deaky Dutch.
    • That either means they understand my artistic views as a photographer or my site just isn't visited by anybody.

      I took a good look at your site. I don't claim to understand the artistic views of a photographer, but I do have to say that this [vanderlee.com] is one fine pussy!

  • by StressGuy (472374) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:01AM (#18095754)
    Either you accept the blocking software with the understanding that some sites that should not be blocked get blocked anyway.

    Or, you don't use the blocking software because of censorship of otherwise legitimate sites

    Or, you niavely belive that the above situation will reconcile itself (i.e. blocking software that works precisely the way you want it to all the time).

    Like anything, where you are with this depends on your particular needs and/or station in life.

    I see no need to turn this into an assault on the 1st amendment, it really boils down to how some parents are trying to protect their children from potentially harmful content.

    I say, live and let live on this one.

    You want a better debate? Try applying the same philosophy to the death penalty. In order to be pro-death penalty, you must fall into either one of two camps:

    1) You believe a system can be put in place such that an innocent man is never put to death.

    2) You understand that 1) is a practical impossibility, but are willing to accept the consequences for the "greater good"

    Or,

    3) If you don't believe 1) and can't accept 2), you are anti death-penalty.

    4) If your personal beliefs preclude ending life for any reason, you are anti-death penalty.

    To me, these "contraversial issues" are not so complex once broken down. People will be different, rather than waste time trying to get us all on the same page, just let them be different. Neither of the above arguments are ultimately winnable, all we are left with are laws that the majority of us agree to.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by JoshJ (1009085)
      The "majority of people" supported slavery. The "majority of people" supported keeping 'dem uppity negros' from being able to ride in the front of a bus, or use the same restrooms as white people, etc.

      The majority can kiss my ass- this country at best can be nothing more than an idiocracy, and that's only if the corporations and the church would get out of the government.
    • Well, about the death penalty:

      I believe that people who are innocent of the capital crime of which they are accused, will be inevitably executed.

      I do not believe the people who are innocent of the capital crime of which they accused AND:

      a) cooperated with the police
      b) did not confess to the crime
      c) took the witness stand at trial
      d) did not commit any other capital crimes
      e) cooperated in their defense at trial
      f) are in a country with an independent judiciary
      g) did not assist in the crime
      h) had DNA tests done
      • by spun (1352)
        Are you saying that people who are innocent and take all necessary steps will NEVER be executed? And then you want counter examples? So we're supposed to find cases where someone has been executed, THEN proven innocent, and ALL those things are true? If we can't find any, that would prove what, exactly? Do you REALLY not see how ridiculous your criteria are?

        Here's a list of death row inmates exonerated since 1973. [deathpenaltyinfo.org] There is at least one case in that list that meets all the criteria, and would have been execu
        • Do you REALLY not see how ridiculous your criteria are?

          No, I can't. When someone says "the death penalty may snare innocent people", they're insinuating that it puts ordinary, innocent people, like me, at risk. Failing to meet those criteria would refute that.

          "Possibly innocent" won't cut it, I'm afraid. "Exonerated" won't either. In a lot of the cases the accused confesses, or helped cover up the crime. For me to be afraid of being wrongfully executed, I have to be afraid that I would be executed, even
          • by spun (1352)
            Ahhhh, how exactly is one to be proven innocent after one is dead? Who would go to the bother, and who exactly would decide? What would you accept as proof of innocence?

            I'm sorry but you have set up criteria that are impossible to fulfill. And can you please answer the question: do you think that innocent people, defined by your criteria, are NEVER executed? Really? Never? Go ahead, say it plainly and clearly and see how it sounds: "Innocent people, as defined by my criteria, have never, are never, and will
            • Ahhhh, how exactly is one to be proven innocent after one is dead? Who would go to the bother,

              Just guess here: maybe people who are hellbent on proving that the innocent get executed?

              Know anyone like that?

              and who exactly would decide? What would you accept as proof of innocence?

