Klive is a Klutz

Clive Hamilton is his own worst enemy. His current ham-fisted attempts to promote proposed ALP policies to impose filtering software on Internet Service Providers to protect children from Internet porn are a case in point.

By making the utterly stupid statement that “[n]o man who regularly uses pornography can have a healthy sexual relationship with a woman“, Hamilton successfully alienates the very large slab of males in his audience who have viewed pornography, and aren’t sure whether they’ve done it often enough to meet Clive’s (unstated) definition of “regularly”. He also completely ignores the fact that academic research just doesn’t support his claim anyway.

But making that statement simply distracts attention from the very real issue of protecting children from pornography. Although the research doesn’t show major adverse effects of pornography (at least the non-violent kinds) on adults, almost no-one argues that children aren’t adversely affected nor that they shouldn’t be protected.

Libertarians argue that the State shouldn’t intervene and that it’s solely a parental responsibility to stop their children from viewing porn on the Net. But how? Certainly individual parents can invest in filtering software (NetNanny and the like), but many lack the knowledge or technical sophistication to do so, and the software is a long way from perfect. Moreover, the notion that parents should somehow be able to supervise their children sufficiently intensively to make sure they can’t access porn is one that only people with no children themselves could seriously advance.

Does that mean that the ALP’s proposal to force ISPs to install filtering software on their web servers is a good idea? Jason Soon lists some pretty cogent arguments against the Labor proposal:

  • Studies carried out in Australia and overseas have demonstrated that filtering software causes extensive ‘collateral damage’, blocking many innocuous sites. Some ironic examples are the blocking of the National Party of Australia site and of Queensland parliamentary records. And many filtering products censor massive amounts of valuable information by blocking entire domains such as geocities.com, ozemail.com.au, or deja.com.
  • >”Trying to force filtering software on unwilling adults will be as ineffective as it is repugnant”, said Yee. “And only filtering products that use open blocklists and algorithms — available for public scrutiny — should even be considered for use in schools. The process by which products are selected needs to be open and transparent, not carried out behind closed doors. And content providers must be informed when their content is blocked, so they have a chance to appeal the decision.”

These are cogent points. But they don’t establish the proposition that filtering is obnoxious per se. Absolute unrestricted freedom for adults to view pornography is not a value that self-evidently trumps protection of children irrespective of all practical considerations ( except perhaps for doctrinaire libertarians). Each of Jason’s points needs to be addressed on its merits.

A transparent filtering decisional regime could be legislated, for instance, although the experience with the regime implemented by Richard Alston and the Howard government suggests it would be likely to be impossibly unwieldy. Can those problems feasibly be overcome? I don’t know. Has Labor examined such questions? I don’t know that either, and Hamilton doesn’t tell us.

Similarly, is it possible to develop or tweak software so that innocuous sites aren’t blocked? Again I don’t know and Hamilton doesn’t say. And again these are facts we need to know. I would be very relaxed and even supportive of legislation requiring ISPs to filter extreme porn and establish viable regimes for verifiable age limits for access to ordinary porn, as long as Jason’s objections can be met.

The US Supreme Court ruled (for the second time) only a couple of months ago against the constitutionality of federal laws that sought to make purveying of Internet porn illegal per se. See Ashcroft v American Civil Liberties Union (29 June 2004). The law was held to breach the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. But US constitutional jurisprudence accepts that free speech is not an absolute value, and may sometimes be trumped by other public interest values (e.g. the protection of children). However, a law will only survive constitutional challenge if it goes no further than is reasonably necessary to protect those other legitimate public interest values, and does not improperly “sterilise” constitutiionally-protected free speech. In Ashcroft v ACLU, the Court held that the federal law in question did go further than necessary, largely by reasoning that legislating to require filtering software would be much less intrusive on the civil liberties of adults (and prima facie constitutional) than directly making material defined as “harmful to minors” illegal per se. The latter measure was seen as using too large a sledge hammer to smash the legitimate problem of protecting children from porn.

