Don't be like China

Don't be like China

Summary: China has been receiving enormous amounts of negative press lately for its so-called "Green Dam" content filtering and increasingly stringent requirements for Google to limit access to pornography via its searches.

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China has been receiving enormous amounts of negative press lately for its so-called "Green Dam" content filtering and increasingly stringent requirements for Google to limit access to pornography via its searches. According to the Times article,

At a news conference on Thursday, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, was quick to criticize Google for allowing too many links to unseemly sites, saying, “It is every government’s responsibility to protect their teenagers from porn and vulgar information on the Internet.”

Here in the States, we take measures to limit our kids' exposure to pornography, as well. This isn't a bad thing, of course. Schools and libraries are places for students to learn, not have free broadband to download porn faster. Content filtering, depending on how good it is, at least blocks the most egregious websites.

However, it becomes tempting to block a much wider range of content, taking a whitelist instead of a blacklist approach. After all, if kids can only get to kid-friendly sites, they can't see anything that might be a source of liability or controversy. The Chinese government has gone so far as to block sex education, sites with politically dissenting views, and sexual health information, all in the name of protecting its people.

Clearly, most system administrators will not take such a hardline view of content filtering, especially related to politics. But it certainly seems that a more moderate approach to filtering, especially in secondary education, gives students a much better handle on how to navigate and assess content. A Green Dam, or any other sort of content filter, doesn't make pornography, social media, or political dissent go away; it merely hides it temporarily.

Isn't it far better to educate our kids about online safety and appropriateness with some tools in the background to ensure that content that obviously has no educational value doesn't reach their screens?

Topics: Enterprise Software, Government, Government US, Software

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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19 comments
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  • Don't be like China

    Someone needs to tell the Australian Government about that. They
    seem to be pressing ahead with a NET filter despite admitting it
    probably won't work. But, rest assured that if it has any sort of
    success in Australia, other will Governments will take note. After all,
    being seen to be protecting our children is a vote winner; whether
    that protection works or not.

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2008/10/net-filters-
    required-for-all-australians-no-opt-out.ars

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/06/australian-net-
    filter-to-block-video-games-too.ars
    A Grain of Salt
    • Bottomline China is booming while USA sinking

      Americans were used to be the proud ants but then gradually corrupted by socialism and now have turned into a nation of grasshopper shopaholics that consume not only selves but also future generations into a economy Armageddon.

      Chinese on the other hand were used to be commies but realized (via the hard war) it's all wrong and then dumped socialism and embraced capitalism and now have become a booming nation of ants.

      If anything, it's the perfect time to be like China, or put it simply, go back to be the good ol' no-socialism-nonsense Americans.
      LBiege
      • We're getting there

        China's prosperity is mainly due to underdeveloped markets coming to fruition, compounded by protectionist policies and unfair trade practices that have benefitted local businesses at the expense of international ones.

        Be like China? You're going to get what you asked for, and then you'll never want to eat crow again.
        n.ang
        • Either way...

          ...the fact remains that as a nation, they are
          producing more than they consume whereas we are
          consuming more than we produce, and our leaders in
          Washington appear to be willing to let us become
          slaves to them.

          You have to hand it to them though; it looks as
          though they're going to win World War IV without
          firing a shot.
          JohnMcGrew
        • Be like China

          Bottomline is China is still booming compared to USA.

          Be like China, not be China. It goes to say that although their way of doing things is questionable and having 'bad' practices (every country has that), they still move as one. That attitude of single-mindedness and teamwork for the good of all is what makes China (of course, they where/are communist for so long) boom.

          Lessons can be learned even from the most unlikely of sources ;-)
          jpamintuan2
      • LBiege - You Are A Complete Idiot

        That's pretty much all I wanted to say....
        Ziah
  • RE: Don't be like China

    Like many EdTechies, I wish that we had filters that let in all of the good and kept out all of the clearly (we could argue about that forever) bad. But, I also think that the, hopefully very occasional, inappropriate content seen by a student could be used as a teachable moment, not as a reason to question whether should be blocking yet another valuable educational tool.

