Tuesday, June 03, 2008

COPA, filers, labels: sundries; news in a holding pattern


I still have not found any evidence of “progress” in the Third Circuit (in Philadelphia) of the Department of Justice’s appeal of Judge Lowell Reed’s ruling that the Child Online Protection Act of 1998 is unconstitutional (this blog, March 22, 2007). I’m trying to track this with some other news-tracking sites, like Mixx.

I did find some interesting discussion on the “how things work” sites about how filters for children work. There was a lot of testimony about this at the COPA trial in 2006. The main techniques are blacklists and using keywords. There is a “How Stuff Works” link by Jonathan Strickland that I found on Mixx, link here. But filtering software, like software trying to detect spam, has a hard time placing the context of words it finds, particularly in the English language itself, with its “analytic” grammar (Wikipedia explains that pretty well) and heavy use of idioms and slang and the use of context (rather than conjugation) to establish subjunctive mood or “fictive” speculation.

That’s why a cooperative venture among software developers and companies that facilitate user-generated content on the web to develop labeling schemes ought to be a good thing. Unfortunately, as noted before, the bills currently in Congress aiming at labeling look rather Draconian and inflexible (discussed on this blog previously). I checked recently, and both House and Senate versions have been sent to committees, but are not doing a whole lot (thankfully). (Look at the January 2008 entry on this blog for details for S. 1086 and December 2007 entry for H.R. 837; follow them on govtrack.us .)

There is no substitution for parental involvement in a child’s learning to use the Internet properly, any more than there is a substitute for parental supervision of a teenager’s learning to drive a motor vehicle. And for teens, there is no substitute for real-world success (in bricks-and-mortar learning and regular activities) in a school environment.

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