The ALP proposal would probably pass muster under the US Bill of Rights (and most others). As long as any law made pursuant to that policy proposal can meet the practical objections Jason Soon outlines, there is no proper civil liberties reason why it shouldn’t be supported, unless you believe that the rights of adults to view porn must always and necessarily trump all other values and interests i.e. an extreme libertarian position.

There are competing values and imperatives in play here, but Hamilton simply doesn’t address them. He isn’t doing the ALP any favours.

Update – As well as Jason, Al Bundy and Paul Watson both cover this issue, as does David Tiley. Al gives Clive a well-deserved fisking despite suffering the dreaded lurgie, while Paul does so (predictably) on the basis that Hamilton is a stupid Baby Boomer, and slightly less predictably as an opportunity to urge blokes rendered unable to “have a healthy sexual relationship with a woman” as a result of viewing porn, to consider going over to the dark side!!! I don’t like his chances somehow. He’d do better sticking to more traditionally sympathetic markets like priests and scoutmasters.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2021 years ago

Yeah, good points, Ken. You can have a read of my fisking if you’re interested.

This article from the BBC might give you some idea of the measures under consideration.

Not sure how directly it relates, but another BBC item on offshore Internet servers brings back memories of the era of ‘pirate radio’. It shows the farcical nature of measures employed by governments trying to regulate new media.

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
2021 years ago

Funnily enough, I wrote my “IRR” about this. Seven? Eight years ago?

The answer now is the same as then. There is no technological solution to what is a social problem. There is no legal solution either. Parents are just going to have to face up to the crappy, boring and unexciting fact that saying “no” now and then is where they’ll be at.

Before you play the “young and childless fool” line, I was as annoying a kid as they come; and I was a confirmed net addict before the net was widely known about. My parents used to hide the modem from me so that I’d get some homework done.

That’s my point. Parents retain the moral right and duty over the raising of their children, including restricting, curtailing or ceasing internet access.

I know you may feel comfortable with the scheme, Ken, but I don’t. The government in this country already does enough to tell me what I can see, hear, or read. Enough is enough. Honestly.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2021 years ago

Jacques Chester’s point sorta bounces off one I was gonna make.

Throughout most of human history and in many countries still now, kids have seen at first hand, people fucking, being born and being killed. And whether it’s the internet or real life, kids are gonna keep be exposed to these elemental facts of humanity.

If yer don’t want yer kids screwed up by this, then it’s up to you as a parent to take responsibility, to put things in context, to show how to deal with it by example and to console, comfort and explain.

Reasonably decent civil societies can help by providing support and resources but ultimately it’s parents who have to do the heavy lifting when it comes to imparting a set of values about how to deal with the emotional, bloody, funny, oversexed, dangerous and ridiculous carnival that is life.

I can’t think of one example where Governments have successfully banned anything that us socialised primates like to do.

We need good parents not bad laws.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2021 years ago

Look I’m quite happy for a compromise solution that doesn’t involve imposing collateral damage on all of us by requiring ISPs to install filters (and I’m not talking about adults not getting porn, I’m talking about filters that filter out too much and may slow down our networks – my host c8to actually works in high-grade computer science and can back me up on this) – I’m happy for instance to subsidise parents who want to spend money to install their own filters if that’s what they want.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Jason

Doing some quick research on this, I noticed that there are some ISPs in the US that offer an opt-in option for server-based filtering. Surely there wouldn’t be a tecnological problem with ISPs offering such an option here, and then routing clients who chose that option through a server with the filtering sotware installed. That way, only those who opted in would be subjected to network slowdown, collateral damage denial of access to innocent sites etc. The government could legislate to require all ISPs to offer and publicise that option, and subsidise them to get equipped with the additional server capacity etc.