              Anything that establishes innocence beyond a reasonable doubt: DNA evidence showing it was someone else at the scene, a recording showing the person was somewhere else, a witness significantly altering testimony, etc.

              I'm sorry but yo
              • by spun (1352)
                I already gave you what you asked for, then. You obviously have not even read the links I provided. Since you are too lazy to click on a link, let me copy and paste for you.

                a witness significantly altering testimony

                Juan Moreno, who was wounded during the attempted robbery and was a key eyewitness in the case against Cantu, now says that it was not Cantu who shot him and that he only identified Cantu as the shooter because he felt pressured and was afraid of the authorities.

                Ruben Cantu was executed in 1993

                • I already gave you what you asked for, then.

                  No, you didn't. You ignored what I asked for and then gave something you deemed "close enough".

                  You obviously have not even read the links I provided.

                  Of course I didn't. The links as labled didn't indicate that they could contain what I was asking for.

                  Do accept the fact that you are wrong, or will you try to weasel out of this by claiming that some part of your criteria were not fulfilled?

                  I asked for people who met certain criteria. You gave people that failed t
                  • by spun (1352)
                    You still haven't addressed the first case I provided, and all I have to do is show one case that meets your criteria where the person was executed. I have done so.

                    The sad fact is that criminal investigations are often political, and law enforcement officials are pressured into getting a conviction no matter what. Also, some people in law enforcement are racist and have no qualms seeing an innocent minority killed. Innocent people have been executed in this country, and innocents will continue to be execute
                    • You still haven't addressed the first case I provided,

                      Right, because I'm not going to be jerked around by someone who knowingly chooses examples that don't fit.

                      Do you really expect me to disprove each example one-by-one until you get to one that counts? That's not how it works, I'm afraid. I'm not obligated to go through the effort to disprove each example until you can get your act together. Just for fun, I'll check it out some time though. I don't think it tells on each one whether they took stand.

                      Inn
                • by monkeydo (173558)
                  You forgot David Gale [imdb.com].
    • While I agree with you in principle, you must remember that just because you have a "live and let live" attitude doesn't mean other people (who have chosen differently) will feel the same about you. And when enough of them both A)disagree with you an B)aren't thinking "live and let live," then you may suddenly find yourself forced to live by their rules.

      I'm currently in law school. One of the things we discuss in several contexts is the "reasonable" person. Generally, if you hauled into court for doing

    • It makes me want to break the system. If I wasn't so lazy, I'd write a bot to report every site as porn to every monitoring system (and flag everything on YouTube as "inappropriate", etc. etc.) If all of us who opposed censorship did that, we'd eventually break the system completely and at least people would stop with the damned filters.

      I'm too lazy to actually do it, though.

    • by r3m0t (626466)
      "Either you accept the blocking software with the understanding that some sites that should not be blocked get blocked anyway."

      Some sites? At my school (Jews Free School, filtering run by the government under the name London Grid for Learning) about 30% of sites are blocked. Usually any incorrect blocking is "match making site" or "Sex Site" (where there are surely no keywords in the page to incite blocking). I find an (incorrectly) blocked website roughly every 5-10 minutes of browsing. Occasionally valid
      • Okay, well it's a shame that secure sites are blocked, because that's usually one of the best outs you have; it is the best one I had.

        If the blocking is done heuristically, then you're pretty much screwed. However, if it's done with a list of sites (and it sounds like it is), set up CGIProxy on your home computer. Then, navigate to the raw, dynamic IP address and search from there. I had an https CGIProxy on my Linux box at home throughout my last 2 years of high school or so. It + Knoppix disk = they c
    • by mcspoo (933106)
      In some cases, it's the choice between being funded and not being funded.

      A law was passed (for most states) which requires that all PUBLIC LIBRARIES must use some manner of filtering in order to obtain LSTA grant monies. If you do not filter, you cannot obtain these monies. Thus, you're forced to make a decision not based on the needs or desires of the community itself, but based on "can we get by on a single Amiga 500? (or whatever bargain basement POS you have available).

