UK Culture Secretary Andy Burnham Wants Websites To Be Rated... To Protect The Children

from the can-we-rate-Andy-Burnham-instead? dept

The UK sure does have one impressively clueless culture secretary in Andy Burnham. We first came across him nearly a year ago, when he was suggesting that it should be ISPs' responsibility to deal with file sharing by monitoring usage and cutting off users who file share. Then, just a few weeks ago, he made an incredibly poorly thought out speech, where he pushed for copyright extension on performance rights, not for any good reason -- but because of some odd "moral" compunction to take content away from the public and give it to the record labels. For this he was roundly criticized by those who actually understand the topic.

But, of course, it appears he can't stop there. His latest move is to suggest that all websites should be rated and ISPs should be responsible for blocking access to inappropriate content, "for the children" of course. Burnham seems to think that the proliferation of information online is a bad thing:
"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.... 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."
Because, that's just what the world needs: more government censorship determining what is and what is not "appropriate" online. This is the typical mistake made by politicians who think the internet is a content platform, and not a communications platform. If he's going to censor the internet for such content, will he also make it illegal to say bad things over the phone?

To make it even more ridiculous, he wants to take the UK's libel laws -- already some of the most draconian around -- and make them even worse. He wants it to be easier than ever to sue for defamatory speech, apparently not noticing how many bogus defamation lawsuits are brought by those who are merely upset at being criticized, rather than defamed. Making it easier only encourages more bogus lawsuits.

Would it really be that out of line to suggest that a culture secretary actually understand the internet before trying to regulate it?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Frank, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 8:04am

    I rate her with a ZERO

    If it was up to me to rate her site I would give it a ZERO as she is such a little dictator.

    But then I am pretty sure a self appointed God like her would not let me rate her site, that is reserved for the elite that knows better like herself.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 8:33am

    "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."

    How is that not a campaign against free speech. I love when politicians contradict themselves one sentence later in the same speech.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 8:37am

    Whos going to protect the children from this turd?

     

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  4.  
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    Phillip Vector, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 8:41am

    Free Speech

    "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."

    "No one has the right to not be offended" - Penn Jilette

     

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  5.  
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    Sajjon, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 8:41am

    xxx

    Solution: Create a .xxx domain in which adult content resides making it easy for parents to simply restrict access to .xxx sites.

     

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  6.  
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    Twinrova, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 8:50am

    It was bound to be discussed.

    Shit, Mike. If I fucking cuss on this website, does this mean Techdirt becomes "R" rated?

    I find it ironic these politicians who try to "protect the children" rarely stay in touch with them to find out what they're really saying/doing.

    I recently heard an 8 year old swearing with his friends. Comical, really, but I can't imagine any rating system's going to stop them from doing what they do.

    If anyone wants to really protect the children, best get a basement ready with no access to the outside world. That'll protect them.

    People are idiots.

     

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  7.  
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    Twinrova, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 8:52am

    Re: xxx

    As if. Even with helper apps, there are plenty of "children" out there who know how to circumvent any restrictive access a parent can place.

    But hey! Fear not! If the internet pages get rated, this will stop them for sure!

     

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  8.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 9:11am

    Re: xxx

    I never liked that idea since someone with a .com address has the same name as someone with a .net address than it's just a bidding war or a nasty race.

    I liked the idea where they crate a .fam that was all family friendly and the government can allow people to get in. That way I can still have my non-censored internet and the overbearing parents who don't want to work can block everything except .fam.

    Website ratings would never work. They already have a rating system. Vary few people use it and it usually causes more problems than it's worth. And then there are the sites outside of the UK that don't care what this idiot says.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 9:12am

    Reminds me of bob dylan's speech

    "I haven't got any guitar, I can talk though. I want to thank you for the Tom Paine award in behalf everybody that went down to Cuba. First of all because they're all young and it's took me a long time to get young and now I consider myself young. And I'm proud of it. I'm proud that I'm young. And I only wish that all you people who are sitting out here today or tonight weren't here and I could see all kinds of faces with hair on their head - and everything like that, everything leading to youngness, celebrating the anniversary when we overthrew the House Un-American Activities just yesterday, - Because you people should be at the beach. You should be out there and you should be swimming and you should be just relaxing in the time you have to relax. (Laughter) It is not an old peoples' world. It is not an old peoples' world. It has nothing to do with old people. Old people when their hair grows out, they should go out. (Laughter) And I look down to see the people that are governing me and making my rules - and they haven't got any hair on their head - I get very uptight about it. (Laughter)"

     

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  10.  
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    David T, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 9:14am

    Siege mentality

    Am I the only one that thinks the idea of a “culture secretary” is a fundamentally flawed concept? Shouldn’t a culture be in constant evolution to both reflect on what is and optimize for what will be? Thus, appointing someone to dictate what the culture *is* (e.g. categorizing websites) seems counterproductive and leads to goofyness in all manner of circumstances.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 9:22am

    Re: xxx

    that's a joke, right?

