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Friday, 27 April 2012

Daily Mail and Labour teaming up to show their digital illiteracy on porn and child protection is simply dangerous

I've written extensively on the subject of web blocking to protect children from harmful content like pornography so I'll try and keep this short.

  1. If you turned the internet off tomorrow you wouldn't stop kids getting hold of digital porn
  2. General content filtering is impractical and imperfect. It doesn't even stop all accidental or incidental exposure and it certainly doesn't stop a motivated person or child getting to what they want with minimum technical knowledge.
  3. Content filters over-block and prevent access to clean, lawful content and this impacts legitimate businesses
  4. Even if content filters got much better, there is no one-size fits all. If you have children aged 7, 11 and 15 there is clearly content OK for a 15-year-old you wouldn't want your 7-year-old watching.  So what level of content filtering do you want enabled by default on all connections?
I'm not coming at this problem from a pro- or anti- religious line. I'm ambivalent to the benefit or harm of pornography in society. I have no political affiliations. I have no funding from any vested interests (in fact I have no funding whatsoever).

The above is the simple technical position as I, an accomplished software engineer responsible for some of the communications technology on the street today, know it to be.  And I don't see much changing soon.

If you are a parent you are responsible for:
  1. What internet-enabled devices you give your children and where you allow them to use them
  2. What level of content filtering you choose to set up. I'm not against ISPs, hardware and software companies offering a range of filtering options, but it's up to you as a parent to decide what is appropriate for your child to access.
  3. Getting clued-up yourself.  
You'd happily send your child on a road or bike safety course? You'd attend a first aid course yourself so you'd be able to help your child if needed?  You'd research a subject in order to help your child with their general education and homework, yes?
Well stop moaning that someone else should be responsible for your child's online habits.

The campaign by the Daily Mail and Labour is DANGEROUS.  It encourages the notion that it's OK for parents to abdicate responsibility for their child's online activities.  The online dangers go beyond pornography and the primary responsibility rests with us, the parents (yes I am one).



  1. You say its up to the parents, but the problem is most parents (unlike you and I) are absolutely clueless with technology and have no idea of the risk. The alternative is to fund a direct mail campaign to every household in the country, accompanied by widespread multimedia advertising.

    Also, what sort of child needs to go underwear shopping online?

  2. Hi Sean, the problem with the underwear block comes when filters are on by default, affecting adults who want to do normal stuff. Some of these adults have to ask for the block lifting, something they might find uncomfortable, asking for porn.

    Also many won't ask for the block to be lifted and then some businesses are unfairly affected. Bravissimo and Figleaf blocked whilst eg. John Lewis, Debenhams and M&S are unblocked.

  3. The point is the blocks don't work to stop the pr0n so parents have to get clued up regardless. The blocks are worse than useless and give parents a false sense of security.


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