      Many communities, like mine, do no
  • by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:05AM (#18095828) Journal
    Would it better just to create a red-light district on the internet, like the .xxx domain, or is it better for the industry perhaps to use a meta tag like , etc? There has to be a way to preserve freedom of speech and implement blocking for those who don't want to see or want their children to see objectionable content.
    • Slashdot stripped out the meta tag. my example was meta=sex, meta=adult, etc.
    • by Yoozer (1055188)
      The problem is that the site admin is still going to register and use the HotAdultVideos.com URL; maybe to redirect to the .xxx domain.

      Most official (pay) sites have warnings; it's usually the free galleries that don't.

      Those who don't want their children to see the naughty bits have to do something very simple: monitor them when they're surfing. There's the added benefit of spending quality time with your kids. Then they can also explain why they don't like that the kids go there instead of just relyi
      • Well, that is always the "ideal" solution - but monitoring your child's activities at all times proves to be an impossibility in the real world. I do know a number of schools use software that allows mirroring any of a number of desktops that are in use by students. They have sort of a "control center" full of flat-screen monitors that randomly cycle through all the screens that are in use, so people in the office can try to monitor what's going on.

        I think, for younger children, the problem is much easier
    • You do hit the nail on the head. I have always wondered why people were against .xxx , it always seemed like a win-win solution that helped all parties. For the site owners, it allowed them to be pretty easy to find, AND they pretty much could run their site without any sort of fear that people would be going to it by mistake (ie, display anything you want). As far as the "think of the children" crowd, it would be easy, cut off .xxx and you are done with your filtering. Now clearly, you would have stuff
      • by karmatic (776420) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:54AM (#18096520)
        Which country gets to decide what is required to go there?

        I just got back from spain (3GSM tradeshow) - companies openly displayed images of topless women. The same goes for their bookstores - something that wouldn't fly in the United States. On the other hand, there are a number of countries that consider "adult" violence that in the United States can be displayed at any time on public airwaves.

        Besides the jurisdictional issues, you have issues with entire countries (ones that censor already) having a very easy job of removing all adult content in compliance from their country. Whether or not that is a good thing is subject to debate.

        It also sets a bad precident - if the government (any government) has the right to force content to belong in certain regulated areas of the internet, it opens up the door to all kinds of abuse. How about we require all content in arabic to be on .islam, so we can more easily catch terror subjects? How about we protect the children by requiring any site that allows user generated content to be on a .adult domain, and verify government issued ID? Think of the children!

        Easy filtering goes both ways - the easier it is for you to censor things for the children, the easier it is for others (government, employer, library, ISP) to filter things for you. In the case of the employer, it may be justified, but random ISPs should not be filtering without you opting in for such.
        • Which country gets to decide what is required to go there?

          Easy, Saudi Arabia. That way there will be nothing anyone could find obscene on sites with other TLDs at all.

      • I think they object because they are counting on those errors, mistype and such. A lot of pornsite rely on these errors (monority i guess)

        Either implement by law the .xxx or implement some kind of tag on the website like a digital thing signaling that this site needs to be viewed by 18 year old and have that feature embedded in every known browsers so it can activated for the kids.

        O.k all companies that produces blocking software would go under since it would come with the browser but at least, that way, y
    • There has to be a way to preserve freedom of speech and implement blocking for those who don't want to see or want their children to see objectionable content.

      Define "objectionable content" non-circularly. "Content I/you/he/she/we/they find objectionable" is not an answer.

      No, I'm not being pedantic...this really is the absolute heart of the issue. Until you can actually define the problem, there is no solution.
      • No, I'm not being pedantic...this really is the absolute heart of the issue. Until you can actually define the problem, there is no solution.

        Let's cut to the chase then. Pretty much, pornography. Perhaps you like it, perhaps you don't. Regardless of your preferences, you're probably like most people, who regardless of religion/creed would not want a 13 year old child doing a report at school, gathering information off of the internet, and accidentally typing something like whitehouse.com instead of whitehouse.gov, and then see explicit sexual images.

