Internet filters considered harmful

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Filters prevent an important lesson: that if you’re going to browse for non-PG material, you should do it in a private place, not a classroom or school library. Teenagers especially need to learn the difference between “I can do that” and “I should do that”.

The other lesson they have to learn is that login sessions and browser histories can and are tracked. I’ve had students tell me straight up “that wasn’t me” while I’ve got their login history on my screen. I always told them either it was them, or else their password had been stolen, or else they had given their password to someone else. Scenarios 1 and 3 carried penalties; scenario 2 meant an immediate password change and monitoring.

I don’t see anyone learning any of that with filters on.


My kids, 12 and 13, get their net unfiltered, but the devices they consume it on are in public places.

They’ve seen things they didn’t want to a time or two, but they’re pretty savvy on not finding what they don’t want.

Mostly they just want to watch MineCraft videos and chat with their friends anyway.


Yeah mine is 13 and I want controls more for the ‘hey bozo it is 9pm and you need to get ready for bed’ reasons over quit looking at naked people reasons. I should figure out some quite vanilla porn sites just for when he gets to that stage mostly cause there is stuff that as adults we can process better in a WHAT HAS BEEN SEEN context that a teen may have problems with.


Here’s the problem:

  1. Little Johnny can’t see BoingBoing on his school computers, so he complains. Maybe… maybe one parent writes a letter to the school board.

  2. Little Johnny gets caught enjoying porn at school and suspended and the parents all go berzerk and they’re marching around with signs and demanding the entire faculty be nailed to crosses.

Sometimes risk analysis makes everything clear.


My kids read Boing at home.

(Meaning, we don’t rely on the school to teach them elementary webbiness.)

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One of my children was exposed to porn in 3rd grade IN CLASS because two boys decided to bully her, and now thanks to smart phones bullying can take on a whole new dimension.

All the filters in the world aren’t going to protect your children from the world around them: teach them how to make their own good decisions instead.


It’s not too hard to imagine how we (pre-WWW tweens) would have handled seeing goatse or tubgirl or 2G1C… I suspect pretty much the same way as I did when I saw them as an adult: “Eeeewww!” followed by looking more closely a few seconds later. I liked gross stuff though.

On the other hand, those examples aren’t really sexual or violent; Gonzo porn and real mutilation pictures* would be more problematic. The former for how it might affect an impressionable child’s ideas about sex, the latter just because it’s fucking gruesome, and is it really beneficial to become desensitized long before the kid decides to become a paramedic or doctor or narcoterrorist?

* Meaning car accidents, beheadings, bomb aftermaths, etc., not Modern Primitives or BMEzine. I wouldn’t have a problem with those.


You want to live between oversensitive people, or between the desensitized ones? Because when an excrement occurs, the former are way more likely to freak out and be useless or even a liability.

Forensic pathology courses to schools.

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I speculate that desensitization at a young age might interfere with the development of empathy. Consider child soldiers emotionlessly hacking off villagers’ arms with machetes: Do you think they were all somehow born psychopaths, or is their behavior a result of all the fucked up shit they’ve seen and been through? Obviously browsing is a very long way from being a recent orphan kidnapped by a violent insane cult militia, but the effects might differ more in degree than direction.

Corpsmen, EMTs, &c. need to be somewhat inured to the sight of suffering in order to be effective at their jobs, but most of us do not. (Also, they’re exposed to it as adults, with the more developed emotional framework that entails.)


Let’s assume there’s a continuum of reactions with children soldiers on the left side and fainting on seeing blood on the right, and optimal resilience somewhere in around center right. I’d say that said is pretty close there. The direction is bad only between the optimum point and the right side.

Story: At my high school lab, one girl broke a glass tube in an attempt to push it through a hole in a cork, and stabbed her palm. Nothing serious but bloody as hell. Another girl saw it, and fainted, and banged her head over the gas valves. One needed a minor medical assistance, one had to go to hospital - guess which one.

Most of us are only a single larger-scale accident away from becoming EMTs or even corpsmen.

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And even then you don’t get totally over it according to my mom use used to do lab/tech work in the hospital. She said the ER nurses and docs would get whatever needed to be done taken care of and then politely excuse themselves to go lose whatever it was they ate earlier.