That would overcome the difficulty that most concerns me, of non-techie parents (i.e. most of them) who don’t have a clue how to configure NetNanny-type software (not to mention horny young teenage kids who DO have a clue how to reconfigure the software to reinstitute access without their parents’ knowledge).

Would you object to a policy along those lines?

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

BTW Nabakov

I don’t personally have a paranoia or even deep concern about my kids (or rather kid) viewing porn. But I accept that parents have a right to regulate those sorts of things if their values so dictate, and that government ought to facilitate such choices (but not compel them). Like you, I don’t reckon it’s likely to do my daughter any real harm, because we’ve raised her to be confident and knowledgeable about sex, sexuality etc. and it is, as you say, very much part of life.

Rebecca spends inordinate amounts of time on MSN chat and swapping (no doubt illegal) foul-mouthed gangsta rap and similar songs with online friends. But I know she doesn’t look at porn. Despite being very computer literate in many ways, she doesn’t realise that I can look at the browser history and cache, and that occasionally I’ve done so out of idle curiosity. If I discovered that she was viewing porn to a seemingly unhealthy extent, I suppose I’d do something about it (although I’m buggered if I know what). I don’t really expect that to happen. I suppose it’s far more likely with a teenage son, but I don’t know that I’d be very worried then either, as long as he stopped wanking long enough to get his homework done.

Francis Xavier Holden
2021 years ago

ISPs in Australia are already required by law to provide customers with filtering software at cost. Its pretty bloody easy to install. You can also set your IE browser to do a version of filtering. You can set Google to return “filtered” results.

As far as I can see technically there is no reason why ISPs couldn’t offer 2 ways in – one through a proxy that had hard filters, blacklists , whitelists etc and the other proxy that was open to everthing. They then just offer a small bit of software (and password) that sets the proxies according to what you want at any one time.

In my view those two story high outdoor adverts with near naked females are far more obnoxious,pervasive and influential in terms of forming attitudes towards women and sexuality and erotica than are any unwanted popups of intersecting erect dicks, silicon boobs and shaved pubes on a small monitor at home.

Francis Xavier Holden
2021 years ago

Ken – Its always been a problem to stop teenage boys wanking long enough to do their homework. Home delivered net pron just makes them even lazier – no need to fantazise.

Francis Xavier Holden
2021 years ago

I cant get away. Given that the major porn sites / businesses are in the USA – we dont allow them here, its possibly against the FTA to block porn sites from USA. Interfering with commerce.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Francis

It wouldn’t be likely to be contrary to the FTA for government merely to legislate to require ISPs to give consumers the choice. That wouldn’t be government restricting trade with the US, just facilitating individual choices. I don’t think the FTA is aimed at that sort of thing (although I’m anything but expert about it).

yobbo
2021 years ago

Ken: Why should the public pay extra because parents don’t have the technological know-how to install a porn filtering program?

I don’t know how to tune my car, so I have to take it to a mechanic. This costs me money. Some people know how to fix their own cars or learn how to do it themselves. What you are suggesting is like giving people a subsidy to pay mechanics’ fees.

The lesson here is: If you have kids and can’t afford $100 to pay someone to install Net Nanny for you, then you can’t afford to own a computer.

Of course, the other option is that you simply don’t tell your children the password to log on to the internet, but that solution is apparently too simple for a government to understand.

In a similar fashion, legislating in favour of ISP’s having to install filtering software is not unlike legislating that all bicycles must come equipped with trainer wheels.

mark
2021 years ago

Ken,
1) Even the best filters will only catch a very small proportion of porn sites. It is not currently possible to even dream of succesfully filtering most of what’s out there.
2) Almost all filters will also catch legitimate stuff (as Jason Soon pointed out). It may be worthwhile for a parent, say, to prevent her son from doing assignment research online in return for blocking a small proportion of the available pornography, but the rest of us find this bothersome at best. The rare filter that does not do this will be relying on a blacklist (either downloadable or user-created, or a combination), and will therefore block even fewer pornography sites than those based on keywords. And let’s not engage Messrs Alston and Howard’s belief that, one day, in the far future, sites will be blocked at ISP level depending on the amount of pink is present in their graphics…

One may dislike the argument of “it’s the parents responsibility”, but, frankly, there’s no other way to deal with the issue. Before you get to the ethical or moral implications, before you worry about politics or the ability of children to cope with online porn, before you do anything, just remember: it is not actually possible. Any “successful” approach will be at best half-arsed and (if we’re lucky) will reduce the usefulness of the Internet significantly. And at the end of the day, pornography will still be available to minors online!

