Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The state has no business in the computers of the nation

The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation, a future Prime Minister once said. Nearly 50 years later, it's time for an update, as the state has no business in our computers either.

Inspired by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has proposed legislation that would require British Internet service providers (ISPs) to filter any adult-related content on home Internet connections unless the customer has asked for it -- to protect children, they say -- Conservative MP Joy Smith says she wants Stephen Harper to bring similar regulation to Canada.

For all their supposed opposition to big government, why does it always seem to be the Conservatives that want to play Big Brother? Why is the party of parental responsibility not leaving the state out of this, and putting the responsibility to educate and protect children where it belongs, with their parents?

Parents have plenty of tools if they want to lock down their computers and block adult content, with a variety of applications and parental controls on the market. Many ISPs even provide them free of charge to their customers. An ISP-level filter is unnecessary.

Of course, young people still find the content. And they will no matter where the filter resides. It would be as simple as going over to a friend's house that doesn't have the filter enabled. Young people will always find such content if they want to -- they're much more tech savvy than their parents anyways. That's why trying to build a firewall, besides being impracticable, isn't the answer. Education is the answer. Parents need to have a conversation with their children at the appropriate age and put such information in context.

How would the Conservative great porn firewall work anyways? Would each ISP decide what qualifies as adult content that must be blocked? Would the government create an adult content censorship committee to review content for dirtiness and maintain a black list? And whose standards would prevail?

We got a preview of the sorts of issues and false positives that would arise last week when Tim Horton's came under fire for blocking access to a (clean) gay and lesbian news site on its Wi-Fi network. After a public outcry, it reversed the ban and blamed an overzealous contractor.

The state has no business in the computers of the nation. This is a horrible idea that should be killed here and now. Leave the state censorship, Internet firewalls and blacklists for China.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

No comments: