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Censorship

Censorware Not Good, Just Better Than COPA 146

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the something-to-think-about dept.
Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton writes in with with an essay that starts "On March 22nd, District Court Judge Lowell Reed ruled that the Child Online Protection Act was unconstitutional, partly because the judge called it 'vague and overbroad,' and partly because less restrictive means existed, such as Internet blocking software. I'll leave others to comment on the legal issues, but blocking software is something that I've studied, and it's important to make sure this decision is not seen as some kind of vindication for the 'censorware' industry." Tap that link below to read the rest of his story.

The thrust of the judge's findings about blocking software was that it blocks a high proportion of pornography, blocks a low proportion of non-pornographic Web sites, and that it is difficult for most kids get around. I think that these conclusions are correct for the purpose of the decision he was making -- in other words, blocking software blocks a high proportion of pornography compared to the law in question, and is difficult to get around compared to the law in question. But let's not get carried away -- blocking software is not that accurate, and not that hard to defeat.

Consider first the accuracy rates cited by the judge. Citing expert witness reports, he wrote, "I find that filters generally block about 95% of sexually explicit material", and then quoted several different rates for overblocking provided by expert witness reports, ranging from about 4% to 11%. I wrote earlier about the different ways to interpret overblocking error rates -- the gist was that if you care about the constitutional issues with filter use, then you look at the percentage of blocked sites that are non-pornographic (i.e. for every porn site that gets blocked, how many research sites get canned along with it), and that number tends to be high. On the other hand, if you simply care about the effectiveness of blocking software in a home setting where there is no constitutional issue raised, then you look at the percentage of non-pornographic sites that are blocked, and that number tends to be low.

For example, suppose for the sake of argument that 1% of Web sites in a given sample are sexually explicit, or 100 Web sites out of 10,000. To use Judge Reed's numbers, suppose that 95% of those porn sites, or exactly 95 in this sample, are blocked, whereas of the other 9,900 sites, 5%, or exactly 495 of them, are not blocked. Then the percentage of non-porn sites that are blocked is only 5%, but the percentage of blocked sites that are non-porn is actually 83% (495 blocked non-porn sites, out of a total of 495+95=590 blocked sites). One of our past studies of blocking software did indeed sometimes find error rates of about 80%, due to errors caused by IP address blocking and filters being tripped up by keywords (even when "keyword blocking" features were supposedly turned off -- because in that case the program still blocked sites on its master blacklist, and those blacklists are frequently built by scanning the Web for keywords).

Another portion of the judge's ruling dealt with the difficulty of getting around blocking software:

Filtering companies actively take steps to make sure that children are not able to come up with ways to circumvent their filters. Filtering companies monitor the Web to identify any methods for circumventing filters, and when such methods are found, the filtering companies respond by putting in extra protections in an attempt to make sure that those methods do not succeed with their products... It is difficult for children to circumvent filters because of the technical ability and expertise necessary to do so by disabling the product on the actual computer or by accessing the Web through a proxy or intermediary computer and successfully avoiding a filter on the minor's computer... Accessing the Web through a proxy or intermediary computer will not enable a minor to avoid a filtering product that analyzes the content of the Web page requested, in addition to where the page is coming from. Any product that contains a real-time, dynamic filtering component cannot be avoided by use of a proxy, whether the filter is located on the network or on the user's computer.
After the ruling came out, I tried some of the best-known blocking software programs to see how easily they could be defeated: Net Nanny, SurfControl, CyberSitter, and AOL Parental Controls. Net Nanny and SurfControl apparently could not block https:// sites at all, so I was able to get to https://www.StupidCensorship.com/ and access anything I wanted from there, despite the fact that that site had been public for over a year. Apparently I do have the "technical ability and expertise necessary" to "access the Web through a proxy", but then again I'm not a minor, so, kids, don't hurt yourself trying that.

CyberSitter did intercept the https:// request so it did block StupidCensorship.com, but it didn't know about some of the other proxy sites that we had mailed out to our users recently. One of those did however get blocked because the word "hacking" appeared on the page -- as in,

This site is a tool for circumventing Internet censorship to promote free speech. It does not enable any hacking, cracking or any illegal activities (since it doesn't let you to access any sites that you couldn't access from home anyway).
so it's probably safe to say that if the CyberSitter filter is that paranoid, it would result in a good deal of overblocking as well. AOL Parental Controls also did not block the latest proxies, although it wouldn't let me load sites like Playboy through the proxy, presumably because it recognized the contents of the page and blocked it (so on that point, Judge Reed was right).

