Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Won't somebody think of the children?

The cheeeeeeeeelllldren?

The campaign intends to encourage children to not give out personal information on the web, block unwanted messages on social networks and report any inappropriate behaviour to the appropriate bodies, which may include the website, teachers or even police.

Sounds like a good idea, right?

The measures were drawn up by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), which was set up following Dr Tanya Byron's review into inappropriate material on the internet and in video games.


Oh right. Nice to see our old friends the IWF on that list.

Thing is, I can't help feeling that these kind of campaigns always pave the way for simply more draconian measures, all in the name of "thinking of the children". It doesn't help when they (deliberately) use emotive language like:

One measure that has been discussed by the group is the use of a "panic button" on social network sites to flag up inappropriate content.

And how on earth will this panic button be monitored and acted on? If it's going to be there for everyone, people may just click it whilst viewing completely innocuous content just for a laugh. Then somebody, god knows who, will have to investigate the site that was reported, and make a completely fucking arbitrary decision, based on a combination of their own personal feelings and fuck all, on whether to block the site or not - this was illustrated perfectly with the IWF and the Scorpion's Album Cover. And since it's not possible for the ISP to know the age of the person browsing the internet, they'll block it for everyone.

I fear what this is just a pre-cursor for a Chinese-style firewall. The Wikipedia article on China's firewall doesn't state what justifications were used in the introduction of it, only the reasons (a fear of not being able to control the publications of the China Democracy Party).

However, I think the government know that the UK wouldn't accept a similar firewall without some pretty good justification - after all, look at the opposition to ID cards. I think they've realised pretty much the only justification is the cheeldren.

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