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We’re also one nuclear war or Rapture away from needing an underground bunker fully stocked with ammunition and potato soup buckets. Be prepared, not neurotic.


The rapture scenario is less probable than a nuclear war, which itself is less probable than a natural disaster coupled with technically indebted infrastructure crumbling. Or an industrial mishap; there’s a long history of plants and warehouses and transport ships blowing up with spectacular force. Or, in the areas prone to that, a quake. Even a water heater or gas stove can take down a building in a whole or in part.

A mishap doesn’t have to be global to be sufficiently annoying. All it needs is to cover a building or car you’re in. When you’re the only one around capable of stopping or attenuating your own bleeding, it’s of exactly no help to faint at the sight of blood or exposed bones.

Oversensitivity can kill.

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The American Library Association’s report on filtering is false. It is outdated as it is based on the outdated work of the ALA’s filtering expert Sarah Houghton, the Librarian in Black. The work is not only outdated but Sarah Houghton admitted she hates filters and filters hate her, so she is motivated to bend the truth. When it comes to bending the truth, Sarah Houghton is a star. She was the third member of “Team Harpy,” the original two members of which admitted to faking claims about a male librarian being a sexual predator and thereby destroying his career as a librarian trainer/speaker. The ALA’s filtering expert joined Team Harpy to be its treasurer and to make similar false claims and to destroy his career. This is the ALA’s filtering expert.

So the ALA report is based on the outdated work of a known liar who destroyed a man’s career with false claims about his being a sexual predator – and she’s the only member of TeamHarpy who has not apologized.

A recent study of filters shows that they work really well. The Federal Communications Commission said this. Did Cory Doctorow tell you that? No. He too promotes the ALA lie that filters do not work. He too promotes the ALA’s filtering expert/liar who destroyed a man’s career. He even joked librarians can get away with anything since people innately trust them. He did that while teaching for ALA to an ALA audience at an event funded by the Open Society Institute’s multi million donation to the ALA’s “Office for Intellectual Freedom.” Now Cory Doctorow is being a good soldier and carrying the same false message forth again – for free.

Here is the latest from FCC showing 1) filters work well, 2) having filters is a community decision, not ALA forcing it on communities, and 3) librarians who used to oppose filtering ought to get over themselves: http://safelibraries.blogspot dot com/2014/08/visser.html

Internet filters bring an economic discrimination. You are at mercy of the ones who make the blocklists, of their values that you may not share and that get forcefully imposed on you. If you are not wealthy enough for your own, and unfiltered, smartphone. So the measure disproportionally affects the poor.

Also, the personal issues of the technology’s critic don’t have anything to do with the technology criticism.

In addition to who gets to decide what gets blocked, there’s that issue of overblocking - or what doesn’t get through that should. Breast cancer information comes to mind, that’s a common topic affected.

I for one don’t trust filters as far as I could throw them. I am a bad thrower.


Let me give you an example of just how you have no idea how wrong you are, because I am certain you are not doing this intentionally. Do you see where you say, “Breast cancer information comes to mind, that’s a common topic affected”? That is totally false. It is an old excuse. Filters are way better now and no longer block health-related information. Who said that? None other that the very leader of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom: http://safelibraries.blogspot dot com/2012/02/ala-admits-library-filters-work-barbara.html

So that’s an example of how wrong you are, although I’m sure you meant well. It’s easy to be misinformed in a world where a lie is heard around the world before the truth even gets a chance to put its boots on.

Hey Dan? You might be right, but you almost certainly chose your audience poorly.


He’s apparently peddling his opinion all over the Net whenever the filters get criticized. I wonder if it is something personal, or if he is financially interested in the business.

The information dates at least back to 2002 and beyond, the lady in question did not originate it. There are reports all over the Net of filters overblocking useful information, including this site itself. The presumably false positives in information related to sex are especially troublesome when coupled with the sorry state of sex ed in the schools. And the impact is disproportionate on those who cannot afford their own unfiltered machines.

Couple (quite many, time flies…) years ago I did some consultations for the developers of the CGIproxy. Because filters suck and should be opposed, and technical means give their victims more chances than often power-asymmetric pleas and discussions.


I’m not sure that I was ever aware that the American Library Association was a George Soros controlled front group. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.