But none of the products could stop the doomsday weapon, which is to burn an Ubuntu Linux CD and boot from that, bypassing any security software installed under Windows. I can see your eyes glazing over at the thought of kids attempting to do that, but it's merely an unfamiliar process to most people, not actually difficult. (I've been saying for years, that with the greater difficulty of using Linux over Windows, there's nothing cool or clever about running it just for its own sake so you can feel badass, and the only time you need it is if you want to do something that only Linux lets you do. Well, here's something!)

But in spite of everything, I think the judge's conclusions about blocking software were still broadly correct, because he was comparing the merits of blocking software against the merits of a law that would have prohibited commercial pornography from being published on the Web in the United States. In talking about the "effectiveness" of such a law, the judge and lawyers cited the fact that as many as 75% of adult sites were hosted overseas anyway. But even that high number understates the situation, because hypothetically if all the porn on the Web in the U.S. did get outlawed, it would be easy for anyone to spend all their time looking at porn from outside the country. When you're talking about a supply of content that is so large that nobody could finish looking at it all if they spent the rest of their life trying, it doesn't really matter if 25% or 50% or 75% is located within your legal jurisdiction. I never stop hoping that a judge will say, "Look, pictures of naked people don't hurt anyone, no, not even people under 18. Shoot, when I was 13 and president of Future Lawyers of America, my friend gave me a copy of Playboy as a down payment for my unsuccessful attempts to defend him on curfew-breaking charges in Foot v. Ass, and look how I turned out." But even a judge who firmly believed that people under 18 were harmed by pornographic images, would have found little reason to uphold this law.

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Censorware Not Good, Just Better Than COPA

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  • The thrust of the judge's findings about blocking software was that it blocks a high proportion of pornography

    ..was difficult to read without having thoughts I shouldn't be having at work :P

    Anyways I'd argue his math is flawed as we don't know the number of porn sites in existance (and how do we rank it? by site? what about mirrored domains pointing to the same content? etc) along with the non-porn sites being blocked (was it offensive material that borderlines porn? Something a parent installing a fi
  • by A Name Similar to Di (875837) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:54AM (#18606529)
    But none of the products could stop the doomsday weapon, which is to burn an Ubuntu Linux CD and boot from that, bypassing any security software installed under Windows.

    But if you're really that afraid of your kids, you can stop that for free, right? Just password your BIOS setup at boot and disable boot from cd/disk. Then, later, if you need to boot from CD/disk for some reason, you have the password to re-enable it.

    Wouldn't that fix the issue?
    • by Cristofori42 (1001206) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:00AM (#18606631)
      Until they reset the BIOS password with that magic jumper on the motherboard or pull out the battery....
      • Until they reset the BIOS password with that magic jumper on the motherboard or pull out the battery....

        Yes, but then they've left evidence of their activities. That's almost as good as preventing it from a certain angle.
        • by vertinox (846076) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:26AM (#18607075)
          Yes, but then they've left evidence of their activities. That's almost as good as preventing it from a certain angle.

          Look. If your kid is smart enough to reset the motherboard and run Ubuntu live CD without your assistance, then maybe you should take the time to sit down with them and supervise their internet activities in person.

          Chances are you'll learn a thing or two about computers you didn't know about...
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by nine-times (778537)

            More to the point, if your kid is smart enough and crafty enough to download and burn a Ubuntu liveCD, open the case, trip the jumpers to wipe the BIOS password, and set the computer to try booting to the CD before the hard drive, then I have some news for you: your kid will be able to get pornography.

            I mean, you try to preserve your kids in a kind of safe-bubble where bad things don't happen to them and dangerous, scary, or sexy things don't enter-- and that's fine. But at a certain point, your kids get

            • Wouldn't it just be easier for the kid to go over to a friend's house, where the parents over there are oblivious?? Hey, that's what I always did when I was a kid and got grounded from watching TV. "I'm going over to Joe's to play baseball!" - when me and Joe were really watching some quality Dukes of Hazzard...
              • That's really what I was suggesting. People were complaining that your kid might bypass your computer security, and I was saying that if your kid is smart enough to do that and motivated enough to do that, he's probably a crafty teenager and not a dumb 5-year-old.

                Never underestimate the ingenuity of a crafty teenagers when sex is at stake.

        • Step 1, tell them not to do it.

          Step 2, if they by pass the security, kick them in the ass really hard and ground them for a week from the computer.

          Step 3 - If they continue to ignore your rules, conveniently "lose" them on a camping trip.

