Underlying the Rudd Government’s plan to screen the internet is an offensive message: that parents cannot be trusted to mind their children online.
Adult supervision should be front and centre of the effort to improve online safety, a responsibility accepted by most parents, grandparents, teachers and carers. But the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, seems to think differently: filtering content at internet service provider level is “central to the Government’s plan to make the internet a safer place for children”.
There is no technological substitute for adult supervision and it’s irresponsible and misleading to infer otherwise. Mandating a so-called “clean feed” has the potential to create a dangerous false sense of security, leading parents to believe ongoing supervision and vigilance is no longer needed.
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The minister must start listening to the experts, who have repeatedly made the point that most predatory risks to children lurk in those areas of the online world this kind of filtering will do little to combat. Technical advice suggests chat rooms, email and peer-to-peer networks are the most dangerous. Law enforcement agencies around the world have revealed that pedophiles use peer-to-peer networks to exchange explicit videos and images outside the world wide web.
Experts have also shown how the techno-savvy can use various techniques – including encryption – to bypass filters, leaving web sites you would expect to be blocked, open for all to see.
The most powerful and effective weapon against illegal behaviour online is the same as that for illegal behaviour in the real world: sophisticated law enforcement. The successful operation against a child pornography network by the Australian Federal Police late last year, which resulted in more than 20 arrests, demonstrates that.
This article was posted: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 11:59 am