     

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  12.  
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    Sajjon, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 9:39am

    Re: Re: xxx

    A childs ability to cirumvent protective features is due to the apps and/or a parents inability to implement them properly. By having our adult content providers agree to be labled as such we allow for an easy transition to the creation of a new domain. It just makes sense due to the ease of restricting access at that level and differs greatly from code/apps created for site by site restriction.
    As for making the deliniation between adult content or not, these are perameters which have already been established and would only require site owners to indicate they are or are not adult content providers according to current standards.
    Yes it is a great and wonderful idea for the internet to remain open and free from any governence however the reality is it will not remain open forever. Therefore sensable, and simple solutions which provide seemless surfing to those who do not want restrictions, and specific restrictions to those who do is a step in the right direction.
    If the net could provide some bit of restrictive access to your children without affecting your ability to surf pantyraiders.xxx or wherever you choose, doesn't it just make sense?
    Just keep screeming "it will never work" long enough and the powers that be will create something that works all to well. Provide solutions which make all parties happy and we don't have to live within idiotic boundaries.

     

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  13.  
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    sajjon, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 9:41am

    Re: Re: xxx

    No joke. Care to elaborate?

     

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  14.  
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    jonnyq, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 10:05am

    I love the idea of websites rating themselves.

    I also believe that it's impossible to implement and will never happen.

    It would be great to semantically know what was on a page before visiting that page. But we're a LONG way from that point.

     

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  15.  
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    SteveD, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 10:05am

    Politicans

    This entire story smacks of a politician who wants his name printed in news papers besides Obama (yes, he's apparently planning to 'negotiate' with Obamas incoming administration on the plan to extend it to the US too).

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 10:16am

    Re: Free Speech

    Well this woman offends me and I want her removed.

     

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  17.  
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    mike allen, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 10:16am

    developers

    "If you look back at the people who created the internet, they talked very deliberately about creating a space that governments couldn't reach.
    Perhaps developers should do just that get us to a internet that governments cannot touch reach or in the case of our so called culture secretary ( whose job is to protect amoung other things the BBC)not allow her to read.

     

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  18.  
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    Point of View, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 10:39am

    Simply we need to get better at teaching children right from wrong and letting them decide. Lets not shelter mass murderers and all out idiots until they are big enough to do real damage. Teach them morals and let them decide where they will take their lives we have laws to deal with people who cant follow the rules of society let them do their job and keep your new laws to yourself.

    THIS COMMENT WAS BROUGHT TO YOU BY FREE SPEACH.
    STOP TRYING TO CONTROL THINGS THAT SHOULDNT BE CONTROLED.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 10:50am

    Re: xxx

    Solution: Create a .xxx domain in which adult content resides making it easy for parents to simply restrict access to .xxx sites.
    Huh? Solution? XXX is usually associated with sexual content. You sound like you think sexual content is the only thing any parents find objectionable. It isn't, not by a long shot. So I fail to see how that could be a solution. Unless, of course, you mean that your own personal view of what should be banned should be imposed on everyone else. That kind of solution? No, thanks.

     

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  20.  
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    Michael Langford, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 10:53am

    How about parenting?

    Instead of both parents working to afford luxury cars and huge houses, how about some actual parenting? How about not letting kids have access to the internet unsupervised? I have 4 in my house, and when their is no supervision there is no internet. Period. Its up to YOU! Be a parent!

     

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  21.  
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    snowburn14, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 10:58am

    Re: Re: xxx

    I've got it! Every election, they can just tack on a nationwide vote for every website created since the last vote. Then we can be democratic about deciding what gets filtered, and only those old enough to vote will see 'em. Shouldn't take long to read through 'em all, right? Though I suppose some people might need a little more privacy in the voting booth. And we'd need to clear the reproduced content with the AP folks, among others.
    Problem well and truly solved...