          Seriously, my parents raised me (who was into computers since age 5) and never had problems with this. They would give me the beating of my life if I did some of the things these kids do. Of course they also just took the time to be parents and explained the worl
          • by init100 (915886)

            They would give me the beating of my life if I did some of the things these kids do.

            In more civilized countries, beating a child is a serious crime.

            • And by coincidence, the rates of children's crimes is disporportionately high in those same "civilized countries". Seriously people, a beating as a child can save you many beatings as an adult. Not advocating unnecessary violence, but come on - who else thinks that now children have more power than adults by filing false child abuse charges? Kids don't understand the consequences of their actions and will often lie about serious matters - especially with the slightest bit of coaching by an over zealous pros
              • by init100 (915886)

                And by coincidence, the rates of children's crimes is disporportionately high in those same "civilized countries".

                I have a hard time believing that, at least as a general rule. We don't have a disproportionately high rate of crimes perpetrated by children here (Sweden), at least not that I know of.

                So, go on, beat you children, but to me you're a barbarian.

      • by Atlantis-Rising (857278) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:06AM (#18606717) Homepage
        You have to electrify the case, of course.
        • by Jason1729 (561790)
          Until they unplug the computer...

          But if you use a battery backup for the electrified case, all they need to do is ground the case through the procedure.
          • by Splab (574204)
            You know, if your kids are able to pull all that off they damned well deserves some boobie pictures to look at.

            Back when I was a kid the trick was to balance on top of dads office chair standing on my toes in order to get to the porn stash.
      • If you're paranoid enough, there are cases available with intrusion-detection switches. I'm sure it's possible to defeat them but they're not always obvious.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by dhasenan (758719)
        If I had a kid that smart, I'd be damn proud of her.

        Not that any children in my care could survive long enough to open a computer case and remove a CMOS battery...
      • Using a good choosen OUT asm command could bring the bios in a factory reset. This is how I got it to delete a password that my parents had forgotten. Now granted I am not sure if it is the case with the msot resent BIOS or not. It could be that they are now protected against this.
    • But if you're really that afraid of your kids, you can stop that for free, right? Just password your BIOS setup at boot and disable boot from cd/disk. Then, later, if you need to boot from CD/disk for some reason, you have the password to re-enable it.

      Wouldn't that fix the issue?

      If you're that afraid of your kids, get them the hell off the computer. As for your solution, a kid that will burn a linux CD and boot from it just to find some porn probably would be able to crack the case and reset the BIOS password.

    • by BlueTrin (683373)
      How do you reset a BIOS ?

      • You can find backdoors for alot of BIOSes
      • You can read it from CMOS memory once you have booted up
      • You can remove the battery which is used to store the password
      • You can buy hardware to reset it


      Only 1 and 3 are quite possible for tech savyy kids (and 2 to a certain extent)
    • That only does half of it. If kids want to see some porn sites so badly that they burn a Ubuntu CD and try to boot it, they'll figure out how to reset the BIOS by removing the appropriate parts for 30 minutes (it's not that hard) and thereby also the password on the BIOS.

      In the end, there is really no 100% effective weapon. Even if you manage to completely block porn on one machine, a kid can always go to a friend's house where the parents aren't so restrictive...

    • the solution is quite simple. Put the filter on the firewall, there are several that already live there. You can use any os you want, you're not going to get past it. It will still have all of the existing problems that desktop based filters have, but the doomsday is really fictitious.
      • Step 1: Unplug ethernet from firewall
        Step 2: Plug ethernet directly in back of PC
        Step 3: Profit
        Step 4: Rewire to hide evidence

        Admittedly, I've never owned a physical firewall, but I can't imagine it'd be any different than bypassing the wireless router.
        • by halivar (535827)
          In my apartment, we use the parental controls on a Linksys wireless router. It's pretty incredible how few false positives it finds (few != zero iff Ebaumsworld == "false" positive), to such an extent that I don't even remember that there is a filter most of the time. It's pretty hard to bypass, because the only CAT5 cable in the apartment is three inches long, and runs from the wireless router to the cable modem.

          The only problem is that you have to either (1) sign in every time you access the internet or (
        • Did I mention the router was in a locked room? I think I forgot that part.
          • That sounds highly inconvenient for all involved. Drilling a hole to feed cables, having to find the key and unlock whenever it crashes/need rebooting, general atmosphere of mistrust in the house...

