In the final chapter of Terry Pratchett's Eric, the wizard Rincewind and the boy Eric are climbing out of hell on steep steps.
He looked down at the broad steps they were climbing. They were something of a novelty; each one was built out of large stone letters. The one he was just stepping onto, for example, read: I Meant It For The Best.
The next one was: I Thought You'd Like It.
Eric was standing on: For The Sake Of The Children.
"Weird, isn't it?" he said. "Why do it like this?"
"I think they're meant to be good intentions," said Rincewind. This was meant to be a road to Hell, and demons were, after all, traditionalists.
Pay attention to the Prophet here: For The Sake Of The Children is a good intention. And it leads to hell.
The minister in the UK who is the equivalent of Conroy in Australia, Andy Burnham, has proposed a mandatory age rating of websites. He wants the US administration to cooperate. His next comment is important, for it shows the "For The Sake Of The Children in all its glory:
“If you look back at the people who created the Internet they talked very deliberately about creating a space that governments couldn't reach,” he said. "I think we are having to revisit that stuff seriously now.”
Governments have always hated the free exchange of ideas outside their control, and European governments more than most have a history of restricting the right of free expression. Sure, some people express things that are malign and illegal. When they do, they should be prosecuted under the law. But it is nobody's right to tell me what I may or may not say or think, and it is no government's right to evaluate in private what I say and determine if I have the right to say it. Even if the present party in power is benign and well intentioned (ahem), which is always a very bad assumption, what is to keep the next one from misusing this power to control speech? Have we learned nothing from the past two centuries?
In particular we should be careful of the For The Sake Of The Children ploy. It leads to witchhunts where 17 year olds who have sex with 15 year olds get listed for life as pedophiles and sexual offenders. It leads to censorship of anything that upsets influential religious figures. And it leads to a loss of freedom. Others overseas agree.
I'm happy that somebody is taking responsibility for the filth that is flying around the internet. I only wish that I had access to create the list of sites that are banned.
Right off, anything to do with the Catholic Church would be inaccessible. Any positive story that is. Because we all know how that teaching Religion and Magical Thinking to children is a form of Child Abuse.
Stories about Santa? Right out. Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormonism? Gone. Blocked. Kaput. Holocaust denial, creationism, Intelligent Design? Snatched from the eyes of innocent readers. John C. West and Casey Luskin would be filtered into oblivion. Revisionist history that the US was founded as a Christian Nation. Global Warming denial, misuse of Adam Smith, Herbert Spencer and claims that Newton was a creationist will be inaccessible.
Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, anything that carries a tag labeled Fox News? Distant memories of internet past.
Let's filter 419 scammers. Homeopathy, chiropractic, Deepak Chopra, Frijof Capra, sociobiology and evolutionary psychology, Ayn Randism, Luther's anti-Jewish hatred, Berger's insular dwarfism on Palau, criticism of New Atheists, Darwinist reductionism, the biological existence of human race classification, Sarah Palin's witch doctor; all of these will return an "access forbidden" message.
And when I am done with that, I shall come after the agnostics.
Many thanks to Burnham for laying the groundwork.
But what does Mike Haubrich, FCD, propose to do about Scientology?
Please, won't somebody think of the Stupid?
I'll get around to Scientology when I am bored with the rest, I expect. Since the suppression of knowledge should be arbitrarily based (I know what offends me when I see it,) I don't need an exact timetable. Besides, Thetans have been with us for a long time. They can wait for their blockage. It's a blink of an eye when you are 70 million years old.
Does this minister understand how big the web is?
No, probably not, I assume.
I would have no problem with an opt-in rating system being created...except such things already exist. In fact, such things already exist, privately run. If you want to protect your kids from nasty websites, there are filters, rating systems, whitelists, blacklists and parental auditing programs.
But let's face it, every TV has a V-chip that can stop all the bits you don't like on the television from getting into your kid's TV, and nobody uses it. Nobody cares enough to actually bother to change the setting on their televisions. But there oughta be a law, right?
Hopefully the price tag will kill this idea dead.
MPL "If you want to protect your kids from nasty websites, there are filters, rating systems, whitelists, blacklists and parental auditing programs."
The most important filter kids have is their parents. Too many parents forget that. Oh, won't someone think about the parents!
In the final chapter of Terry Pratchett's...
That's "SIR" Terry Pratchett to you mate!
One thing that I think this minister has overlooked. Supposing you do pass a law requiring all websites to have an age rating. How do you enforce it? Thing that makes the world wide web the world wide web is that it's...erm...world wide. This means that no matter what laws are passed in any one jurisdiction, there are going to be websites outside this jurisdiction. Even if, by some method, he got all websites worldwide enforcing this rating system, how do you stop a kid simply lying and saying he's over 15/18/21/whatever to gain access?
Look folks, these gentle Omniscient, Omnibenevolent, Omnipotent, Omniprescient(did I miss any?)"leaders" really do know what's best for us! Let's all return to our caves and drink our Kool-Aide so we can be good boys and girls.
In Humble Arrogance,