Posts Tagged filtering

I heart Hillary

In an address to the Newseum yesterday in Washington DC, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton explored the importance of internet freedom.  The position of the United States was spelled out very clearly:

We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognize that the world’s information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it. Now, this challenge may be new, but our responsibility to help ensure the free exchange of ideas goes back to the birth of our republic.

Hillary Clinton, I’d like to introduce you to the dishonourable Stephen Conroy.  He likes long walks on the beach, and slowing down Australia’s internet access because he’s awful scared that we Aussies are going to get into bestiality and stuff.

I mean, we ALL acknowledge that “when it comes to curious kids with technically-adept mates and plenty of time on their hands, or desperately secretive pedophiles trading their nasties, the filter will be nothing but a minor inconvenience.”

But today I was just so pleased to see this debate return to the sphere of philosophy, rather than technicality.

Yes, I oppose the filter because it will slow the internet down.

Yes, I oppose the filter because it is a wate of time and money to implement a scheme that anyone can bypass if they are so inclined.

But, above all of this, I agree with Hillary, and applaud the United States for taking such a hard line on the restriction of the free exchange of ideas.

Colin Jacobs today put it nicely when he explored the Australian Government’s self-serving media release which took Clinton’s comment that “all societies recognise that freedom of expression has its limits” and spun it so fast that it made me dizzy.  Jacobs republished Clinton’s comment in context, and it is worth reposting them here:

Now, all societies recognize that free expression has its limits. We do not tolerate those who incite others to violence, such as the agents of al-Qaida who are, at this moment, using the internet to promote the mass murder of innocent people across the world. And hate speech that targets individuals on the basis of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation is reprehensible. It is an unfortunate fact that these issues are both growing challenges that the international community must confront together. And we must also grapple with the issue of anonymous speech. Those who use the internet to recruit terrorists or distribute stolen intellectual property cannot divorce their online actions from their real world identities. But these challenges must not become an excuse for governments to systematically violate the rights and privacy of those who use the internet for peaceful political purposes.

OK, so she’s probably talking a little bit more about China than she is about Australia here, but as a teacher in a NSW public school, I have seen how horribly wrong a well-intended filtering system can turn out.

FACT: People in charge of filters get it wrong.  Anyone who’s ever had to deal with government agencies like Centrelink know that the system can’t be trusted to make no mistakes.  Carbon-based errors abound.

FACT: Filters are not sensitive enough to ambiguous content. The classic example in schools is the filtering of sites relating to the book Moby Dick.

FACT: SLOPES ARE SLIPPERY! And I don’t trust our government to decide what’s best for me considering decisions that have been made relating to euthanasia, gay marriage and abortion laws.

Senator Conroy’s report was released last December, just in time to spoil our Christmas break.  I’m so glad that an antidote has come today in the shape of Hillary Clinton to bolster our cause in time for Australia Day!


Save the Net – sign the petition

The Federal Government is planning to force all Australian servers to filter internet traffic and block any material the Government deems ‘inappropriate’. Under the plan, the Government can add any ‘unwanted’ site to a secret blacklist.

Testing has already begun on systems that will slow our internet by up to 87%, make it more expensive, miss the vast majority of inappropriate content and accidentally block up to 1 in 12 legitimate sites. Our children deserve better protection – and that won’t be achieved by wasting millions on this deeply flawed system.

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Edublogs blocked by DET

Well, the NSW DET has finally gotten up to blocking the last place we had left to blog, edublogs.  Along with everything else.

Any site that can be classified as a blog or wiki is blocked to students from years 6-10 at best – most are blocked for senior students too.  The constant fear that we all now must live with of our students having any interaction *whatsoever* with the outside world lives on.  Forget using edublogs, pbwiki, twitter, edmodo, wordpress…the list goes on.

Add to this the continued blocking of two of the most used/useful sites on the whole internet – Google apps and YouTube – and what is there left on the internet to use??

The DET released a new version of guidelines for creating blog sites in December 2008.  Though it is hard to understand the point of this, when the sites are blocked anyway.  Am I missing something here?  And, while I understand the importance of ensuring student privacy, consider the following requirements included in the guidelines:

  • All users must be registered and password protected to prevent anonymous contributions.
  • All contributions are moderated by the Teacher Administrator before publication.

I can see where they are coming from.  Honestly.  But guidelines like this make it either untenable or just plain uncomfortable to use a blog with a class.  Students who have problems signing up, logging on, or remembering a password will be disengaged with the blog and class management becomes a joke in blogging lessons where kids can’t get onto their blog.  And moderating comments before they are published is just too much.  This is like asking kids to run their classroom answers past you before they say them out loud!

Using online learning spaces provide students with opportunities to learn about cyberbullying and ‘netiquette’ – shielding students from online environments will not adequately prepare them for the world of work into which they will enter post-school.  School rules, student welfare, and sound pedagogical practices are not abandoned in these online spaces – if anything, the transparency of these sites (your Principal, or your student’s parents, could decide to take a look at any time!) is more likely to promote professional practice.



Do YOU know how to get a website unblocked?

ED: 19th March, 2012 – the information contained in this post may no longer be relevant. See visitor comments at the end relating to changes under the new ‘DEC’.

A recent post by Will Richardson, Filter Fun, got me thinking again about the situation with the (highly sensitive) web filter in my DET school.

I wonder – if only more teachers were proactive about applying for blocked websites to be UNBLOCKED, would the filter crew start to get a sense of how much they have (unnecessarily) blocked?  If they were hit with as many UNBLOCK requests as we are hit by ‘Blocked Site’ pages, would they be a little more careful about blocking potentially useful sites?

This term has been a constant struggle for me – teaching video games as a text in the English classroom required students to use internet searches for information and images relating to video games, game characters and game consoles.

At every turn we were blocked by the web filter.  Reason?  The sites we wanted to look at fell under the “Games” category.

Well…yeah.  Of course they did!  We were researching ‘games’!

I have to admit that, for my part, I did not apply at any stage this term to have a website UNBLOCKED.  Doing this is a pretty easy process if you are in a NSW DET school:

  1. Log on to the Portal
  2. Choose the ‘My applications’ tab
  3. Click on ‘Account Administration’ from the list below
  4. Choose ‘Web Filter Check’ and fill in the forms as instructed.

In my defense, however, I musy explain that the research work that we were doing required the students to search the web independently, which meant the focus was not on websites that I had found and unblocked for them.  As the unblocking process is not instant, it is of little help for teachers and students in the middle of a pre-booked lesson on the library computers!

If you are working within the NSW DET filter, here are some instructions for applying for a website to be unblocked that I made for my faculty.  Let me know if I got anything wrong – otherwise, spread the word that sites CAN BE UNBLOCKED!

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Internet Filtering

A video that talks about the current problems with school internet filtering:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Internet Filtering“, posted with vodpod

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