24 October, 2007

Stupid Smeging Internet Filters

If you can't read this email it is because internet filters are the genital warts of the internet age.
Sure, some of my problem is that I was raised in Australia, a land where "how are you you bastard" is not considered insulting (or depending on your social circles, even unusual).
A couple of weeks ago one of the guys at Rugby training shouted out "would you ***** stop swearing my kids are listening*" And we all laughed...

So why, if this is the Australian way (or at least part of the way) did I just get a message from the admin of an (Australian) email list I post to telling me
I hate you :P Your use of the word "bastard" in this email has just triggered every school filter in the land and I've got a nice pile of bounce messages as a result.
So my casual use of the word bastard in an email has reminded me off the importance of l33t speak.
But it has also made me think, who is the m0r0n who is putting a filter for the word b45t4rd on an Australian server. But more than that, why is it that the American puritanical mindset is the default mindset for all online resources in the whole bleeding world.

This email however has just been the trigger for the post, the real resentment has been building up for some time.
I recently had my work PC tell me it couldn't go to an online annotated Bible because it contained sex acts. Well, yes, what is the problem? This is not unusual for a Bible (they all do). Was the problem that this one was from the point of view of a homosexual activist? Should the filter have told me "Banned for being pro fag?"
It also stopped me from visiting Urban Dictionary (for the same "sex acts" reason). Not that the dictionary contains sex acts, but rather it contains definitions of words which can be used to define sex acts, but even the Oxford English contains the words cunt and fuck so where is the problem. Is it just that the Oxford can get away with it because it is written by dusty old men with suede elbow patches on their tweed jackets (whose homosexuality is nicely repressed thank you very much). [Or at least Americans who write filters think that this is who writes it].
I think the Boston globe was also blocked, as is Landover Baptist Church (although it hasn't always been).

Now I am lucky in that my workplace is not strongly pro filter and I can call up the IT guys and get a filter lifted if I tell them it is work related (they don't ask why, they just accept that whatever crap I want is an important part of my role in understanding youth culture). Furthermore, they lift the ban organisation wide and permanently.
The other funny thing is that I have had 100% anti filter success on the reference desk computer and the public internet access (yes it is not the Town Council's job to filter the internet for library users, but filtering for employees makes some sense).

Still, the number of false positives I get, combined with occasions I end up with porn on my screen despite not having gone looking for it are enough to make me sure that filters are a pile of steaming turds with no real ability to protect anyone from anything. This is made even clearer when you realise I suffer from no more accidental porn at home on my unfiltered computer than I do at work.

What worries me about filters is however the future. At present I see a "no you can't look at porn you naughty pervert" message and I can ring IT and say, hey your sodding filter can't tell the difference between porn and art criticism, please let me see this site as I need it for legitimate reasons. But what happens when we get higher level filtering and you can't call anyone simply to get things corrected or worse still, you don't get an explanation, it is just as if the page does not exist. And the Liberal government [who in Australia are conservative] of the day are currently looking at IP level filtering, which could be just such a tool.
Not that I feel I want to demand free and open access to kiddy porn or snuff films, but rather that I feel filtering in not the surgeons blade, rather it is the barber surgeons saw. A less than delicate instrument which is likely to remove our genitals along with the genital warts of my opening statement.

* the word missing here is I believe olde english.

1 comment:

Ross McPhee said...

Landover Baptist Church is blocked? What a pity. The designers of your filter obviously have no appreciation for religious satire, or cheap potshots at Baptist fundies, whichever you prefer.