            Fission mailed.
            • As they say YMMV. I haven't needed to reboot my firewall in ... Well, I don't remember rebooting it, after I installed it 2 years. The network itself is wireless (wpa 2 AES encrypted) So cable ling was a non-issue.

              in general its the old tradeoff between security and usability thats at play. Each person has their own criteria for the perfect solution.
    • by _LORAX_ (4790)
      If my child could circumvent filtering software ... I think they have earned a little bit of freedom on the computer. I would probably still log at the firewall, but I'm not going to play cat&mouse with a kid who obviously will work around anything I put on a computer.

      I will sit them down and talk with them about the responsibility and safety issues, but then let them at it. If they can't behave responsible then they get nothing, I will turn off internet access all together for a period of time.
    • by deblau (68023)

      Just password your BIOS setup at boot and disable boot from cd/disk.
      Everyone raise your hand if you think Joe Q. Parent can even spell BIOS, much less password protect it and alter its settings.
  • The problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by voice_of_all_reason (926702) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:54AM (#18606533)
    Citing expert witness reports, he wrote, "I find that filters generally block about 95% of sexually explicit material"

    He doesn't get the driving force behind the people who want these sort of laws. They don't want to reduce the SEM their children see, they want to eliminate it completely and will never be happy otherwise. Which shows just how far out there they really are. You can't uninvent things.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417)
      Far out? No, just generally clueless when it comes to the 'net, like far too many people (including a fair lot of those that use it).

      If there's no porn in the US, then sites abroad will have it. If you force them to disallow porn on the net, only shadier corners of the net will have it. What people don't get is that distance or borders don't matter in the virtual land, whether a server is in Texas or Abu Dhabi doesn't make a difference.

      Still, they give themselves to the illusion that you could policy it. Wi
      • If there's no porn in the US, then sites abroad will have it.

        That's what's crusades are for! Remember, we had an "amen amen jesus jihad" phase too...
        • Why past tense?

          But, you know, some countries on this planet have more pressing problems than to check what kind of material is being stored on their servers. Hell, some are dependent on the income. Why do you think it is such a hassle to convince Russia to shut down AAMP3?

          And there will always be countries that don't give a rat's rear 'bout porn on their servers 'cause they still have people shooting each other in the streets.

          Now wait, that's also some issue in the US... Strange.
    • by PCM2 (4486)

      He doesn't get the driving force behind the people who want these sort of laws. They don't want to reduce the SEM their children see, they want to eliminate it completely and will never be happy otherwise. Which shows just how far out there they really are. You can't uninvent things.

      Wait ... that's "far out there"? The Internet has replaced the encyclopedia as the #1 place schoolchildren go to get basic facts about most of the topics they study in school. And if parents want their children to be able t

      • Wait ... that's "far out there"? The Internet has replaced the encyclopedia as the #1 place schoolchildren go to get basic facts about most of the topics they study in school. And if parents want their children to be able to use the Internet for that purpose without seeing pictures of highly explicit, extremely graphic sexual acts -- we're not talking Playboy here -- that's "far out there" in your view?

        The fact that they beleive they can succeed in the overall goal (no sexuaully explicit material in any
        • Whoa there, friend. First, only a very small minority AFAIK is seizing on technology as a force that is "corrupting the children". Nearly everybody who is trying to censor for their kids at all realizes that it is not the fault of technology. They want their kids to be able to use the technology, otherwise, like my uncle for a long time, they just wouldn't purchase internet access.

          Second, the most vocal proponents of religion are not identical to the people calling for censorship in various forms. I'm
    • by pfleming (683342)


      He doesn't get the driving force behind the people who want these sort of laws. They don't want to reduce the SEM their children see, they want to eliminate it completely and will never be happy otherwise. Which shows just how far out there they really are. You can't uninvent things.

      No. They don't want anyone to see it at all. "Think of the children" is just an excuse. I don't really want my kids surfing porn so the firewall blocks it.
    • He doesn't get the driving force behind the people who want these sort of laws. They don't want to reduce the SEM their children see, they want to eliminate it completely and will never be happy otherwise. Which shows just how far out there they really are. You can't uninvent things.

      I object to the characterization that wanting to protect children from sexually explicit material is "far out there." There is ample evidence that exposing young children to sexually explicit material is harmful to psychological development. Children should be allowed to remain sexually innocent. There is nothing "far out" about that at all. In fact I think that suggesting otherwise is pretty extreme. I would be shocked if any parent or psychologist anywhere would say that it's okay to show a 6 year

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @10:56AM (#18606559)
    If I (or parents of kids, respectively) get to decide what I (or said kids) get to see, it's a good thing.

    If the state dictates what you may see and what you may not, it's not.
    • by rucs_hack (784150) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:17AM (#18606913)
      Some people want the state to be responsible so they don't have to take the blame themselves for poor parenting.

