Child Protection Orgs Weigh In on China Filtering Mandate

LOS ANGELES — Various child protection organizations have weighed-in on the debate over China's recent move to mandate filtering software in all computers sold in the country.

Tim Henning, Technology and Forensic Research Director of the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection, told he can't provide a full analysis of the software until he's seen it and tried it.

But he did offer a technical perspective.

"A simple filter will not monitor end user activity, but will simply block content for which it was designed to block," Henning said.

"There are child protection software products available that include a filter but also spyware designed to track end user activity including websites visited, IM messages, e-mail and even keystroke loggers all contained in one software package," Henning noted. "This type of software is also commonly used by employers to keep track of staff online as well as spouses who suspect their partner may be unfaithful, The technology is nothing new but the morality/ethics of its use has been the subject of hot debate.”

In what may be surprise to many, some conservative groups in the U.S.have come out against the mandatory placement of such software in America. These orgs include the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, whose spokesperson Rick Schatz said they oppose all porn, but also supports current civil rights as they stand now, reports One News Now.

"The United States very strongly supports the First Amendment, the right of free speech — and whether we like it or not, the courts have held and people have supported the fact that much content that's on the Internet or other places may be disturbing, may be harmful, but it's not been found to be illegal in our country," Schatz said. 

Still, Schatz and NCPCF seek to "curb the desire for pornography," and suggest viewing porn is harmful even to an adult, though much research as shown otherwise.

Meanwhile, in the UK, one pressure group, Mediamarch — also a politically conservative body — wants to see Britain implement a preinstalled computer filter plan similar to China, though without any political censorship.

According to The Register Mediamarch's Miranda Suit takes the "porn is harmful" stance as well and wants to see filtering.

"All computers should be provided with net filtering software loaded — and the default position for such filters should be on," Suit said, though she did add that a government blacklist of sites could lead to all sorts of censorship.

John Beyer, director of a related pressure group, Mediawatch, has a different view, called China's approach "bureaucratic" and suggested a global agreement on acceptable content, plus numerous voluntary agreements by Internet service providers to restrict access to material tagged as pornographic.

Such a proposal is murky, however, as one nation's "unacceptable material" may be fine for another country. Plus, cutting deals with ISPs in one single nation has already proven to be complex in so many areas of rights, restrictions and such, so the prospect of worldwide agreements appears quite unrealistic.

As ASACP has said again and again, it all begins with parent involvement, knowing what their children are doing on computers. And there are plenty of options when it comes to parental control and child-protection software. Plus, there's another basic question: Do parents really want a government to tell them how to parent?

"The tools already exist and Restricted to Adults — RTA and ICRA labels are already recognized by the major parental control filters," ASACP CEO Joan Irvine told

Irvine also cited a Progressive Freedom Foundation white paper, “Who Needs Parental Controls? Assessing the Relevant Market for Parental Control Technologies,” which stated: "Parental control technologies are now ubiquitously available, increasingly easy to use, and also increasingly free-of-charge. Indeed, there has never been a time in our nation’s history when parents have had more tools and methods at their disposal to help them decide what constitutes acceptable media content in their homes and in the lives of their children."