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Mark

Of course, none of your arguments mandate as such against the suggestion I made above i.e. government insisting on and subsidising an ISP filtering option for parents who want it (but not imposing it on the rest of us). However, if the technology remains as radically defective as you say, you’d have to wonder what point there would be in expending taxpayers’ money on such a scheme (apart from sending a “we care” message to conservative parent voters).

jamesquest
jamesquest
2021 years ago

as others point out the cost of imposing a technological solution to what is a social, no, family, problem are high for the rest of us to pay and technically dubious at best. this exposes a real sore point in the modern world: the reasons that stop parents saying ‘no’ to their kids internet access and usage mask the guilt felt generally by the ‘techno-rich’ breeding population who worry endlessly they don’t spend enough ‘quality time’ with the children and simply refuse to deny the kiddies anything they want in case they won’t be their friends anymore. exposure to pornography is really just one side effect of this (and personally not the most significant problem: i think that there’s probably something wrong with the man who isn’t exposed to pornography regularly). how about an absence of social skills and interpersonal experiences that 10 hours a day on a computer tends to engender in the user? (it’s not uncommon when i visit friends to say hello to the 15 year olds fixated to the screen playing war games and be absolutely ignored, only bothered when the child wants something: like dinner cooked or some money to go out) or the deadening of the imagination and mental discipline that comes being the passive consumer of instantaneous ‘texts’ and images that require little effort in mental construction on the part of the user. (i know, i know, for many certain eye hand coordination skills are absolutely superb, as is an ability to absorb fast moving images, both extremely useful in games but with little application elsewhere). there must be more side-effects i’ve forgotten, but u get the drift: i can’t help feeling that clive hamilton’s idea will resonate among guilty parents only too happy to project their guilt onto a suitable proxy: let’s blame pornography. but dont, at all costs, turn off the internet, hide the password, and go and read a book, play cards, do your scrapbook or kick a football.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

All good points James. Do you have a teenage child?

jamesquest
jamesquest
2021 years ago

not of my own ken. i taught teenagers for a long time.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

My point is that it’s quite a lot harder than many imagine to force a teenager to do something they don’t want. You can arguably do it in a structured institutional environment like a school (although increasingly in recent years corecive methods of doing so have been rejected – whether rightly or wrongly is another question).

But in the home, coercive, authoritarian parental methods are much more problematic. I doubt that many parents would feel comfortable about reviving the authoritarian Victorian paterfamilias role, and short of that it’s difficult to see how one could force teenagers not to spend lots of time online when all their peers are doing so (except by getting rid of the PC, which is a radical move for a blogger).

My daughter spends more time on the computer than I’d prefer, but no more than me, and not to an extent I regard as really problematic. She’s not obese or anti-social (the reverse really) and does lots of things as well as sitting at the keyboard. And some of what she does is constructive on any view – researching for homework and assignments, reading online newspapers to form views on current events etc.

I’m quite prepared to believe that some kids’ computer useage is unhealthy, and in those cases parents should certainly do something about it. However, whether those problems arise from not spending enough ‘quality time’ with children, or a sense of guilt about not doing so, is another matter. When I was growing up TV was still fairly new, and handwringers used to worry about kids spending too much time in front of it. Some did, just as some kids now spend too much time doing negative things on a PC, and some do too much drugs.