      I have *never* tried to stop my son from viewing adult material. I have also never found him viewing it. I go for the fairly simple method of telling him what it is, and asking him to avoid it. It's this thing called trust. I trust that he will be responsible *on the whole*. I do not expect perfect obedience.

      Probably he has sneaked the odd view at some nakedness. I know I would have done at his age. Interestingly he also shows no sign of becoming a sociopath, or wanting to strangle hookers...

      This whole anti porn thing is just some neo conservative delusion that porn == evil. It's bullshit. Porn == naked ladies/men. Yes there is more extreme/nasty stuff out there. I rely on the moral values I have instilled in my son to protect him from such things. I hope that he will feel no need to view such material.

      It's all about realising that people cannot be restricted to a rule based existence. You have to help them develop a world view that encourages respect for their fellows. I happen to believe this does not exclude getting hot for pictures of naked ladies.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by loganrapp (975327)
        My parents made it a point to not censor my media intake. I decided what I watched, etc. They didn't feel that me viewing violence on TV was ever immoral.

        Talking about it years later (and clearly their decision made me who I am - working in media production), the point of them standing firm on not watching pornography wasn't a moral issue at all - it was just simply about having class. They figured if they taught me and my siblings class, it would permeate into everything we did. Since we're all either i

        • by rucs_hack (784150)
          sounds to me like you have smart parents
        • by xero314 (722674)
          Just so you know it is possible to help your children avoid situations that will cause them harm and teach them how to respect other people. It's possible to not give your child access to violence (which I find far more damaging socially and personally than nudity) and still teach them to me a respectable person. For example one of the most respectful people I know, who holds doors for women, children and elderly, to say the least of his gentlemanly acts, was not allowed to watch certain saturday morning c
        • I wish my parents had told me to only look at classy porn. But no, they kept pushing that damn Goatse on me...
      • You trust your kids? Hell, what kind of parent are you? You know where this leads to, your kids might trust your judgement, actually do what you tell them and come to you for aid in case they have a problem!

        Have you even pondered the consequences? Doesn't anyone here think of the pedophiles?

        Ok, sarcasm aside. I wonder why you're a minority. I guess most parents think that the only way to get kids to adhere to their values is to force them onto them. Which is pretty much the surefire way to get them to rebel
        • by rucs_hack (784150)
          You know, I'm not that sure that I am in the minority. I rather suspect that I'm only in the minority from the standpoint that I admit these things. I think many people are too scared to stand out and admit that they feel the same way.

          My poor son hasn't got much to rebel against, as I'm a scruffy, black clothed, computer game playing academic who doesn't believe in working at some shitty job for years just to earn a weekly wage.

          To rebel against me he'd have to become an estate agent or something :-)
          • You're exactly right. And he will become an estate agent, just to break your heart.

            The majority of uptight parents these days were raised in the permissive 60s and 70s, and are very uptight to rebel against their parents. I predict that the kids raised in the uptight predominant manner currently fashionable will rebel and have free-love drugfests and go on to raise another batch of republicans.

            Of course you also have to allow for the fact that things are going to hell, which tends to make things worse y
            • by rucs_hack (784150)
              Realtor I believe, or that's the US equivalent. Person who sells houses and wears suits a lot.

              My mum grew up around hippies, not sure if she was one herself. I grew up in a family that had gay couples as friends, did not care about race or colour (well, I tell a lie, I was amazed by just how black one of our friends was, I used to think he was painted black every day to keep that colour, I mean, he was awesomely black :), and generally judged people by who they were, not by labels applied by the mob. I didn
          • I can really see that.

            "Dad, I know you won't like it, but I'll study commerce, become the head of a multinational corporation and squeeze every dime out of my underlings, then dump them on the unemployment pile.

            Can I have the car?"
  • by Azathfeld (725855)
    None of this will even come close to keeping children from looking at porn. How many of us here had never seen pictures of naked people before we got on the web? It's ridiculous farce to act as if blocking pornographic images on computers will have any real effect on the access to porn that children have. It won't even stop them from seeing porn from the internet, as long as they know someone who will download it for them for a dollar.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Grashnak (1003791)
      While its true that many of us laughed and giggled about boobies in national geographic or maybe, if we lucky or sneaky, in Playboy, the reality is that compared to that tame stuff, kids today can access pornography that would make a crack whore vomit. I'm not saying that I'm in favour of censorship, just that you can't compare the kind of material kids could get 30 years ago with today's abundance of videos showing teenage girls banging great danes in hot-tub full of cocaine.
      • Be fair moderators and mod the parent up! You're right on and that's the other side of things. Naked people AREN'T the problem.