        To answer your question in another way, if we had meta tags for nudity, swearing, intercourse

  • WebSense (Score:3, Funny)

    by jrwr00 (1035020) <jrwr00.gmail@com> on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:11AM (#18095904) Homepage
    here at work we use websense, they blocked slashdot one day for proxy avoidance!
    then there is this image: http://img.thedailywtf.com/images/200612/pup/msmj. jpg [thedailywtf.com]
    • That's nothing (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The web filter our company used to use blocked "support.dell.com" as a porn site because Dell had the phrase "Dimension V-xxx" on a page. The web filter found the 3 x's and assumed there was porn there.
    • You realize that the link you posted is also blocked by websense under the marijuana category?
  • by amigabill (146897) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:19AM (#18096026)
    My employer used to have one of these blockers in place. It didn't block any of the web sites that distracted me during the day such as Slashdot, cnn, and (believe it or not) Amiga computer forums.It did block some videogame sites and other stuff like that. But a few people were constantly calling in for exceptions on web sites they were looking stuff up on for work-related stuff. And one time our admin wanted to go to the blocker's own web site to download an update, and found that even that was blocked, and hilarity ensued. Eventually someone important enough decided that it was more hassle than it was worth and quit using it.
  • Avoidance (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ZOMFF (1011277) *
    At my previous place of employment, they used an annoying blocking mechanism (Websense I believe) which would block based on keywords on the site, or even the website name. It became so annoying that (almost) everyone within the IT department started using outside proxies to get around the blocker.

    I wouldn't recommend doing that if you value your job as 7 people were terminated (myself included) shortly after doing so for circumventing their security measures.
  • by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @11:38AM (#18096280)
    My son is eight years old. We have six or so web-enabled devices throughout the house (the Wii, a laptop, and four normal PCs). It's getting to the point where I need to decide if buying one of these "net nanny" pieces of software is worthwhile. Currently I'm leaning towards no, but he'll occasionally do things that make me wonder. For example, he's always entering in random addresses and seeing where it goes. The other day, he entered ".com" into the browser at school, and the helpful search engine displayed Girls Gone Wild as a top hit. Needless to say, the school's filter blocked it.

    With porn, violent videos, and other mature content in easy reach around the web, I'm thinking he's going to find it sooner rather than later. Perhaps the best approach is to have lots of talks with him about what's out there, how to deal with it, and so on.

    The thing that's a little sad is that at eight, I've got to prepare him for the adult world. Swearing, hardcore sex, and bizarre YouTube slapping videos isn't really something I'd like to expose him to just yet. Innocence is a rarity in this day and age and I'd rather have him just be a kid for a few years longer.

    Ah, well. That's parenting for you.
    • The thing that's a little sad is that at eight, I've got to prepare him for the adult world. Swearing, hardcore sex, and bizarre YouTube slapping videos isn't really something I'd like to expose him to just yet. Innocence is a rarity in this day and age and I'd rather have him just be a kid for a few years longer.

      No. What's tragic is that you've got an eight year old you you want to be an infant for as long as possible.

      I can't understand people's views on this. Growing up isn't a tradgey of some kind. Children aren't going to lose some kind of "innosense" and "purity" at midnight of their 13th birthday. Every day you see your child learn something new, grow a little taller and generally take another step on the road to adulthood is a day you should be thankful for. Instead people lament the "loss" of their "little angels". How screwed up is that?

      You know what I remember about being a kid? Wanting to grow up. Childhood is not the perfect, magical wonderland that people have convinced themselves it was. How many times did you say to yourself, "When I'm older, I'll eat all the junk food I want.", or words to that effect? Imagine the guilt trips children are put on today when their tearful parent practically mourns their passing in front of them.

      Talk to your kid. Explain honestly to him that there's stuff out there that you think you influence him negatively. Be explicit. Accept that he will come across it. Accept that he will go out looking for it. Accept that this is in itself unlikely to serious negatively affect him. Tell him all this, but make it clear you'd rather he spent his time more productively.

