Thursday, February 26, 2015

Blogger plans to ban porn raises question, why not resume the ICRA content-labeling project (was in the UK), have Google pick it up and run with it


The very recent controversy over Google’s plans to ban “sexually explicit” images and videos from public-mode sites on Blogger (apparently including those equated to domain names) on March 23, seems to short circuit a real debate we should resume, content labeling.
  
Right now, “adult” blogs are supposed to throw an interstitial web page warning viewers, who are required to sign on to Google to show they are adults.  “Adult” YouTube videos don’t throw the page, but do flash a requirement to sign on, too. 
  
One problem with this approach is that visitors tend to presume that this means the material behind the interstitial is pornography.  But, as explored earlier, many non-pornographic sites should not be seen by less mature minors, and it is possible for a site to be pornographic or adult with words alone, and no images (although c.p. laws in the US apply only to images or videos and possibly drawings or cartoons; overseas they sometimes apply to words as well).
 
AOL experimented with content labeling with its "Hometown AOL" blogging platform which it shut down in 2007, and provided a way for users to export to Blogger. 
      
Google could have an opportunity here, to pick up the work abandoned by the former Internet Contnt Rating Association and later the Family Online Safety Institute.  Google could develop a metatag or semantic web application to allow bloggers or web publishers to label their content (in a number of categories, including violence, and age range) and then make seamless changes to the Chrome browser (and its search engines – although the latter largely happens now) so that parents could set up the settings on kids’ computers or phones.  In a typical family (although a low-income family will have more problems with this), the parents could have, say, laptops or their own phones with full access.  Kids’ computers could be set up for more restricted access.  Users could reach age-appropriate content without the objectionable “pornography” warning.  Google would have to network with other vendors (Apple for Safari, Firefox, Microsoft for Internet Explorer, Wordpress for other blogging platforms, and even vendors of Website creation software like Microsoft Expression Web) to come up with consistency of standards. 
  
This effort was largely carried out in the UK before.  I don’t know why it was stopped. 
  
The effort would require a project team, a consortium, and hiring both systems analysts (to hammer down the requirements) and experienced coders on multiple platforms and hardware.  Yes, it would cost something, and yes, it would create more jobs, in places like Silicon Valley, Texas, North Carolina, and probably Canada and the UK.  It might be managed from Britain because it started there. 
  
I am retired now, and an independent writer.  But would I help with this?  Yes.   But it would sound like a job, at 71 for me 

Really, the pressure against service providers regarding terror recruiting from overseas will soon be a much bigger problem than porn. 



Update:  Feb. 27

Blogger has deferred the new policy;  see the Product Forums for Blogger today (link). 

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