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.

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