      Don't bother with censorware, because it's a solution looking for a problem. You haven't got a problem. You won't have a problem. You've got a kid. You're getting an adult. Don't try to keep a grip of the kid, because then you'll never get the adult.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by fishthegeek (943099)
        Whoa. He didn't say anything about being an infant. I'm a dad too, and teacher.

        How many times did you say to yourself, "When I'm older, I'll eat all the junk food I want.", or words to that effect?

        When you say something like this as a child it is because you're thinking as a child. Children are not little adults, and they do not grasp adult things in an adult way. Parent's should limit junk food for their kids because kids will not understand that it isn't good for them. People that say otherwise are ignorant and probably childless.

        It isn't possible to explain to a young child that something that they like

      • Children aren't going to lose some kind of "innosense" and "purity" at midnight of their 13th birthday.

        13th? I don't know what kind of pervert you are, but here in America, our children keep their innocence and purity right up until their 18th birthday and whoever tries to steal it from them goes to jail and has his innocence stolen by Bubba the inmate.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by linuxrocks123 (905424)
        > You know what I remember about being a kid? Wanting to grow up. Childhood is not the perfect, magical wonderland that people have convinced themselves it was.

        Amen to that. I'm in college right now. I remember childhood as sucking, probably even more than high school. Right now is the best time of my life, I know it, and I don't want it to end. You probably couldn't pay me to go through childhood again.

        Btw nothing particularly bad happened to me when I was a child. I just didn't like being told wha
    • I've had to disable the Linux screensaver that grabs random web images because it gets porn pretty much every time it runs. Now, I really don't care if it's just nudity, I honestly don't see that as a big deal. I am concerned about concepts of objectification, humiliation, abuse, violence, etc.

      I can't protect him from such things, but I would like the opportunity to prepare him. At this stage, that means I need to monitor what he is exposed to.

    • I don't have any second or third-hand experience, and I grew up before the web, but my experience was that I was completely oblivious to all sex in media and advertising until I hit puberty, at which point I immediately noticed the less subtle stuff. It was there all along, but until I started paying attention to it, it didn't exist. Sex in movies, late-night chat line advertisements on television, sexed up pop stars, laddy mags at the convenience store, all that stuff magically winked into existence when
    • The other day, he entered ".com" into the browser at school, and the helpful search engine displayed Girls Gone Wild as a top hit. Needless to say, the school's filter blocked it.
      Better nip that one in the bud as soon as you can. The next thing you know, he'll be doing XSS on myspace and get locked up for "hacking".
  • common sense? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hobo sapiens (893427) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @12:05PM (#18096700) Journal

    (Obligatory interstitial advertisement for common sense: I still don't see what the big deal is about porn anyway. Ask yourself: Why is it harmful to see a picture of a naked person, or even a picture of people having sex? And try to find an answer to that question that doesn't involve, "Lots of other people think so."
    Ok, here's a reason: Much of it objectifies women and degrades them. I don't want my son thinking of women as sex objects, and I don't want my daughter thinking it's ok to be one.

    Want another? Ever watch those dateline shows where they catch the would-be child molesters? If yes, did you notice that many of these men send the victim porn? Ever wonder why? Well, to desensitize them to sex and thus make them easier prey. Porn creates the mentality that casual sex is A-OK. Moral obligations aside, that's risky behaviour.

    As a parent, it's my job to protect my children from things I deem harmful. Sex has a time and a place. But, much like other responsibilities my children will take on as they become adults, it's not something they need to be exposed to via porn. They need to be taught about sex, yes, but not exposed to the intimate details. I know that some of you will disagree with me. At the risk of sounding banal, if you aren't a parent then you really don't know anything about the subject. And if you are a parentand you allow your child to be exposed to porn, well, I am sorry for your children. I hope our children don't go to school together.

