星期三, 12月 15, 2010

Impact of Multimedia and Information Technology on Pornography & other “inappropriate” or “undesirable” information.


1.    Remember that a distinction is made in searching under the term “pornography” verses “porn” and you should include “pornography” in your searches rather than the term “porn”. Be warned, however, that this is not an absolute rule.

eek information that reports findings regarding the on-line pornography industry regarding areas such as its business worth, technology adoption, governmental control, and adverse societal impact.

The on-line pornography industry has been identified:
- to have high financial value (payments for access to sites, utilization of search engines, increased generation of internet traffic)
- to be an early adopter of some aspects and features of IT (for example; on-linr payment, video streaming)
- to be increasingly subject to government control, including some aspects at an international level (such as the identification, pursuit and capture of people involved with international pedophile rings).

It has been argued by some sectors that the viewing of pornographic materials may have adverse effects upon viewers, specifically altering what may be considered to be social norms with respect to sexuality, sexual practice and activities, and the perceptions and expectations with respect to sexual interactions. If such lines of argument are correct then the wide spread availability and utilisation of pornographic materials as delivered by the internet has the potential to alter broader community values and standards with respect to sexuality and sexist beliefs. There are already some studies indicating that early sexual experiences for young girls (under age of consent) who have been exposed to on-line pornography is more likely to incorporate oral, anal and group sexual activities than those who have not been exposed to on-line pornography and that these activities are occurring more frequently than was the case pre-internet age. These studies can not be said to demonstrate a deterministic relationship (only correlational)…but it may be.

The point of this question is to indicate that the pornographic industry is able to operate openly in many countries, and many aspects of the “industry” are subject to academic investigations in attempts to determine what relative benefits and harms may result to individuals, businesses and societies as a consequence.

  1. Considering Filter Software specifically designed to prevent minors accessing pornographic and/or other inappropriate materials, can you identify two or more commercially available products? What do they have in common? What do they have that is different (if anything)? Comment on aspects of this product range from a business opportunity perspective. How effective would you anticipate these products to be at filtering inappropriate content?

Filtering software products include:
-      Child protector internet filter
-      Netnanny
-      iProtect You
-      surfcontrol
-      Intergard

Most of these products (if not all) offer the same underlying purpose – to enable filtering (and blocking) of undesirable content such as pornographic sites and pornographic materials. Most are recognized by the on-line pornography industry which openly supports these products and registers their sites with the various filtering companies to facilitate the blocking of their sites.

The filtering software enable filters based upon a range of criteria, such as site name (for example; www.sex.com) or specific text strings (for example; xxxx, porn).

The filters, however, are generally not able to identify materials that are intentionally modified to “hide” the nature of the content (for example, describing an explicit sexual image as “people playing”. As much of pornographic material is image based, most filters offer limited protection to identify and block images that are not correctly described.

There may also be unwanted side effects, such as blocking material and sites dealing with reproductive biology for a student who seeks information on “sexual intercourse”, “genitalia” or “female anatomy” as part of their studies in biology.

From a business perspective, the area of filtering software offers the prospect of new products to compete within the market place. Emerging technology will be better able to identify, categorise and block inappropriate images by “viewing” the images and recognizing material that is likely pornographic. For an example see :

  1. What did Tom Wood, then aged 16, do in Australia in 2007 that embarrassed the government in its efforts to provide internet filter software? What lessons can be learnt from this?

The Australian Federal government spent a purported sum in excess of $80 million in developing filtering software to enable the blocking of pornographic materials from searches undertaken by school aged children.

Tom Wood, a 16 year old student, was able to crack the filter within 30 minutes of it going live, on 21/08/2007.

The government, embarrassed, rectified the problem by installing another filter software program, Intergard, only to have Tom again crack the software….though this time it did take him longer (40 minutes).

The ease with which Tom Wood was able to circumvent the filters demonstrates that filters are generally not fail safe.

It also demonstrates that Tom is likely very capable in aspects of information technology and/or programming. Despite the high level skills that Tom has… it should not be possible for anyone to crack such filters in such short time windows….but it is….and once cracked by one “child” it should be anticipated that such knowledge would be provided to others via knowledge dissemination.

(If you would like a free copy of the government provided filter, visit: http://netalert.gov.au)

  1. What are “Bum Fights”? How did they come about? In your opinion, do these appear to be legal? Why? In your opinion do these appear to be ethical? Why?

    (WARNING – You are likely to find links of a sexual nature (avoid these). The aim of this activity is to identify aspects of self-harm and physical attacks undertaken by “vagrants”.

The basic intent behind Bum-Fights is to offer money to homeless people (or other desperate-for-money-people) to entice them to engage in self harm (such as running head first into a brick wall). Fighting with fists, or with weapons, has also occurred.

An argument has been put (by some of the producers of the material) that the people engage in these activities willingly, and so therefore, should be viewed as business opportunities for them.

Others are not so sure. If nothing else, aspects of Occupational Health and Safety may deem such activities as unlawful as there is a legal responsibility to ensure the health and safety of people in your employment….and by having money change hands; this becomes a form of employment.