The rise in obesity tends to suggest there is a real problem here, however, and the substitution of passive (including sitting in front of a PC) for active recreation is almost certainly part of the picture. But how do we fix it? I agree that answers need in large part to be sought within individuals and families, and I reject many of Clive Hamilton’s coercive, collectivist solutions for the ills of modern capitalist consumerist society (although I agree with much of his diagnosis, and I think it’s desirable for us as a society to focus on and discuss the values, aspirations, expectations and pressure sthat lead to it – and Hamilton’s work makes a valuable contribution to that process).

But there are certainly some things governments can usefully do without adversely impacting individual freedom or recreating the “nanny state”. Reviving organised school sport (as the Coalition has promised) is one such thing. And, however imperfect, maybe offering parents who think they need it an accessible option to try to block Internet porn is another. However, given the radical imperfection Mark Gallagher describes, I wouldn’t be prepared to agree that any significant amount of government funds should be expended. Almost certainly this is a stupid ALP policy that should not be pursued.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2021 years ago

I see this thread has grown since you asked me that question. The answer, Ken, is yes, subject to the caveat made by Mark – we have a proper study of the options to ensure money is well spent. But I have in principle no problem with an opt-in model as the individual parent bears the costs of his/her choice.

Peter Murphy
Peter Murphy
2021 years ago

An open question for this thread: any statement by Kate Lundy on this issue? I remember the brohuha about Internet censorship some years ago, and she appeared to be dead against it. She’s the shadow minister for IT, so I hope she would have some say in the matter.

jamesquest
jamesquest
2021 years ago

i don’t know the answer ken.

Martin Pike
Martin Pike
2021 years ago

Point one: why does Clive Hamilton keep getting column space? Despite heading some institute, if his columns are anything to go by he is pretty badly informed and has nothing original to say.

Point two: child sexual abuse isn’t necessarily on the rise, it is just reported and dealt with far more often. Child protection laws have been greatly ramped up in all jurisdictions over the past 10-15 years, and factors like mandatory reporting and the overriding of privacy and privilege mean it is addressed far more often. When little Johnny tells his teacher that the choirmaster flopped his willy out he isn’t told to shut up and stop lying any more.

The desire is there- it is pure hormones, and I’ve never heard anyone make out a rational case for why seeing images of sex would actually increase the desire to actually go do something about it.

jamesquest
jamesquest
2021 years ago

i spoke to my dear old mum re this topic and (ken won’t like hearing this probably) she thought that it’s the parents to blame for not saying ‘no’ early enough on in the piece as a pedagogic standard: firmly, non-violently but often enough to instill in children the fact that the world doesn’t revolve around them and the gratification of their every momentary desire. sounds good in theory but then i didn’t turn out much of a paragon of restraint so i dunno.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

James

Jen would love your mum, only she says “no” so loudly you can hear her from the other end of the street. And neither she nor Jess is a model of restraint either. But there are different types of restraint, I guess … And I think I mostly agree with your mum and Jen’s approach, it’s just that I can’t do it … Maybe I should have outsourced discipline.

ChrisV
2021 years ago

That was your daughter you posted a pic of a few months back, right?

If so, you can outsource any required discipline to me anytime.

Hey, what are you… dude, no, put down the golf club. YOU DON’T WANNA DO THIS! YOU… AAAARGH!

yobbo
2021 years ago

I’ll beat any quote ChrisV gives you.

David Tiley
2021 years ago

ChrisV and Yobbo – internet filth has warped your naughty naughty minds. Your mums should have smacked your bottoms.

Tee hee.

yobbo
2021 years ago

Mine did, all the bloody time, so Ken should blame her.

jamesquest
jamesquest
2021 years ago

ken wrote: “Jen would love your mum…”
everyone loves my mum: an 83 year old screaming liberal and john howard critic (unusual in a masonic retirement village mind u). she used to be a Liberal but sounds more like rosa luxembourg these days. she also said (re child rearing): ‘do your best it’s usually the wrong thing’ and ‘everyone fucks that up’.