        Today you can find things on YouTube that I don't want to see--much less the type of things on the truly XXX-rated sites. There are sex acts that I wish I was blissfully still unaware of! And yet all a lot of these sites have to do is have some button that says you agree that you're over 13 or 18 or ask your birthdate, as if anyone over 6 can't figure that out.

        What bothers me is the
        • Good job underscoring the article's point. Although the article discussed obvious false positives (blocking of health-related sites, for example), you and I both agree that there are quite a few (probably most) sites that the filters are DESIGNED to filter out that aren't "harmful" (presuming that you and I both prescribe to the irrational viewpoint that representations of a normal human interaction is per se harmful). However, censoring software, by it's nature, must lump everything into a single categor

        • Today you can find things on YouTube that I don't want to see--

          Yeah, I didn't need to see Chef's hairy ass on the South Park episode the other week :)

          What bothers me is the objection the librarians have to making sure a kid coming into the library doesn't find some obscene site left open as a joke by the last person. Or that they can look up porn to their heart's content. You'd think they'd be the first ones to want children protected. They wouldn't (at least I hope they wouldn't) hand a kid a porn mag--ye

  • by DamonHD (794830) <d@hd.org> on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:01AM (#18606647) Homepage
    Yes, I thought the two judgements that day dovetailed nicely.

    The basic point is (to steal someone else's example): a parent should no more feel it is right to let their child roam unsupervised on the Net then let them roam unsupervised in any major city in the world. It is up to the PARENT and not the INFRASTRUCTURE to ensure their own child's safety, regardless of anyone's view of the morals/ethics/etc of porn and other 'unwanted' content.

    The Net was never devised to be an extension of child-safe Disneyland and should not be subverted to be one. Why should I be blocked from reading papers on X-Ray Crystalography because of some hamfisted filtering built deep into a Tier-1's manditory COPA mechanism? Especially if neither I nor the benign site in question are in the US.

    Please note, US lawmakers, that quite a lot of the world and the Net *is* outside the US, BTW.

    Rgds

    Damon
    • >Please note, US lawmakers, that quite a lot of the world and the Net *is* outside the US, BTW.

      A: what's to stop them trying, anyway? What do they have to lose? Nothing. What do they have to gain? Publicity for trying to Make The Net Safe For Children.

      B: what's to stop the US government from leaning very heavily on foreign countries to do things the way the US wants them done?

      I agree with you, but there are a whole lot of people in the US who think that the US can solve any problem with suitable appl
    • by zobier (585066)

      The Net was never devised to be an extension of child-safe Disneyland and should not be subverted to be one.
      Now that you bring it up if you troll through the results of this search [google.com.au] there's some pretty funny stuff.
  • Subjective morality (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    It's kinda weird to keep seeing this cast as a technological issue with technological solutions.

    It's actually a problem with a small but determined group of anti-social, anti-humanist
    people who shout the loudest.

    As long as there are mentally damaged people in the world who live in shame, guilt and fear
    of their own bodies, and who have the arrogance to presume to prescribe
    morality and acceptable behaviour to others then we will have the problem.

    The problem is the pathological view of morality, not with any b
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:15AM (#18606877) Homepage
    I don't understand why people act like censorware's mere existence is a bad thing. It is a good way for people to police themselves, which is how most enforcement of morality should be. When I have kids, I plan to use it. I also plan to teach them, especially my sons, about the dangers that come with it so that they know that it's worse than they suspect. To be honest, as a Christian, I'd far rather walk in on my kids getting wasted or stoned, and I say that as someone who comes from a line of alcoholics.

    What is needed is a comprehensive, open source filtering system that requires you to contribute without any anonymity. Imagine something like the Wikipedia for filtering, but you have to mail a copy of your identifying information, and contribute under your real name to control trolling. That, and a multi-tiered categorization scheme to capture such nuance as "bland, risque, sexy, NSFW--ever!! and Possibly Illegal porn." Oversimplification perhaps, but just a thought. I think a great filtering system could be built if it were done in public, with transparency and room for people to configure it to their moral views.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I don't understand why people act like censorware's mere existence is a bad thing. It is a good way for people to police themselves, which is how most enforcement of morality should be. When I have kids, I plan to use it.

      I have no problem with its existence - but I hate to see parents think it is a suitable replacement for parenting. As indicated in the article and its links, the software both fails to block porn and it blocks non-porn. Plus, the world doesn't have filters installed.

