she has fallen and now she is awake

On censorship

In my other life I’m a librarian. I work in a public library with a bunch of computers and free internet access for members. Even children can access the internet with parental permission. Every so often a parent is horrified and dismayed that we do not filter our internet.

Why would we?

Filtering is inefficient and ineffective. Particularly when it comes to shared connections. Yes, I will probably set up a whitelist when Bunbun begins using the internet. I will certainly monitor her use as she gets older. See how I set up a whitelist for Bunbun? This is because as a parent I am responsible for her. This is because I will choose what I think is appropriate. This is because what is appropriate for her will change as she grows. This is because what is appropriate for her will greatly curtail my usage of the internet. There is no filter that is appropriate for everyone. Currently there is no filter that will even be appropriate for children – whitelists work but curtail what they can experience which is appropriate for little children but for older children their ability to research and synthesise information will be restricted by whitelists. Blacklists are faulty at the best of times and utterly unreliable. No single filter fills all needs and current filters are an absolute joke.

But beyond that, there’s the social ramifications. I want Bunbun to learn that not everyone on the internet is right. Not all information is correct. That some people are arseholes and will be mean. I want her to be able to process information at a high level. I want her to have the ability to discern what is correct from the morass of idiocy and incorrectness that is the internet. I don’t want her growing up thinking that if it’s written down it must be correct. That if she’s ‘allowed’ to read it then it’s all okay. I want her to have a higher level of information literacy than that. I want her to be able to discuss anything she’s seen or read without fear of getting in trouble for seeing it. I want her to be aware of the dangers online even within filters.

I don’t want her to be subjected to a Clean Feed that’s anything but clean.

If she chooses to go to university and research I want her to have access to all the information she needs – even if it’s disgusting or evil or disturbing or amoral. Good cannot triumph over evil if we refuse to even allow ourselves to see it. Research cannot be done well if it’s done secondhand. She may need access to hate sites, to pro-ana sites, to terrorist sites, even to child pornography sites. It’s all well and good to say ‘no-one should see it’ but what about people researching it? Trying to understand it in order to combat it?

If she chooses to write I want her to be able to write whatever she chooses. I don’t want her curtailed by an assumption that exposure to information is the same as acting upon it or believing it to be good.

Whatever she chooses I want her to have free access to all information. Not just what someone else has decided she is able to view without taint.

Do you know what I am afraid of though? I’m afraid that she is going to grow up with friends who are allowed to use the internet unhindered because Mum and Dad  have put a filter on so everything is safe. I’m afraid that she’s going to have to deal with people who think that information is evil. I’m afraid that her education is going to be diminished because the spectre of evil information has been combined with a startling lack of technical aptitude and an overlay of parochialism and good old fashioned patronising patriachy to create a world where censoring and entire nation’s information access is acceptable.

The ‘Clean Feed’ will not protect her from abusers, molesters, child pornography, bullies, bad information, terrorists, pro-anorexics, bad body image, sexist imagery, violence or bombs. That’s my job. The Clean Feed just pretends that it will and leaves you even more open to manipulation.

Open Internet is important. Act. For Bunbun’s sake, act.


3 responses to “On censorship

  1. Accidental Pharmacist March 13, 2010 at 02:55

    “Research cannot be done well if it’s done secondhand.”

    You make some great points here. There will always be parents who try to protect their kids from experiencing certain evils – I don’t know if that’s good or not. Personally, I’m with you on preferring to expose my kids a broad range of experiences with guidance and support. Rather than having them look away, I’d rather have them think critically about what they’re seeing. Increasingly, however, I’m thinking that this is a very different parenting philosophy from many.

  2. Pingback: While we’re waiting |

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