Filtering of the Worst Kind

I was recently reviewing some updates to a proprietary learning management system I’ve had some experience with over the years (although the company will need to remain nameless for privacy reasons). In the most recent version, they’ve launched a whole host of internet filtering “subscriptions” that effectively black-list a range of sites related to any topic you can think of.

While none of us object to dangerous and obscene sites being unavailable for children to access over our network, I had to do a double-take when looking at the list below:

New categories:

‘Interactive Web Applications’
‘Fashion/Beauty’
‘Software/Hardware’
‘Potential Illegal Software’
‘Content Server’
‘Internet Services’
‘Media Sharing’
‘Incidental Nudity’
‘Marketing/Merchandising’
‘Parked Domain’
‘Pharmacy’
‘Restaurants’
‘Real Estate’
‘Recreation/Hobbies’
‘Blogs/Wiki’
‘Digital Postcards’
‘Historical Revisionism’
‘Technical Information’
‘Dating/Personals’
‘Motor Vehicles’
‘Professional Networking’
‘Social Networking’
‘Text Translators’
‘Web Meetings’
‘Controversial Opinions’
‘Residential IP Addresses’
‘Browser Exploits’
‘Consumer Protection’
‘Illegal UK’
‘Major Global Religions’
‘Malicious Downloads’
‘PUPs’

In all honesty, I don’t know how I could operate with a heavy black-list of “interactive sites” that render some of the more exciting offerings of the internet like “blogs/wikis” off limits. I’d be downright scared to think of the implications of me stopping my students from engaging with “controversial opinions” and making up their own minds on issues. Why should we prevent students from exploring their own “hobbies and interests,” using “media sharing” to publish and share their work collaboratively or checking up on “technical information” when it is needed?

Is it fundamentally wrong for a child to look at a list of “restaurants” or accessories for “motor vehicles” to recommend for Fathers Day? Why shouldn’t they make use of “professional networking” and “web meetings” to connect with professionals from universities and industry to inform their work? And how can we possibly promote tolerance without a greater understanding of “major global religions?”

The really scary part about all of this is that we put the critical thinking around how these sites are used in the too-hard basket when we sign up for subscription blacklists like these. What does that say about us as a society?

 

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About Michael

Cellist, singer/songwriter, school teacher, nerd, recent scooter enthusiast and failed philosopher.
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