Converging Technologies: Consequences fo
Sat, 03 Oct 1998 13:07:34 +1000
On 02 Oct 98 15:49:42 +1100 David.Goldstein@aba.gov.au wrote:
>Some of you may be interested in a report by the UK Department of Trade and
>Industry titled `Converging Technologies: Consequences for the new
British Government Explores Content Filters
(09/29/98 10:46 a.m. ET)
By Andrew Craig, TechWeb
The British government renewed Monday its plight to
protect its citizens from harmful content on the
Internet by announcing proposals for a government-led
effort to develop easy-to-use content filters.
But though the use of Internet content filters has
been discussed by governments for several years, the
effectiveness of filters in blocking harmful material
from individuals -- especially children -- is
unproven, according to civil rights groups.
Use of content filters to let individuals decide what
content they want to view on the Web is one of
several convergence issues discussed in the report
titled Converging Technologies: The Consequences For
The New Knowledge-Driven Economy, compiled by the
Future Unit of Britain's Department of Trade and
The report was the result of discussions with
researchers, business teams in the private and public
sector, regulators, and industry associations in the
United Kingdom and United States. The British
government will address the issues raised in the
report in a white paper expected later this year.
A work program is needed, according to the
government-commissioned report, to develop and trial
the style of simple-to-use content filters,
applicable to all electronic media.
Content filters would place the responsibility of
content selection back on the individual, the report
says. "The criminal law would still provide a basic
framework for action against gross content abuse [for
example, child pornography], but the free provision
of software to support content filtering, designed to
be very easy to use, could empower the individual
and/or the family to make such decision," it says.
But civil rights groups said more research should be
conducted into how to protect individuals from
harmful Internet content.
"This policy is not new, and it has been on the table
of the regulators since 1996," said Yaman Akdeniz,
spokesman for U.K.-based Cyber-Rights &
Cyber-Liberties. "But there has not been a major
study or research to assess the real amount of
problems consumers or children may encounter on the
Internet," Akdeniz said.
"The assumption that filters or rating systems will
be the answer is also wrong and remains unproven,"
However, others welcomed the government's support of
"Filters are not going to stop a person who
explicitly looks [for harmful material], but it would
be nice if you could type some words without getting
unwanted stuff," said Robin Clewer, operations
director at Mirago, a U.K. search engine that gives
users the option of filtering out sexual or violent
Content filters should be simple to use, having a
straightforward iconic interface and using familiar
metaphors, according to the report. More complicated
software could create a problem whereby the only
people who could operate it were those we seek to
protect -- the children, it says.