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The responsibility to protect children from pornography

The last several months have seen a flurry of activity about protecting children from online pornography. Politicians in England, Ireland and elsewhere have come out in favor of requiring Internet Service Providers to block pornography from their customers, unless they explicitly opt in to access it. This would ensure that children would not mistakenly (or intentionally…) be able to view pornography on their computers or mobile devices unless the person responsible for their account — typically their parent — specifically activated this feature through the ISP.

Pornography publishers, of course, claim that any type of content-blocking is censorship, even though it of course would be possible to see the pornographic content if the customer opts in.

At home, kids typically have more adult supervision than when they are on the go, with their Internet-connected mobile phones. Parents who intentionally place the PC in the family room in order to monitor their kids’ browsing and online gaming (interspersed with the diligent typing of homework) have a much harder time policing their childrens’ mobile activity, which can take place while walking to and from school, at friends’ houses, or even at the local park. So filtering inappropriate content from mobile devices takes on a new dimension, becoming even more critical than for PCs.

Regardless of whether you feel the responsibility lies with the state, the ISP, or the parents, there are technological solutions to ensure children won’t see adult content. The joint solution recently announced by Commtouch and Mobixell allows mobile service providers to block access to web sites based on their category, among them, pornography. This enables mobile operators to comply with the proposed legislation requiring ISPs to filter out objectionable content unless users opt in. In addition, even if such legislation does not come to pass, service providers can offer this site blocking as a value-added service, as a parental control service, generating additional revenue through this useful, family-friendly option.

Once the operator is filtering web browsing sessions with GlobalView URL Filtering, why stop at pornography? The solution categorizes Web sites into 64 categories, nine of which are security-oriented. For example, it can identify compromised or hacked sites, sites containing malware, phishing sites, and so on.

I just hope porn publishers won’t consider blocking viruses a form of censorship. 

Image credit: Tricia Wang