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A Tech-Econ Mashup with a Libertarian Flavor

Update: Protecting “The Children”

PolicyBeta summarizes the final report from Internet Safety Technical Task Force:

I fear that our society is about to make a similar mistake with social networks. If we impose laws that inhibit minors from using social networks, we will drive them away from the current leading social networks (which are very concerned about child safety) to overseas websites (which have far less concern about the safety of our kids). If there is one takeaway that policymakers should get from the Task Force report, it is that public policy in this area should be made based on real data about real risk, not media hype, and on a concrete understanding of the technological, privacy, free speech, and other implications of any proposed policy (or technology) solution.

Amen. The whole thing is worth a read, for you techies out there.

Sounds almost like wishful thinking, doesn’t it? The problem with politics is that reason and economic analysis usually take a back seat to compromise (geez, I’m channelling Ayn Rand now). I will be very, very surprised if the internet escapes regulation under the Obama administration (or any administration). Maybe I’m overly pessimistic, but I just don’t trust that the leading voices (and shapers of public opinion) among politicians and regulators are much more knowledgable about modern technology than my own computer-illiterate Dad. John McCain’s ignorance of and apathy towards technology, had he miraculously won the election, might have made the internet safety hot-button more of a political non-issue, as it should be.

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Filed under: Internet, Politics, , , ,

Protecting “The Children” ain’t easy.

Technology alone can’t protect “The Children” from online threats. So says a report released yesterday by the Internet Safety Technical Task Force. Some highlights:

  • Most minors who are exposed to pr0n have actively sought it out. Also, much “problematic” content is actually created by or shared among youths themselves (who else would have popularized “2 Girls 1 Cup?” Your mother?)
  • Social networking sites are “used primarily to reinforce preexisting social relations.” Writing “WHORE!” on a myspace page is similar to how you used to make obscene phone calls to your archnemesis. (You remember, the girl with perfect hair, great clothes, who eats whatever she wants and stays skinny, who stole your boyfriend in 8th grade, and who beat you out for the lead in “Alice in Wonderland.” Whore.)
  • Minors are not equally at risk. A child’s psychology and family dynamic is a much better indicator of their likelihood to chat with 40-year-old creepers than the type of chat protocol they use.

This is undoubtedly disappointing news to those who put their faith in technological safety-measures, such as robust and impossible-to-bypass age -verification systems or filtering software. Conversely, this is great news for the web companies who’ve been shouldering much of the blame for all of the internet’s evils.

It’s also good news to the reasonable among us who think that parents are responsible for, you know, being parents. The fact that children who are already at-risk are more likely than their peers to be exposed to threats on the internet is a pretty good indication that this is a problem that should be tackled by parents, not regulators.

Further reading: Ars Technica says the biggest online threat to kids is… other kids. /feigned shock.

Filed under: Information Tech, Tech Biz, , , , , ,

South Korean Government Pwns the Ppl.

March 2008: The new South Korean government is elected with help from web-savvy voters who take the campaign to the ‘net.

May 2008: The newly-elected South Korean government votes to allow American beef back into the country; the internet serves as a channel for exaggerated rumors of Mad Cow Disease; general panic spreads across the country and complete madness ensues.

August 2008: The South Korean government attempts to enact wide-sweeping regulation over the internet.

The proposed rules include: a requirement that internet companies to make their search algorithms public; regulation over any internet company that publishes any news stories; and the power to suspend any news article thought to be slanderous or fraudulent (free speech/press, anyone?). As contrary to the free-information internet-spirit as all of these measures are, the award for the most asinine requirement has to go to real-name verification of all registered forum and chatroom users.

That’s right, the South Korean government is attempting to deny its citizens their right to anonymously troll forums full of thirteen-year-olds and harass n00bs. South Korea suxx0rs.

The UK Guardian has an article here.

HT: 463

Filed under: Internet, , , ,

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