      I also plan to teach them, especially my sons, about the dangers that come with it so that they know that it's worse than they suspect. To be honest, as a Christian, I'd far rather walk in on my kids getting wasted or stoned, and I say that as someone who comes from a line of alcoholics.

      Now you've completely lost me. I certainly control what my kids are allowed to see on the TV and computer, but I would rather find them with a dirty magazine than wasted on drugs. Your kids will most likely see a naked person at some point

      • by mypalmike (454265)
        > how can you imagine that seeing a picture of a topless woman is worse than losing brain cells to drugs?

        I completely agree. However, everyone sets their own priorities.

        >> What is needed is a comprehensive, open source filtering system that requires you to contribute without any anonymity.
        > Call when you develop a porn classification system that everyone accepts.

        I think the idea is great. Millions of eyeballs creating metacontent could certainly yield useful information. In practice, though,
    • I think it's a pretty good idea to have some sort of open, transparent, public categorization of web sites based on the possible offensiveness/annoyingness of their content. However, the main thing is that it must be completely voluntary.

      I don't think it's generally a good idea to censor things on the internet, but I'd like to see a comprehensive unbiased service that would allow me to filter what I do and do not want to see, and what I do and do not want my children to see.

      I don't think it should be lim

    • by dhasenan (758719)
      Recalcitrance? I do not think it means what you think it means.

      I think few people would accept a collaborative filtering system if it meant they had to give away their personal information. But regardless, this is far too large a project for blacklisting or for whitelisting. You could have genetic algorithms evaluated via this sort of system, though.

      If you insisted on having a distributed blacklisting system, you'd want to rate your contributors on accuracy (how often other people agree with them) and sever
  • by CowTipperGore (1081903) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:18AM (#18606937)

    When you're talking about a supply of content that is so large that nobody could finish looking at it all if they spent the rest of their life trying, it doesn't really matter if 25% or 50% or 75% is located within your legal jurisdiction.
    Boy oh boy do I look forward to proving this guy wrong!
  • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:52AM (#18607513)
    shit fuck cunt dick asshole vagina motherfucker censorware porn pornography sex gay homosexual marijuana bong meth methamphetamine chat "so... how old r u?" "I have a puppy" cam "over 18" atheism poopy "birth control" asshole cervical cancer personals "Ted Haggard" password crack "parental controls" N2H2 Norton "Secure Computing"
  • by delirium of disorder (701392) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:53AM (#18607537) Homepage Journal
    Youth are not animals. You aren't some naive infant from 0-17 and then magically become a mature capable adult on your 18th birthday. Here in the state of IL, the age of consent is 17. So when you're 17, you can have sex with any 17 year old (and I believe 16 year olds too), as well as any adult. Since Laurence v. Texas, you can have any sort of consensual sex you want: orgies, anal/oral/vaginal, S&M, gay/straight/bi, roleplaying, and whatever else your perverted mind can dream up. A 17 year old could fuck your mom or grandma (if she's into it). A 17 year old can drive a car. A 17 year old can work full time. A 17 year old can buy a house, computer, and Internet connection (if he/she can somehow manage to get that kind of cash). Yet we need the state to make sure we use censorware to keep us from viewing breasts? Younger teenagers may have less legal rights than those who are nearly legal adults, but why should anyone be denied their free speech rights? Why should those who are sexually mature (and probably having sex), be denied the right to see representations of sexual activity.
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @11:58AM (#18607607) Journal
    trying to regulate morality. We know that .xxx won't work and kids being resourceful will find a way to get around most blocking software. Its time for parents to be responsible for their children, for them to teach children that they are responsible for their own actions, that society has a set of morals that, for sometimes mind-boggling reasons, we abide by at least in public.

    The porn industry is willing to let you block their sites via a tag or two. Blocking software will protect small children when you turn your back to clean the kitchen. Blocking systems would have protected the teacher.

    There are many ways to attack this problem, none of them are a silver bullet. The one thing that cannot and should not be regulated is the parents responsibility to protect their own children. It's a big wide nasty world out there. Children will find out about it sooner or later, they can't be protected from it forever.

    There is needs for solutions that protect public library systems, solutions that protect work systems, solutions that protect home systems. Even if all these are 100% effective little johnny might still get porn over at his friend's house. Nothing is foolproof and we should not be trying to legislate something to be foolproof or to assign blame when it isn't.

    PARENTS need to be paranoid, not just blocking software packages. They should use all that they deem necessary to protect their kids, not what the court deems necessary. The best way to protect them from porn is to educate them, use blocking software, talk to them, use filters, educate them, and did I mention that parents need to talk to and educate their own children rather than rely on t he court to do it for them?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Canie (652059)

      Kids are bright but that's not news. They've been circumventing all kinds of controls put in place by parents, teachers, and the like for as long as there have been children. I agree entirely with zappepcs.