ChrisV
2021 years ago

You’re probably right, David. If only Clive Hamilton had been around to protect us, thats what I say.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Chris and Yobb

It was a billy club not a golf club (it isn’t heavy or painful enough). A baseball bat would probably do the job though.

Martin Pike
Martin Pike
2021 years ago

If Clive Hamilton is a sterling example of what comes of a cloistered, conservative upbringing then I’d sooner give my kid a bong and a subscription to Hustler…

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
2021 years ago

Ken, to follow up on your comments.

Some American ISPs do advertise filtering installed in their systems. It’s not really effective in any realistic technical sense. A bit like saying that cocopops are great for kids because they’re low in fat (sugar? what’s that?).

Remember the old test for pornography – “I know it when I see it” – from a famous US court case? How does one even begin to impart this knowledge to a computer?

Filtering by content is intrinsically very, very complicated. Humans accomplish it because we have stupendously sophisticated neural systems and subsystems. The kind of decomposition that a regular human brain performs on an image is essentially not available to computers right now or for the foreseeable future. And let’s not get started on the continuing (arguably futile) quest for proper natural language programming.

Personally I don’t mind ISPs installing the software that exists and advertising that they have. I don’t care if parents do it also. I don’t give a rats if parents check browser logs or enter some deal with the ISP to similar effect (they’re paying – it’s their property or contract, remember?).

What I do have a problem with is paying for other people’s nervousness about the internet. My parents basically nursed me through a severe internet addiction by applying a firm hand. There was no technological solution. There never really will be. The answer, in their case, was to say “no”. A lot.

Right now, as you know, I find myself with more free time. I’m spending that free time working like a dog to earn more and to save up. It annoys me that if I work really hard, I get to lose a third of my pay to the taxman. My point being, I already pay for mothers and babies and daycare and all sorts of drek that’s none of my concern. Now you’re effectively asking me to pay for an incomplete “solution” to protect your lovely daughter. And lovely though she is, sod off: I’d like to keep more, not less, of what I earn.

c8to
2021 years ago

jacques is totally right…

in fact, as a good libertarian, i cant believe jason supports subsidising something that wont work

“Moreover, the notion that parents should somehow be able to supervise their children sufficiently intensively to make sure they can’t access porn is one that only people with no children themselves could seriously advance.”

yes, but, play the ball not the man. i could well say “the notion that some software could filter out whats porn and whats not could only be advanced by someone that has never programmed”.

furthermore, the idea that if parents cant do it, society can do it for them is downright laughable…

now onto the technical stuff:

the fact is, its currently impossible to do any filtering whatsover that doesn’t become meaningless. (plus you have to worry what gets blacklisted – bye bye freedom of expression)

if you dont believe me you can have a look at this:

“Blocking software in general is vastly oversold. If censorware salespeople sold motor scooters, mining companies would be buying them, having been faithfully assured that a 50cc Vespa can carry 200 tons of iron ore up a 30 degree grade.”

and more seriously, on the specific software reviewed “If my tests are to be believed, this is a technical curiosity, not a useful piece of software.”

the solution is rather simple…ISPs offer to record what little johnny is downloading and on the bill at the end of the month, a list of sites show up. (this would be trivial and i mean that in a computer science sense as in would take five minutes)

you know how you get a mobile bill and it shows each number you dialled…you have the same for websites…

so you could have:

1) dirtypictures.com
2) badanalysis.com
3) …

it would be so simple, and im sure the ISPs already are tracking this anyway, because of child pornography issues.

the parents get the bill, and little johnny gets so embarrased and has to wash the car every week.

this service should cost about $5 extra a month for a parent to sign up to. (it would take a small amount of space for the ISP to store a text file containing the last months site visits)

this would be impossible for little johnny computer wiz to bypass unless he breaks into the ISP….

c8to
2021 years ago

i meant to post this link to review of filter software: http://dansdata.com/pornsweeper.htm

also, the first quote is ken’s…(i should have referenced it better)

Nabakov
Nabakov
2021 years ago

Yep, Jacques again further advances another point I’d make.

