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Hell in a handcart Technology

Save the children (from porn)

Another day, another bit of blabbing on a radio programme. Yesterday’s blab was for Edinburgh station Talk 107, and the subject was pornography: specifically, stopping kids from seeing it. I’ve talked about the issue endlessly, but this time out as I trotted out the usual things – investigate parental controls, blah blah blah – I was thinking that parental controls are a pain in the arse.

Whether you’re on OS X or Windows, content filtering isn’t brilliant. Stick with the default browser and you’ve got a whitelist system (Mac and Windows), and in the case of Windows you can also use ICRA ratings, although I wonder how many people really know about it. If your browser’s Firefox, there’s a couple of add-ons and Greasemonkey scripts, and that’s about it.

One thing that struck me post-programme was: we’re getting quite good at identifying phishing scams, particularly now anti-phishing tech is in the major browsers. The filters are getting really good really quickly: I needed to get a screengrab of a phishing site the other week and it took hours, because every single fraudulent email in my inbox had already been added to the database.

Would a porn-filtering equivalent work? A cross-browser, cross-platform, not-run-by-lunatics, kids-can’t-bypass-it system that (when enabled) would compare a site or page against a big database (and/or analyse its content) and then block it if it’s full of horse porn? Something that doesn’t rely on site builders rating and classifying their own sites?

Does such a thing exist? The closest equivalent I can find is the ICRA content rating system and the ICRAplus filter, but that’s a Windows-only thing. I’m thinking more of a cross between Firefox’s anti-phishing filter and Google SafeSearch. I’m deliberately discounting the various family-friendly software programs out there, because as far as I know they have their own, separate databases: I reckon that the most effective database would be a big one that everybody uses.