84 million dollar porn filter circumvented by teen in 30 minutes

This brief but popular story about an Australian teenager doing an end-run around a government sponsored pornography filter doesn’t have much to do with libraries. However, it has some applicability to our CIPA situation here in the states in a few ways.

  1. Filtering is expensive but no one knows how expensive. Should a porn filter for your library cost $100 or $1000 or $10000? Should you pay less for one that works less well? Is it even acceptable to have one that doesn’t work? Do any porn filters actually work completely well, any at all?
  2. The filter in the story was created, at a cost of $84 million, and would be made available free to every family in Australia. This is in addition to the government wanting to require all ISPs to make a filtering option available with their services. A quick read of this second article indicates that the filters aren’t just for porn, or rather there are varieties of the filter one of which also filters chat rooms. Now chat rooms can be used for porn but they can also be used in many other legitimate ways. I’d argue legitimate uses account for almost all chatroom use among children and young adults. So, beware of mission creep. If you’re trying to stop kids from looking at explicit sex pictures, that’s one thing. If you’re trying to stop them from communicating with others or being communicated with in ways you don’t approve of, be above board about it.
  3. Any librarian who has to work with filtering software knows the ways that kids or others get around it. There’s the Google cache hack, the Google images hack, anonymous proxies, proxies from home and many many more. If you can get to the internet at all, you can figure out, usually, how to get to the rest of the Internet.

Want to try it yourself? Here’s some instructions.

6 comments for “84 million dollar porn filter circumvented by teen in 30 minutes

  1. 29Aug07 at 12:30

    If you just need basic porn filtering, OpenDNS (www.opendns.com), in partnership with St. Bernard, offers it for “free”: http://www.opendns.com/start/features/adult/

    The service is evolving and recently added whitelisting and proxy blocking.

    Of course no filter works “completely well”, but is that the point?

  2. 29Aug07 at 3:42

    Yeah, what Kruthy says is right. Our filter is pretty dang good, and it’s price is better than $84,000,000. It’s Free. :-)

  3. Meg
    30Aug07 at 12:55

    I don’t disagree with what the Aussie government is doing, actually, aside from the price tag associated with it. It seems to me that rather than forcing filters which don’t work on everyone (via financial penalties in public schools/libraries, like in the US *cough*), they’ve provided them for people who want them. And they’ve provided two levels, so if you know you’d somehow mess up setting up the filtering software on your computer, you can ask your ISP to filter your connection. They’ve provided varying levels of control for people who want to attempt to block varying levels of whatever according to their beliefs or kids’ ages.

    I think that’s reasonable. I’m all for adults being able to make that decision for their families, so long as accompanying the software/filtering is notification that it’s an imperfect science and may screw up a lot.

    Now how the hell it cost $84 million… *boggles*

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