    That is why I don't want my children seeing porn. Nudity (art, etc) is a bit different. The body is natural. A few years back, in my midwestern city, the most popular alternative newspaper in town had a cover with several nude female protesters on it. It was amazing how many people were offended and wrote letters expressing this. Not that we should bombard children with nudity, but if they see someone nude in a nonsexual way, I don't mind. People who do mind are sendng the wrong message to their children, that our bodies are shameful and dirty. That's going too far in the other direction and conveys wrong attitudes toward sex (hmm...just like porn).

    Don't get me wrong, blocking software sucks. I hate the idea and I am not saying that it's not way too heavy handed. I wouldn't use it home even if I reasonably could. Instead I have to make sure my children know what is appropriate. But at the library, at school, etc, I don't want them to be able to get to it. Some parents don't share my view, and their children could show it to my children. Or, worse yet, an adult at the school or library could have his own reasons (see above) to show it to them. So it's with good reason they use it at institutions like this. If it means people can't get to boing boing at school, then so be it.
    • I mean, the ratio of slashdot readers who watch porn to slashdot readers who have casual sex is probably pretty high.
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      A few years back, in my midwestern city, the most popular alternative newspaper in town had a cover with several nude female protesters on it. It was amazing how many people were offended and wrote letters expressing this. Not that we should bombard children with nudity, but if they see someone nude in a nonsexual way, I don't mind.

      What's the first thing Adam & Eve did after eating of the Forbidden Fruit?
      They covered up.

      The Abrahamic texts don't really leave much wiggle room on the issue.
      Nudity, accordi

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hobo sapiens (893427)

        They covered up.

        Yeah. But Genesis also indicates that they were created with no clothes. Their covering up had more to do with their fall into sin than anything else.

        The Abrahamic texts don't really leave much wiggle room on the issue

        Not sure what you are specifically talking about, but many of the laws were to prevent the Israelites from adopting the religious practices of their neighbors, which involved sex-worship.

        Janet Jackson nipple-gate, etc

        That was a bit ridiculous. You can debate the appro

    • by guruevi (827432)
      As a young adult I can say this: I grew up in the wake of the internet (was a teenager through the 90's) and thus parents didn't know what computers were, what the internet was they were paying for except that it was good for our development and would make us perform better at school by finding information faster, learning to program and becoming the next CEO of Altavista. It would also help us in keeping contact with the rest of the world, by IRC, ICQ, e-mail and (binary) newsgroups.

      The Internet has porn,
      • What you need to do is not shield/blind your kid's from it (as did my parents) because they are going to get curious about the VHS in the back of the closet or the movie coming after that recorded tape that was 'not for kids' and find out anyway.

        You are right, indeed. Parents should not be hypocrites.

        And I'm not advocating a "bury your head" approach. Parents must educate their children, and this involves having very frank discussions about sex. However, having frank discussions and allowing your ch

    • if you aren't a parent then you really don't know anything about the subject. And if you are a parent

      Yay, my favorite circular logic. "If you aren't a parent, you have no right to an opinion. If you are a parent and you're opinion is different than mine, your opinion doesn't count."

      • your opinion doesn't count.
        Nah, I didn't quite say that. Besides, that's not circular logic, that's more of a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario.

        What I meant is that if you expose your children to porn that's a bad decision, IMHO. That's my opinion, someone else has the opposite opinion. So what? I don't have to agree and neither do you. Otherwise, /. would be a very boring web site.
      • An interesting exercise is to lookup many of the "foundational" parenting books that were written in the 60's and 70's, and then reference how many of the authors actually had children. You'll find some interesting correlations between those without children and the advice being offered.

        From my point of view, it is sort of like someone who has never smelled or tasted food writing their own cookbook. You may have some really wonderful theories about what you believe would make a appetizing meal, but witho
    • by kindbud (90044)
      Ok, here's a reason: Much of it objectifies women and degrades them.

