Filters not Censors for WWW

Brian Farrar (Farrar@
Fri, 2 Dec 1994 19:14:54 +0100

*---Nathan Wagner writes in response to my suggestion for a client filter:
| Would it be possible from a programming pov to run a filter along with
| existing browsers which would only permit access to a limited (pre-approved)
| set of adresses? IOW, that way a teacher could permit access to say,
| SpaceLink or the Smithsonian (or whatever) while denying access to other
| sites? Any ideas, anyone?

*--- David Bianco replys
| leaving aside the question of whether or not this is desirable (I have
| doubts yet), it's extremely possible. The HTTP proxy method is a
| *great* way to implement document filtering.

*--- Simon Reed adds
| ...
| And anyway, if we restrict information flow over the Internet, we will
| immediately circumvent it ourselves!

*--- Jared Rhine
| ...
| In other words, "access to specific sites" in _not_ an ideal solutions to
| this problem.

Somehow we have strayed *far* afield from my original intention when I wrote
my "browser based filter" missive. First of all it seems we have wandered
into the minefield of censorship (which is given excellent coverage in any
number of mailing lists).

I thought the basis of the discussion was more aimed at the following:
given the fact that many people want to use the WWW, and of those people
some of them will find material that assaults their sensibilities,
how can information continue to flow freely across the net for those that are
not so faint of heart, while "protecting" the more fragile.

Proxy's clearly are not the answer to this set of criteria. First, such a proxy
can only be administered for a group not an individual (in most cases). Thus,
even the most benevolent gate master is making content type decisions for
the rest of the "gated". And as Simon points out, site based filters can and
be circumvented.

The theory behind my browser filter idea was that the information is stopped
by the individual at his own "doorstep". Based solely upon explicit
*content* based criteria (ie text
with the word "sex" in it). Not based on a site (can a site really be "bad" or
does it just promote "bad things"). Yes I know a language and content based
would be hard for an individual to administer, but shouldn't it be? I
believe the answer is
yes because it places responsibility for *censorship* solely in the hands of
the appropriate
authority -- me for myself and you for yourself (and your children if your
with that).


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