This is probably something that most people aren’t bothered by but that bothers me quite a bit.
I have this friend who subscribes to an Internet service provider who uses parental control features to “blacklist” certain web sites. On paper, one would think this sounds like a keen idea - parents can let their kids surf the web “unsupervised” without the kids seeing anything “bad.” The blacklist gets automatically updated so the latest badness is hidden from their youthful eyes.
Things like this sound great, don’t they? Yeah, except for the fact that they blacklisted my site. That’s what makes me think. Am I purveying porn here? Aside from some minor language issues, am I even doing anything that offends anyone? Okay, well, maybe I might offend people, but I’m not sure it’s on a level that requires blacklisting by parental control software.
So I’ve been going back and forth with my friend over why he submits to this sort of treatment by his ISP. Apparently he does have some sort of override control, but just doesn’t choose to exercise it. That both interests and annoys me. I mean, what happens if I’m researching, say, breast cancer or AIDS? Somehow I think I’d start “protecting myself from myself,” don’t you? Stop myself from getting the information I’m looking for?
I think that the idea of parental control is interesting until you start really examining it. I think I’d prefer to trust my kids and teach them what they should and shouldn’t look at rather than rely on automated enforcement of ethics that I may or may not agree with. The same problems we have with spam filters exist with parental control software: How do you know if you’re filtering out enough bad stuff? And how do you know you didn’t just include content you want to get to?
Maybe I just feel like parental control software is overprotection at its finest. I feel like it’s an illustration of an over-politically-correct society trying to protect itself from itself, because God forbid anyone get offended by anything. Sort of like the whole V-Chip television thing. Is there a need for it? Maybe. But the fact there’s a need for it, I think, signals something larger is wrong. Wrong with the content? Wrong with society? Wrong with the way we teach morals? Who knows?
I think it’s important to note that this has nothing to do directly with my friend or the way he teaches his kids. My friend has some of the smartest, coolest kids on earth and if I ever have kids of my own (which is not currently on my agenda), I’d hope they turn out half as great as his. I’m just having issues with the implementation of automated censorship - it’s never been something I agree with, and I’m not about to agree with it any time soon.