      That's your opinion. Other men and women look at it as body-worship. Still other people see it as a simple pleasure without any social stigma attached. It's too bad you choose to look down on women who pose in sexual imagery. We all have our personal failings, but projecting them onto other people will not persuade anyone to your position. Just like the article author imagined, you couldn't come up with a reason that amounts to more t
      • It's too bad you choose to look down on women who pose in sexual imagery. We all have our personal failings, but projecting them onto other people will not persuade anyone to your position

        Hahahaha, did you respond to the wrong post or did you just not read mine?

        I liked your post, though. Spoken like a guy. Ask your mother|sister|wife|girlfriend if she agrees. I'll bet you believe all those girls working in the strip clubs are working their way through law school, too.

        Just like the article author imagi

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by kindbud (90044)
          Ask your mother|sister|wife|girlfriend if she agrees.

          Why not suggest that I ask a nude model or a stripper? Do their opinions not matter? Don't you want to hear what they have to say? Or are they to depraved and degraded to have a substantive opinion?
    • They need to be taught about sex, yes, but not exposed to the intimate details.

      If you don't, Mr. Goatse will.

      Want another? Ever watch those dateline shows where they catch the would-be child molesters? If yes, did you notice that many of these men send the victim porn? Ever wonder why? Well, to desensitize them to sex and thus make them easier prey. Porn creates the mentality that casual sex is A-OK. Moral obligations aside, that's risky behaviour.

      What do you mean? Tentacle rape is normal, isnt it???
      Se

    • >>Ever watch those dateline shows where they catch >>the would-be child molesters? If yes, did you notice >>that many of these men send the victim porn?

      Protip: That's a MAN, baby!

      Or to put it another way, in the Dateline Shows there are no victims. What there are is vigilantes making a buck on the back of hysterical parents who believe everything they see on so called 'Info-tainment' News Shows. If you look, you'll see there's more entertainment than information in that description a
  • And the auto updater's on the computers fail.
  • ...but I learned a lot and made a lot of good friends as a student at Beaver College.

    So to hell with the slang, and also? Howard Stern (who made it a series of jokes on his show) needs to go straight to Hell.

    I imagine this will be unpopular as an opinion.
  • It all comes down to whether you want more false positives or more false negatives.

    As a parent, it's tough. I don't like overzealous blocking software, but I'd rather my kid not see 'tubgirl' while researching plants for schools. It'd be nice to have more sites tagged, not just 'nudity' but more akin to the G, PG, R, soft X, XXX ratings, split seperately for 'violence', 'sex', 'mature concepts', 'political beliefs'. Then (as a parent) I can ignore the stuff that isn't a concern but still have minimal fil
    • I never quite understood why people got so upset about goatse and tubgirl. Especially goatse. It's just this guy pulling open his you-know-what. What's the big deal?

      And I seriously doubt many young kids would really understand it, much less be mentally scarred. Actually, kids can be pretty filthy-minded. My brother once stored tried to store his shit in ziplock baggies. That sort of thing is normal for kids. Shock at seeing goatse is more or less an adult thing.

      Yes, you heard me right. I'm saying that obsce
  • My school uses Smartfilter Bess Edition, and the screen caps are blocked...
    • by phenz (872760)
      I don't know if it is still this way, but during my senior year Bess was blocking Slashdot's main page. Reason: Message board. Lucky enough bess didn't block any of the subservers (linux.slashdot it.slashdot).
  • The ad that got displayed when I viewed this article:

    "Christ Centered Filtering
    Internet Filtering at its Best 14 Day Free Trial. Take Control!
    www.FamilyFellowship.com"

    I can just picture the software saying "The power of Christ compels this website from your browser" or could I use it to filter out all the holy-roller references to Christ on websites?

  • I remember being assigned a project on the Kennedy Assassination freshman year in high school, you wouldn't believe what a pain in the ass it was trying to locate resources on the topic with Bess on our school's network. Eventually the librarian removed Bess for the rest of the class period as she was so frustrated with hearing complaints. Glad to see that to this day people still think protecting a minority from "harmful sites" is more important than the productivity of the majority.

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