In the history of bad ideas and misguided Internet regulation, I do not think that I have come across something as ludicrous as the latest proposal from the Rt Hon Andy Burnham (Labour – Leigh), the Secretary of State for Culture. Mr Burnham (I’ll dispense with the honorific for now) believes that websites should contain some sort of cinema-style classification system to flag those places of the web not friendly to children. He states that:
“If you look back at the people who created the internet they talked very deliberately about creating a space that Governments couldn’t reach. I think we are having to revisit that stuff seriously now. It’s true across the board in terms of content, harmful content, and copyright. Libel is [also] an emerging issue. There is content that should just not be available to be viewed. That is my view. Absolutely categorical. This is not a campaign against free speech, far from it; it is simply there is a wider public interest at stake when it involves harm to other people. We have got to get better at defining where the public interest lies and being clear about it. I think there is definitely a case for clearer standards online. More ability for parents to understand if their child is on a site, what standards it is operating to. What are the protections that are in place?”
So, the Internet is a big nasty place, we get it. Apparently, children are being harmed by it all the time, I guess that they suddenly find themselves in porn sites, or websites advocating terrorism, drug-abuse, communism, atheism, and maybe even links to My Chemical Romance’s Myspace page. Children must be protected! But how to do it? I know! propose a thoroughly unworkable classification system! That should do it?
Let’s talk smple math here. There are 186 million servers online, serving at least 1 trillion pages. I would like to know how does Mr Burnham propose to classify all of them. If he intends to classify only .uk pages, that is still a crapload of pages, but also sort of defeats the purpose as the entire web would still be available for view, unless he intends to create a big firewall China-style that will somehow filter the web for us.
As this process will take ages, not to mention an army of censors, I’ll get the ball rolling and self-classify my pages. This blog is rated PG.