     

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  22.  
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    Novel Concept, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 10:58am

    Here's a novel concept...

    How about the government butt out of the affairs of families and put the responsibility for censoring the internet where it SHOULD be.... on the parents!

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 11:43am

    Re: Re: Re: xxx

    Then we can be democratic about deciding what gets filtered...
    Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. Liberty is a well armed sheep.

     

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  24.  
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    sajjon, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 12:19pm

    Re: Re: xxx

    "You sound like you think sexual content is the only thing any parents find objectionable"

    Read the part about content created for the entertainment of adult minds. This does not mean only porn it means anything deamed by current standards as "adult content".

     

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  25.  
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    sajjon, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 12:32pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: xxx

    Hmm. Thinking we may need to create another domain for those who fail either fail to understand simple concepts/do not read in entirety or simply denounce thought for the sake of doing so. What gets filtered has already been defined.

    Oh ya and, the liberated sheep still gets eaten in the end...because its a sheep, bahhh..

     

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  26.  
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    BEST, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 12:44pm

    EVER

    I'm all for it. Not only should they RATE all sites, they need to CENSOR the content of all sites and add a COVER page so a minor can't see things he shouldn't.

    i went to a site and saw some horrible gross XXX stuff on the homepage and I didn't even go into the site.

    WAKE UP PEOPLE! Our children are already detached and bad enough as it is. A censorship / RATING program is just what we need to get America back!!!

    Hopefully, Obama will back this and will get rid of the guns. You all did see the article today about the violence and shootings amongst black teens. If we take the guns, THAT WON'T HAPPEN!

    Can I school you guys in any other way? Are you all just stupid gung ho gun supporters and XXX watchers! Geez.

     

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  27.  
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    Jon, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 12:48pm

    Re: Re: Re: xxx

    And how exactly is your "solution" any better than hers?

    She wants to determine what content is naughty and nice and display this by a rating.

    You want to determine what content is naughty and nice and segregate it by a TLD.

    Sounds like you are creating a solution with the same problem. And please, if I have somehow missed how your solution is not censorship let me know.

     

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  28.  
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    EVER, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 12:49pm

    BEST

    the GOVERNMENT is our PROTECTOR. We pay taxes. They should do SOMETHING with that money and not just sit around like they have nothing to do.

    WE PAY THEM TAX MONEY TO PROTECT US!

     

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  29.  
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    EVIL_BASTARD, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 12:52pm

    Re: EVER

    Yes.

    Guns and porn, fuck yeah.

    anyway, the fact that there is a position for a "culture secretary is an abomination in and of itself.

     

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  30.  
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    Jon, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 12:59pm

    Re: EVER

    So.. your argument is.. cause you saw some XXX material (ignoring your naive gun comments), you think the children need to be protected? Since when was it the governments job to tell the people what morality is? You are OK with someone else telling you what is acceptable?

    Just to poke some holes in your argument.. What is the definition of porn? Who decides what is and what is not? Does a photo of Michelangelo's David count as porn? I guarantee that there are people who would answer that question yes and no. So who gets to decide? You? Me?

    What about sex education for our children. OMG, they saw a penis!! Is that porn? Again, some would say it is. Are you willing to give up your right to teach children about sex because you want to protect them from someone's opinion of indecency?

    Finally, the personal part.. who the **** do you think you are to judge what is acceptable for my children? Parenting is NOT by committee.

     

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  31.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 12:59pm

    Re: BEST

    I have the easiest way that you can resolve your problem and it only involves one phone call. After that one phone call you don't have to worry about your child seeing anything nasty online, you don't have to worry about them seeing anything nasty on the TV. You don't have to worry about them seeing anything nasty at school or on the street.

    Two words: Child Services

     

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  32.  
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    Just Another Moron in a Hurry, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 1:04pm

    This comment is Rated LOL, and may contain insightful comments. Parental discretion is advised.

    The basis of the idea isn't bad, but the implementation would be a nightmare.

    The basic idea here is to create a tool that would help parents control what content their children have access to. That is a great idea.

    But, as has been discussed so often on this site, the idea itself isn't what makes or breaks a product. Its the implementation. We would need a method that can actually make it work.

    If there was some way to get the website producers to post a rating with their site similar to video games and TV shows (includes animated violence, adult language, lolcats, partial nudity) that would be a useful tool to help parents.

