Monday, 5 August 2013

Think of the children!

Just reading the Thinkbroadband blog they make an interesting suggestion.

The simple idea of an http header flagging the user as a child. Perhaps it should flag within some age bands.

There are, of course, two ways to do this, and both would need web server and browser support, but they are not rocket science, and they are working at the right level and in the right place.

One side is for web sites to have a header indicating an age rating for the content. The browser could have an admin level account setting indicating the user's age, and so block any age inappropriate content.

The other side is the client could send a header with an age band, pre-set in the browser user settings at an admin level, and the server could refuse to serve age inappropriate content. This does mean giving some personal information on every web request.

Either way, but ends need to know something. The server needs to know it has some 18+ content, and the browser needs to know it has a 15 year old in front of it.

The client side is relatively simple for this, and I am sure windows, and apple, and firefox, and chrome could easily start to handle any standard that comes along - especially if it is a really simple standard. If there is a standard, I doubt there would be much opposition to this.

The server side is slightly more complex as it does mean "adult websites" owning up to being adult websites. Bear in mind that this covers a lot more than porn. Alcohol manufacturers ask web users if they are over 18, for example.

Well, they might. If porn sites are facing the prospect of countries doing default-on blocking, then they may be interested in, at least seeming to, co-operate.

In practice these sites are there to make money. They are not going to make money from minors. Showing porn to minors is wasting their resources and upsetting governments!

So they may well be happy to either mark their sites as 18+, or check "Child-Age-Band" headers sent by clients.

I think there are actually standards for this though already - for servers stating the type of content - so is this debate moot anyway.

The idea of a browser header saying an age band would be useful for more than just filtering though - sites selling goods could not offer to sell to minors.

7 comments:

  1. This idea sounds much too good - so probably won't happen. Still needs some supervision at the user end, to make sure the children only use their own browser sessions - but otherwise it's the obvious, most simple and therefore least likely solution.

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  2. There are already standards for websites to publish "content ratings" in the HTTP headers. For example, PICS: http://www.w3.org/PICS/ (although IMHO PICS is way too complex for the job in hand, and there are a couple of other more sensible standards)

    Unfortunately no one uses them. I certainly don't support mandatory filtering, but I'd support some legislation demanding that websites use one of the classification systems so that people can _voluntarily_ filter their pages.

    I would say that I'd even support legislation requiring ISPs to offer opt-in filtering systems to their customers, but this seems completely unnecessary since various ISPs have been offering such systems for a while now - if people wanted the filtering, its already available; the fact that people don't take the providers up on these offers and then complain about their kids seeing porn is probably more a comment on their parenting skills than anything else.

    Of course, any filtering you offer at the ISP side is going to cover the whole household, far better to have per-user controls within the household itself. Anyway, people need to accept that filtering is never going to stop people intentionally accessing content - it stops people accidentally stumbling across it, that's all. If you implement end-device based restrictions, the horny teenagers will just install another browser; if you implement ISP-side filtering, the horny teenagers will use a proxy or (more likely) steal their parents' password and turn it off!

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  3. Sites selling free-to-play games could take advantage of the lack of discrimination of their minor users.

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  4. But that puts the responsibility back on the parents rather than Evil Faceless Corporations, so that'll never do...

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  5. Why don't they punish the parents who use the internet as their child minder,more Censorship isn't needed or wanted, and neither is what censorship we currently already have IWF ect,
    Apart from a PC helping with educational stuff, there's no need for kids to be sat in front of a computer on the internet for hours each day, this is a problem with society not the net

    If this breaks my internet or the ISP increases the monthly subs to cover it's costs for this non sense I'll sell my pc and cease my internet altogether, and they can get on with there walled garden rubbish

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  6. Many adult sites already use the RTA meta tag:

    http://davidwalsh.name/rta-label

    It can also be served as a HTTP header. I believe there are already filtering products out there that work with it.

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  7. Ha ha @steve - your post has the phrase "horny teenagers" and thus scores to high on my Dan's Guardian to be read!

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