Thursday, September 06, 2007

Filtration: Episode II

More on the issue of Internet filtering and libraries. Yesterday morning I was out running an errand, and caught the tail end of a radio interview with psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg. He was promoting his new book, Real Wired Child: What Parents Need to Know About Kids Online. As I mentioned in a previous post, our federal government is planning to provide free Internet filtering to households and public libraries. Carr-Gregg remarked that every public library will have a designated "safe" terminal with a filter installed. For terminals without filters, it will be up to the librarians to monitor their usage. He sees this as unreasonable, because it will require librarians to act as Internet police, as he put it.

I actually don't see this as unreasonable at all. Libraries are community spaces, utilised by members of the public from all walks of life, and as a librarian, I have a professional obligation to ensure that my patrons can use their library without the risk of being exposed to inappropriate online material. If this means reprimanding patrons who access this material, then so be it. As I mentioned in my earlier post on this issue, this has rarely been an issue in my professional life. Having said that, even working in a Christian organisation, one cannot afford to be naive about this problem. I imagine that my counterparts in public libraries would have the same attitude.


Anonymous said...

Hi Ross,

I heard on the radio about the news re: internet filter on public libraries. I think it's good to have a designated area for juinior users in a public library. However, it should be the parents' responsibility to supervise their children's Internet use. The computer and Internet are wonderful resources to explore the world of KNOWLEDGE, but use inappropriately will result in undesirable consequences. I just heard on the news that 50% of young people surveyed reported that they have been invited to meet with someone (a stranger)they 'met' through the Internet!

I hope there are more discussion at Church about inprinting Christian values to our children to combat worldly values.

Naramburn Anglican Church, Sydney

FiKaLo said...

It's a great idea. Obviously parents need to be involved and concerned with their kids, but it's great if society will help us raise our kids rather than actively opposing our values.

Ross McPhee said...

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your views. Net nasties are a real problem. Filtering has its place, but it's only part of the solution. These things have to start in the home, with parental supervision.

ADHD Librarian said...

my problem with filters is not that they make librarians into policemen, but rather that they can be so problematic.
In my library we've had the IT staff remove filtering on the public machines, although it is still there on staff machines.
I have had so many problems with the filter when I've been doing (mostly work-related) reference searching.

I have had an online critique of the bible as it relates to sexuality locked out because it contained 'sex acts'. Well, it would, wouldn't it?
I have also had an online dictionary locked for the same reason. Yes, a dictionary contained rude words (something I was surprised to learn when I was five, but soon learned wasn't very interesting.

On the flip side, images are the main concern in a public library as they cause concern to others who may not want to see them, but a computer can recognise the word sex, but is incapable of recognising a photo or video of two people having sex.
So if I put a video of myself 'on the job' online, but I call it Librarian On The Job it will probably not be blocked.

The other problem is the abdication of responsibility by parents once they know there is a filter. It is not my right to monitor the reading or viewing habits of other peoples children, unless the reading material is legally classified. So I wouldn't let anyone under 15 borrow a MA15+ DVD, but that is about the extent of my legal rights/responsibilities.
There are plenty of nasty things I wouldn't want my kids to read/view which are happily sitting on the shelves in print form but other people let their kids read them.
There are plenty of nasty things online which shouldn't be filtered out but of which parents should supervise their children's use.

A filter is in short a showy measure which can be relaunched in the lead up to an election but which offers very little in the way of any real benefit.

Ross McPhee said...

ADHD, I also wonder why the NetAlert scheme, which has been around for years, is being so heavily promoted before the election.