Thursday, 3 May 2012

Time for a whitelist?

Here’s a new approach to a safe internet: instead of trying to filter out unsuitable content for children, how about an opt-in system?

A low-tech solution. But some of the high-tech solutions are worse.

For some reason, the news story that’s all the rage at the moment is how to stop children looking at internet porn. I’m not sure exactly what’s happened to bring this, but I can vouch it’s a tricky one. Not so long ago we were looking into testing a website for, amongst other things, checking content was suitable for everyone to access. It would potentially involve moderating everything posted, including forums, applications and documents. And even if we could vet all of that, what’s to say a linked page site will be suitable? And what about linked sites from linked sites? And linked sites from linked sites from linked sites? Not easy at all.

Now, I’ve always thought that the same rules should apply on the internet as apply everywhere else. For adults, the basic principle, quite rightly, is that you should have the choice to view what you want (bar a few accepted limits such as paedophilia, certain depictions of rape, incitement to violence and so on). For children, there are a few rules such as 12-, 15- and 18-rated films, but it’s broadly viewed as the job of a parent to decide what they should see, and that’s the way it should be. The internet, however, has made this job harder. Yes, in the old days there was lying about your age when seeing an X-rated film, or borrowing the mag your mate got off the top shelf, but it’s now possible to view this stuff without even leaving your room, so it must be taken very seriously.