Shielding yer kids from nasty shit has always been a futile exercise. Instead raise ’em to deal with it and stuff anyone else who wants to use my taxes to cover up their inability to be a serious and committed parent.

mark
2021 years ago

Ken, sending a “we care” message to Conservatives is about all censorware is good for. It’s useful for schools, I’ll admit, although much for this reason: it’s not hard to access stuff that’s ostensibly filtered, but if a child does this the school can just put up their hands and say “we tried”. After all, if someone wants to look at porn so badly (while at school!) that they’ll search for stuff that isn’t filtered, or circumvent filters, there is little that can be done save severing Internet access, or introducing constant monitoring. (I actually knew a few students who got caught looking up porn… some of them female).

In the spirit of Al’s first comment, I’d like to point the way to this post, which goes into a little more detail, and also includes a bit about Howard’s push for censorship about five years ago or so. I couldn’t stop myself from being a smartarse in some bits, but at least I can honestly say it’s not a “fisking” ;-)

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

On Jacques’ comments, he seems to have assumed that (a) I was supporting the Labor proposals; and (b) I wanted subsidised porn filtering for my own benefit (or that of my daughter). Both assumptions are contrary to what I said in the post and comments.

I made it quite clear that I didn’t regard filtering as something I was interested in personally:
I don’t personally have a paranoia or even deep concern about my kids (or rather kid) viewing porn. But I accept that parents have a right to regulate those sorts of things if their values so dictate, and that government ought to facilitate such choices (but not compel them). Like you, I don’t reckon it’s likely to do my daughter any real harm, because we’ve raised her to be confident and knowledgeable about sex, sexuality etc. and it is, as you say, very much part of life.
So it isn’t the case that I was (or am) “asking [him] to pay for an incomplete “solution” to protect [my] lovely daughter”.

Nevertheless, although the Hamilton proposal itself is stupid (as I’ve said several times), that doesn’t mean the general idea of society/the state seeking to protect children from harm is objectionable (although of course it is to extreme libertarians). We mostly accept the fact that government regulates the sorts of TV programming that can be shown during children’s viewing times, and we mostly accept that openly displaying hardcore porn in a newsagent or other general access shop is appropriately subject to legal restrictions.

And saying “[s]hielding yer kids from nasty shit has always been a futile exercise” is silly and simplistic. Both parents and society seek to shield kids from nasty stuff in all sorts of ways (both more serious and more trivial than the above examples). How much of the nasty stuff we allow our children to be exposed to (or at least try to protect them from) depends in large part on how old they are. As kids reach their teenage years, they need to experiment and test themselves out as they rehearse adulthood. It’s true (at least I think so, though others would no doubt disagree) that we can’t and shouldn’t protect them from porn and similar nasties (not least because it probably doesn’t harm them). However, for younger kids (say 9-12 or so) this stuff could be quite disturbing. They’re old enough to have a fair (if probably somewhat confused) idea what it’s about, but lack the mental or emotional equipment to deal with it. I think it is desirable to protect children of those ages from extreme porn, to the extent possible.

Lastly, c8to’s statement that “the idea that if parents cant do it, society can do it for them is downright laughable” is itself laughable. Parents can’t be the sole carers for their children. Schools clearly have a major responsibility, and society in general has a responsibility to keep the streets safe (by having police services, safely designed roads and cars etc) for children etc etc. Neighbours have a responsibility to fence their pools safely (because no parent can supervise their children with eagle-eyed attention every second of the day). Mostly not even libertarians dispute propositions like that. So there’s nothing obnoxious in principle about society taking reasonable measures seeking to protect children from exposure to harmful material conveyed on a public medium like the Internet. The problems with it at the moment are largely technical and not ones of fundamental principle (unless you’re an extreme libertarian who objects to government regulation per se). The current problems with filters are:
(a) they filter out lots of perfectly innocent stuff (“collateral damage”);
(b) they don’t work anyway, in that they fail to filter lots of porn; and
(c) even if the technology was more effective and less collaterally damaging, we would need to design a transparent “banning” notification and appeal regime before an “opt-in” ISP-based flitering regime could be properly mandated by government.