      It's up to PARENTS to actively take a role in raising their children. It's not up to government, teachers, or anyone else--no matter how many parents want to abdicate their responsibility for the children they brought into this world.

      I am shocked and appalled at how many children are raised without an

    • No, we never actually stopped. The temperance movement (no booze) was a group of people (IIRC, mainly women) who were so damn convinced of their own morality, they tried to impose it on everybody. Eventually, they did, but not for long.
      To see how well any mandated ban on anything would work (especially something people enjoy *wink*), just look at Prohibition. Wow, people sure stopped drinking, didn't they?
  • Christian Science Monitor had a commentary about this ruling [csmonitor.com]. To sum it up for the /. crowd -- age-verification laws exist for pretty much any other pornography sold in the United States, the internet should not be an exception. Fundamentally she's correct, although, IMO, COPA itself would realistically have a trivial effect on kids seeing porn, since it just pushes providers off-shore.

    Additionally, here's SCOTA's case summary and opinions [cornell.edu] on this law. The ruling on this was 5-4, same votes per judge

  • on the restrictiveness issue. He was right on the vagueness issue.

    Restrictiveness should not necessarily be equated with onerousness. Instead it should be equated with which materials fall under the law's restrictions. The point is that if there is a valid government interest in regulating certain content, the government cannot use this as a pretext to sweep away other content it doesn't like.

    For example, lets say the government doesn't want troop movements to be publicized in advance: a legitimate inter
    • The worst thing about filters is their capacity to take away liberty without due process. If law enforcement says your content falls under restricted content, you can challenge this. If your content is silently filtered out by software, you may not be aware of the fact. If you are aware, you may have no means to restore your rights.

      DoubleClick tried to convince me of this, too. Then I AdBlocked them.

      /shrug. People can filter anything they want to. It's not "taking away libery without due process
      • by hey! (33014)

        unless the government forces us to use the filters.

        That's what is implied here though. By bringing in the issue of restrictiveness, the judge is basically telling the government that mandating filters would be a constitutionally more acceptable means of protecting children. Constitutionally, the government as to use least restrictive means.

        Of course, the judge's opinion may have been misreported. He may simply have been saying that filters are so good, that the government no longer has a compelling intere

  • by yuna49 (905461) on Wednesday April 04, 2007 @12:52PM (#18608577)
    Back when the issue of Internet filtering became a matter of widespread public discussion, some fifteen years ago now, there were suggestions that filtering software be developed that would enable people to subscribe to filtering lists. The expectation was that different groups would have different agendas and thus publish different lists. People wishing to adopt filtering could then subscribe to lists based on their own needs and beliefs; some might choose the Christian Coalition's list, some the list published by Planned Parenthood. Support for this system could be built into browsers through a mechanism like AdBlock, or perhaps better, supported by a DNS-like system in much the same way spam blacklists function today. I thought these ideas had a lot of merit in that they worked the way the Internet has always worked, by decentralizing the decision-making process and putting it in the hands of the end-users. Sadly I've not seen many efforts in this direction over the years since these ideas were first proposed.
    • Give me 40 minutes with SquidGuard* & set your Browser to use it as a proxie & you have it done. Literally, that's it. There are proxies out there that can be used that do exactly that. The problem is that using them requires that the parents actually understand how a browser works & how to set it up to use a proxie.

      If a group wants to do this, it only takes a cheap CoLo setup to run your proxie server & it's database. The problem is that the vocal groups who want the government to do soemt

  • The first one is the idea that there are people that would like to remove all pornography in all forms from the Internet. Unproven except in a few cases of extreme wackiness. I doubt anyone seriously considers this to be an option.

    The second point is as uncontrolled as the Internet can be, there is really no limit on what purveyors of filth can do. So you end up with the bukkake fest or the faked dog gangrape scene being shown to a preteen girl. This can seriously affect people's views of sex and their
  • What we need is an open censorware suite that is free for anyone to use and works well. I started to write one ("Oxymoron" I called it) but I got nowhere. Someone who knows something about browser programming, or the internet explorer plug-in API (as opposed to, say, bioinformatics and machine learning) should do this.

    On the subject of librarians:
    a) They are technologically savvy, at least when it comes to research tools. They'll use an open alternative if one exists.

    b) They are politically motivat

The greatest productive force is human selfishness. -- Robert Heinlein

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