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HTMLfixIT Archive for September, 2007

Saturday, September 1st, 2007 by Franki

The Australian government has recently blown though 84 million dollars creating a new website and arranging the use of the Netalert Porn filter. This software was then broken in mere minutes by a 16 year old school boy. This is what happens when politicians assume they actually understand IT issues and think they can solve problems that more knowledgeable people have been trying to solve for years. The government is now going to put the responsibility of blocking sites onto the Internet Services Providers instead of with the parents where it belongs. Making the ISP’s block access requires significant financial outlay and a good deal of reconfiguration, something that it is unlikely the Government is going be much help with. It will also most likely result in our already low broadband speeds becoming even more dismal compared to the rest of the world since all traffic will have to be parsed by filtering rules before allowing/disallowing.

The Australian Government needs to understand a few things.

1. Every kid over 12 knows more about the family computer than their parents do. Parents (unless they are IT parents) learn just enough about the PC to get the work they need to do done, and that’s it. Kids on the other hand, really dig this stuff and will learn and evolve their habits much more quickly, swap tips with mates, read PC magazines and search the net for information. No solution that requires parental implementation will be all that successful, since kids can find out about msconfig, control panel/services and so on from a myriad of sources.

2. Putting the onus on ISP’s to block undesirable traffic won’t work either. There are many problems with this sort of thing.
a. Do sites like Myspace, Facebook, Bebo etc get blocked nationwide? These are the sites under the international spotlight now for pedophile presence.
b. Do all sites with chat programs get blocked by default? (since traditionally this is where child predators find their marks)
c. Does IRC get blocked altogether, along with MSN/ICQ/YAHOO etc chat access?
d. Do we want to be an Internet 3rd world country with access speeds far below the rest of the western world? (what good are 20mbit ADSL2 connections if the traffic gets slowed right up due to filtering?)
e. Do we risk losing sites containing medical information or tribal information because some prude in the government decides a picture of a boob or something similar is classed as porn? Where does that end? Do we then start blocking access to chemistry pages because the info could be used to make a weapon? Is this a road down which we want to go?

3. Educating parents on the dangers and solutions is the only way that will work. Make it obligatory that every Australian adult attend a workshop on child safety online and make them aware that the only way to stop a kid finding unsavory content or finding themselves talking to unsavory people is to WATCH THEM WHEN THEY ARE ONLINE!
a. Have your Internet PC or PCs in a central room where you can watch them. Let them have a computer in their room sure, but do not put a PC with Internet access in their room.
b. Use an Internet filter, but never rely on one alone.
c. Give the kids a certain period of time every day when they can browse the web, and make sure you are never far away when they are doing so.

It isn’t difficult and the only requirement is parental attention. If that is too much to ask, why are they having kids?

As far as the government goes, we must not let either side use this issue as an election gimmick. I usually vote Liberal simply because they have done very unpopular things, (like the GST) simply because they knew it was good for the country (and in the case of the GST, even Labor doesn’t disagree that they (Liberals) were right, though they strongly did at the time). Labor on the other hand never seems to intentionally do anything unpopular. They appear much more focused on staying in power, than the good of the country. The IR laws are another example, hugely misunderstood and likely to cost them the election, and yet unemployment is at all time lows and the economy is booming. They knew it would hurt them, but they did it anyway, because we needed it.

Any government solution to the Internet problem that involves palming the responsibility of onto others should result in their exit stage left, because there is to much to lose by messing it up.

1 Comment »

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