The issue as described above was brought before the courts in the USA. The producers of the material agreed to cease production and distribution of these materials.

Regardless of any legal verdict….you should be able to determine your own personal views on the practice from an ethical perspective. Is this, or is it not, exploitation?

For further background see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bumfights

  1. You should not undertake searches, but the internet contains information on tasks such as how to kidnap people to obtain a ransom, how to steal children and sell them, how to kill with your bear hands, how to build firearms from scrap metal, how to steal another persons’ identity….and so on.

    Do you believe that such type of information should be so freely available? If so, why? If not….why not?

    What options, if any, can you think of for controlling and/or removing such type of content?

Your views….are all OK, as long as you can justify them.

For me, personally, about 15 years ago I was of a firm view that the internet was a freely available portal making all types of information available….and those who do not want to view it, can choose not too…..and after all, government control and censorship was apparently never going to be effective in cyberspace.

Then (about 15 years ago), in preparing a course on computing aimed at high school teachers, that included aspects of searching the internet by students for assignments, I undertook searches for content that I thought would not likely be available. I was very mistaken. The exercise changed my views entirely. I became convinced that there is something on the net to offend everyone. More importantly, it is likely that there is information that is going to raise concerns for everyone.

This in no way makes it easier to control content…but should raise the importance of the issue regarding availability to inappropriate material. Note that I am not thinking primarily of pornography here. There have been several sources over the years that explicitly indicate how to turn every day house hold items into very powerful weapons, including explosives (and the cost of procurement and production can be minimal).

Some people may find such information interesting (I do). Indeed, I have previously worked in aspects of explosives for the mining industry, but an argument can be put that it is in the best interest of the broader community for such information to not be so freely available, that some element of “control” or “licensing” should e in place ….because if made available to people who for what ever reason wish to cause damage, then they have just been empowered with the knowledge to create such weaponry and explosive devices.

Similar comments will hold for aspects of kidnap, torture, extortion, identity theft, fraud, house breaking, car theft…the list, unfortunately, is long.

Several years ago I would direct students to undertake searches on these content areas…and invariably a wealth of information on such activities would fall out from the searches. The laws in Australia have changed and as a result some students have indicated a refusal to do such searches due to fear of being identified by policing agencies (if not now, then perhaps in the future, as all of these records are kept). The point is valid, and so are aspects of ethics. The content is still available on the web but I no longer direct students to undertake the searches. On the contrary…I direct students to not undertake the searches. This is both due to possible policing aspects, and also because there is perhaps no need for students to know the details on how to make explosives….just that the information does exist freely.

So what can be done to remove these islands of content?

Well, for starters, I strongly believe that the web-sites that offer pornography should remove all images from the freely available landing-pages of their sites and to make them available only to those people who have registered to the site (using a credit card or like, which is only obtainable to adults). I also believe that a complete subset of the net could be enacted that would only be available if a positive request to be registered with that area was made (again, requiring evidence of being a legal adult). This could work for internet business propositions.

With respect to the other types of material….very difficult. Anarchists still reign and will continue to cook up ways of presenting such information. As international cooperation increases there may be greater policy and policing regarding such materials, but it will only be effective for “identified” sites. There will remain material that, like encrypted images of child pornography, will continue to circulate, at least for now.

  1. Many minors (children) today carry mobile phones, and these are often able to capture images. Consider one such minor (child) who captures an image of him/herself undressed and “sexts” this to a friend (child) in a different state who then sends this to another friend (child) in another country who then sends it to their elder sibling (adult) who uploads this image to the internet which is then viewed by an adult in another distinct country.

    Identify some of the potential issues in trying to determine who, if anyone, has been involved in illegal and/or unethical behavior.


  1. Why do some governments wish to place filters at the Internet Service Provider (ISP) level?


  1. Visit and browse the following two sites:
What do these sites offer? How are these related, if at all, to aspects of inappropriate material?

Both of these sites provide a source of political activism. “moveon” is for the United States of America context, and “getup” for the Australian context.

The sites typically offer comments against various government policy and encourage users to voice their concerns about such policies, and provide advice on how to voice such concern (such as addresses of who to write to in government).

The relation of these sites to inappropriate content? Well, what is and is not inappropriate is largely based upon an individual’s world view of politics, religion, morals and so on.

So, the government of the day may view these sites as “inappropriate”, or at least as “undesirable”….but the nature of the internet enables free speech because comments may be effectively published on-line without needing to go through editorial boards (or government sanctioned reviews) that exist for conventional hard-copy magazines or papers.

Just as the internet provides a vehicle for the distribution of pornographic images and recipes for explosives, so too it provides a vehicle for “free” speech.

The above comments are of course subject to a disclaimer: they only apply in “free” (democratic) countries where such freedoms exist. Countries that hold an autocratic government which dictates what is “allowed” to be seen, known, thought or said…can, and do, block sites deemed to be “inappropriate”. People associated with such sites can be, and are, prosecuted.