It’s really point (c) that tends to lead to the conclusion that government-mandated (and centrally imposed via ISP) filtering will probably always be a bad idea. The expense and complexity of establishing a transparent regime for dealing fairly with proposals to ban web material (i.e. so proposed subjects of banning are notified and have an opportunity to defend themselves) would inevitably be very great.

Accordingly, most likely decisions and filtering will always need to be left to parents for that reason: governments are rightly expected to act fairly towards all citizens, including accused purveyors of porn to kiddies, whereas parents are under no such obligation. They can ban whatever they think is harmful to their child at its current stage of development.

peggy sue
peggy sue
2021 years ago

Shielding yer kids from nasty shit has always been a futile exercise. Instead raise ’em to deal with it and stuff anyone else who wants to use my taxes to cover up their inability to be a serious and committed parent

You may well be cutting off you nose to spite your face.
Child rearing is the ultimate example of private cost and public good.

Your taxes (and mine) are certainly going to pay for the welfare payments, social workers, police, courts, jails, parole officers &c., &c., needed for the nasty shits produced by those parents who lack the ability to be serious and committed.

c8to
2021 years ago

youre right ken…my statement was way off if read in that way…

i totally agree with you that in public (newsagents are a great example – well, theyre private property but publically accessible…anyhoo) we dont want hard core pornography on show to anyone who walks in. i agree its laughable that parents should be supervising their children on the way home past the shops.

i meant to be more specific that in the private home, where parents have bought a computer, and registered an account with an ISP, that society should protect children somehow at the ISP. (and to be explicit, i dont think this is a representation of your view)

unfortunately, this qualified version of my statement strays more into the technical end rather than a libertarian/authoritarian side of things, and i did want to make some more general point about responsibility.

im not so hard core that i dont think society (i guess to be more precise, the state) has a role in protecting children (perhaps even from their parents or their parents’ negligence).

however, whatever adults want to do in their own home should be legal and not blocked. (perhaps aside from murder)

this is completely a side track however…

c8to
2021 years ago

in short, my “it” was: if parents cant manage their private internet account then society doing it is laughable”

not any “it”

CB
CB
2021 years ago

Why not do what the great celestial nanny does? It provides websites or hotlines where outraged surfers can provide details of porn sites so the state can close them down. Simple. Should appeal to Hamilton who seems to have his head on backwards.

john
john
2021 years ago

No-one seems to have considered what might be the true purpose of this “porn-blocking” move – to facilitate censorship of news and commentary on the web. Probably in line with racial vilification laws such as the ones in Victoria.

mark
2021 years ago

At a hunch, john, I’d say that’s because nobody believes it…

trackback
2021 years ago

the word is “sanctimonious”

I have a lot of trouble with wowsers. Mild mannered as I usually am, a whey faced boily brained reactionary nyaah nyaah straightener can turn me into a verbal berserker. No bastard has the right to tell me what to…

trackback
2021 years ago

the word is “sanctimonious”

I have a lot of trouble with wowsers. Mild mannered as I usually am, a whey faced boily brained reactionary nyaah nyaah straightener can turn me into a verbal berserker. No bastard has the right to tell me what to…

trackback
2021 years ago

history never repeats

This issue of Internet filtering most publicly appeared not too long ago. Howard was desperately attempting to get into Senator Harradine’s pants in hopes of attracting a favourable vote on the GST, and Senator “World’s Greatest Luddite” Alston’s…