    I imagine admins, with their set of concerns, are less inclined to see a teachable moment and more inclined to worry about the possibility of being sued by some inappropriately irate parent. I have to admit, that's always in the back of my mind, too.
    jlpaluch
  • RE: Don't be like China

    IMO - The best way for content filtering to be 100% effective
    is to block the worst and responsible adults (teachers, aids,
    ed techs) monitoring and mentoring the students - manually
    blocking sites that need to be - and educating the kids about
    sites that should be approached with caution (such as
    services like Youtube).
    chris.levich
  • Do you really believe that's why China is doing this?

    If so, you aren't paying close enough attention.
    No_Ax_to_Grind
  • The best filter in the world is a parent

    My family spent several years in Europe, They knew what a naked body looked like, what sex was, what porn was. For them, it's not illicit and exciting, it is repetitive and boring, like watching infomercials.

    The best filter in the world is a parent who builds up the skills in their child to be discerning and discriminating on their own. We didn't "protect" our kids from knowing about sex and porn, we just taught them what was important, and what was not.
    terry flores
    • A good parent

      filters through education what the child want to see. He can also teach practices that diminish the probability to be confronted to unwanted offensive content.

      But you can only diminish that probability and you are sure your kid will be confronted to material you wish he was not confronted to. Filtering enables you to diminish that probability further, especially at ages were they are the more fragile.
      s_souche
      • Why do they look at the cotent then?

        Ask yourself, why do they look at the content? because they're curious. If they're curious - why don't they talk to you as a parent? maybe you need a good hard look in the mirror and ask yourself why they'd sooner use the internet than talk to their parents about sex, sexuality and growing up.
        Kaiwai
      • Define "offensive content."

        Odds are high that your definition won't match mine.

        Further, I'm not so arrogant as to try to impose even my minimal definition of "offensive content" on my kids. As far as I'm concerned, the "music" they listen to is highly offensive, not because of any obscenity, vulgarity, or what-not, but because it is, to my ears, nothing more than discordant, atonal, noise. If the kids and I can't agree even on music, what chance do we have on anything as amorphous as "offensive content?"
        Henry Miller
        • I'm pretty sure

          I can find exemple of content we would both find offensive.

          I'm sure i can imagine content any parent would find offensive
          s_souche
  • What is important ...

    In order to provide a good protection to kids/teens/students and at the same time be sure to have a blocking policy in adequation with use, you have to implement a mix of blacklist/whitelist/heuristic ( you block anything on the black none of the white and the rest depending on keywork analysis )

    but what is ore important is to open to the user the possibility to change the status of a site or keyword depending on feedback which means you have to have a feedback procedure, which is simple, fast and well advertised.
    s_souche
  • How about a whitelist where website owners must submit their site

    and if they provide identification and agree that their site is "safe" it gets on the list until proven otherwise. However, once proven unsafe the owners are banned from re-entering the list with any site. Since the owners must submit identification enforcement of bans should be easy.
    T1Oracle
  • Can't help thinking that a society which seeks to prevent harm

    to its children by strictly regulating access to what they can see on the Internet (or at least deluding itself that it can do so, at the same time that the children easily evade these restrictions), while refusing to regulate in any meaningful way access to firearms is like the proverbial camel seeking to get through the eye of a needle....

    Henri
    mhenriday
  • Censorship never works

    The biggest confusion that kids have is with the Constitution. They learn about all the rights and freedoms that are guaranteed to every citizen - but somehow they aren't included. Freedom of Speech? Then what does "backtalk" mean? Freedom of the Press? How come you won't let me print that in the school newspaper? Freedom to Bear Arms? What's with the metal detectors? Freedom of Religion? How come we can't have prayer meetings here?

    We teach children what we WANT them to know - not what they ask about. That in itself is censorship. This filtering stuff is but fine tuning . . .
    Roger Ramjet
  • Keep the kids on task.

    Call me old fashiopned but I just can't get ok with the unlimited time wasting that is available on the internet if games, porn, music, video, social networking, chat rooms, etc are wide open.

    I have those blocked at the government who's IT I manage and the school I used to not because of some Henry Ford big brother ego, but rather to keep folks on task. Some one is paying for those teachers time, the buildings, infrastructure, supplies, desks, etc to provide a specific education for the students attending the schools. Schol should not be baby sitting or encouraging kids to explore the limits of digital entertainment.

    Kids can get plemty of socializing, short attention span stimulation and adhoc knowledge when they are off of school hours.

    bernalillo