Wednesday, 16 December 2009

That Internet Filter

We've all talked about it, laughed at it, feared it and soon we might be crying about it. In fact the crying might have already wait, I know it has...I also cried a bit about that Internet filter today but after reading some arguments and thinking about it some more I've had an idea.

There is some material online that should be intrinsically blocked. I think we all know what I'm talking about. There are stories of people who've accidentally hit a page that they had not expected. Now one of course could ask the question "what do you expect when searching for porn?". That's right...this guy has tried to download some porn and woohoo it turns out to be porn but of a nature he did not expect and did not want! The problem now is you may be traced to a site like this. It may be an innocent mistake or bad luck due to poor file naming on the Internet, cause we all know that what you see is what you get when it comes to the net. Either way, this poor bloke gets in trouble for downloading illegal material when looking for legal material.

What do I suggest?

Well...I suggest things of a criminal nature be blocked for all, things not of an illegal nature blocked if requested much like cable TV. For instance you don't get illegal material on cable TV (well not in Australia, I do not know about other countries but one can assume) but there is the various adult channels. In the case of cable TV those types of channels would incur an extra subscription fee, which I am not suggesting for the Internet but perhaps there could be a way for end-users to have more say as to what is and what is not blocked. Make it a part of the package selection and something that can be modified as you go.

One household might have a young child who is at an age to access the net where they can learn and play games* but then the parents might want to access other material; or the subscriber could have no children, be a single adult or something like that and not want their connection filtered in that way. It could even get as modular as the subscriber being given the choice to choose what content is or is not available like gambling,  porn or drug references, etc. For example, maybe the partner of a reformed gambler might want gambling blocked. The base filter blocks sites or content of sites that is illegal and then the subscriber can elect a no password system whereby no extra filtering occurs or some extra filtering occurs hence requiring a password to access that material.

The problem is of course, what should be on the blacklist for the base filter? Mistakes have been made before, remember the QLD dentist's website that was added to the blacklist? Not so good for business. Though apart from that there is also the issue of "what is illegal and should be blocked?". There is content out there that discusses matters of an illegal nature which might be required for conducting research, be it for an assignment or some other legitimate activity. I think that images and video of an illegal nature would be more troubling content as opposed to text, not to say that sites with illegal text based content don't exist, it's just that I imagine it's worse. I would say all of us or hopefully all of us agree that that material is something none of us want to view, be it online or not.

My next point relates to an ISP giving the end-user a chance to create his or her Internet package. As mentioned I suggested that an end-user be able to pick and choose what they do and don't mind filtered, but if nothing is selected then the default would have to be no filtering. Then maybe we could also add on an extra part to our subscription package, namely, legal movie downloads. I think Telstra Bigpond do this (though I'm not a customer). The end-user could then create a package that suits them. Granting that the base filter on illegal content is applied by default, the user could then select what, if any, elements of potentially unsuitable content be filtered/blocked and also pay a bit more to legally download movies from their ISP. They could use torrents trackers to find out what's being downloaded, purely for accounting purposes so that the appropriate funds can be distributed each month to the recording and film industries or the ISP could partner with a movie download site like netflix.

Of course, for example, if your monthly Internet usage bill is around $60 then you add $20 to get half your quota allocated to legitimate downloads as mentioned, it still might not cover the costs of the amount of data downloaded and that where I think the ISP should chip in, seeing as we pay extraordinary prices for not-so-extraordinary connection speeds and not to mention, it's still cheaper for the ISP to do that than be sued by the above mentioned industries. Maybe all or only some of the monthly quota is allocated to downloads of this nature, maybe the files will have some feature that makes them unusable after a certain amount of time or maybe we could do what they've done in Sweden with free movie streaming/downloads. The catch? Well you either watch for free and endure a couple of advertisements at the beginning or pay a small subscription fee to remove the advertisements.

I know it might appear odd for someone who's be crying foul at the Government and recording/film corporations for what they're doing to do a 360 like this and ask if maybe the filter isn't so bad, but maybe the wild west is no more, maybe it's progressing as our society has done to this point, only at an accelerated rate.
I'm not not always right and I don't presume to be. I also don't hold everything I've said above as truths; I'm merely making suggestions, throwing ideas out into the wild west that is the Internet and looking for answers. Make sure to comment as this is an important issue for all of us, not only for us Australians.

You win! I ROCK!
Good night Seattle.