Are you listening down there in Australia, Stephen Conroy and Kevin Rudd? A new US report has found there is no simple technology solution to protect children from bullying, pornography, sexual predation and other online threats.
The report was to be issued today by the Internet Safety Technical Task Force, led by Harvard University’s Berkman Centre for Internet and Society, but a copy found its way to The Wall Street Journal.
It says the 278-page report is a boon for Web companies, which have long argued that technology isn’t the sole solution to the dangers kids face online. And it is a disappointment for those in favor of stricter technological controls, such as age-verification and filtering tools.
In Australia, the Rudd Government is moving to introduce a controversial, expensive system – at a cost of up to $128 million – that will filter the Internet in a bid to protect children. A trial is due to start this month.
The “clean feed” Internet scheme would impose national content filtering for all Internet connections and would bar Web pages detailed in two blacklists operated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
The proposal has been rejected as draconian, unworkable and a potential invasion of privacy by ISPs, the Internet Industry Association, Digital Liberty Coalition, Electronic Frontier Association and other interested parties.
Just like the real world
The US report was complied by a taskforce that included representatives of several top Internet and security companies, including News Corp.’s MySpace, Google, AOL and Facebook.
They reviewed several types of technologies, including age and identity verification, filtering and auditing, text analysis and biometrics, and found they came up short of a comprehensive way to protect children and teens.
The report also found that deploying these technologies would be costly and could create broader privacy and security problems; and that the risks that minors face on the Web including bullying and harassment by peers aren’t very different from those they face in the real world.