    The real sticking point would be that its up to the parents to control which ratings are accessible to their children. And of course, people of the appropriate age should be able to view whatever sites they damn well please.

    According to the original article, the culture secretary only wants to force ISPs to 'provide' packages that can be limited by rating. My question is are these provided packages mandatory, or optional. If they are only optional, that is a lot less sinister than outright government censorship.

     

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  33.  
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    sajjon, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 1:14pm

    Re:

    Really not impossible and already have the capability to identify sights via crawlers.

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 1:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: xxx

    Why don't we just euthanize the people who can't handle the web or are so self absorbed they can't play an active role in their kids lives?

     

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  35.  
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    sajjon, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 1:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: xxx

    The difference being this. She has the suggestion of demanding all websites be categorized. The idea of categorizing content to fit into neat little boxes is nothing new and is quite fitting for TV and movies however the transition of this scheme to the web is a bit ludicrous due to the vast amount of interactivity and reader input.

    My idea is basically to create a sandbox for all the dirty stuff that one would not want children to see. Conversely the same concept could be applied in reverse creating a "safe certified" domain in which websites could apply for acceptance based on their content as child friendly domain. (This would likely be the easier alternative as the owner of barneyandfriens.com may be more likely to cooperate than hotonion.com.)
    This is censorship and a necessary censorship only in the sense that children would be prevented from accessing content not suitable for children. Walk into your local mall and keep screaming Fuck ..your free to do so but watch how quickly a parent with child in tow puts your ass in check. You have been censored! call the cops

    But heres the difference and why it is not true censorship. if you dont mind your child having access to everything on the web, dont implement the domain block.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 1:48pm

    Re: BEST

    Actually, we "pay them tax money" so that the bucket that is the American economy doesn't overflow. All that money that the IRS takes is simply burned to keep inflation down.

     

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  37.  
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    Jon, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 2:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: xxx

    Your plan still has to categorize all of that content.

    Who decides what goes in the "sandbox for all the dirty stuff that one would not want children to see."

    Definitions of indecency are subjective. Opinions of the individual. To say that one person's art is pornography and should not be visible to the world is censorship.

    Now toss in a bit of discrimination. Say one man's art is your version of pornography and that it must be over there is fundamentally no different than race based segregation.

     

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  38.  
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    Lucretious, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 4:06pm

    We have got to get better at defining where the public interest lies and being clear about it.

    He might as well have said: "we've got to get better at dictating to the public where their interest lies and be clear about how we expect them to behave"

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 8:36pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: xxx

    Hmm. Thinking we may need to create another domain for those who fail either fail to understand simple concepts/do not read in entirety or simply denounce thought for the sake of doing so.
    So now you want a special domain for those who disagree with you too. Figures. Yeah, I know your type. You start off with "protect the children" and pretty soon you're wanting ban, excuse me, "filter", those who disagree with you too.
    What gets filtered has already been defined.
    "Has already been defined" by whom? You? I saw a group of parents the other day that wanted Santa Claus banned to save children from going to hell for eternity. What could be worse than eternal damnation? What do you say to those parents?
    Oh ya and, the liberated sheep still gets eaten in the end...because its a sheep, bahhh..
    Dead wolves eat few sheep. bahhh..

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 8:58pm

    Re: EVER

    Hopefully, Obama will back this and will get rid of the guns.

    I doubt it. If you wanted puritanical censorship you should have voted Republican. You really need people like Edwin Meese, Kevin Martin, John Ashcroft and so on for that. You really screwed up if you wanted that and you voted for Obama.

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 9:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: xxx

    Read the part about content created for the entertainment of adult minds. This does not mean only porn it means anything deamed by current standards as "adult content".
    Then why do you want to call it XXX? Are you really so socially ignorant as to not know that XXX signifies adult sexual content? That completely leaves out other things that parents don't want polluting their children's minds. Things like the theory of evolution, feminism, global warming and environmentalism, religions other than fundamentalist Christianity, and so on. So you're saying that you want to put all those things under XXX too?

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 9:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: xxx

    Oh ya and, the liberated sheep still gets eaten in the end...because its a sheep, bahhh..

    Yeah, I agree. Minorities should be exterminated. I don't know if we should have to eat them though.

     

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  43.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 9:44pm

    Her?

    How many commenters here actually believe that Andy is a woman?

     

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  44.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 9:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: xxx

    Conversely the same concept could be applied in reverse creating a "safe certified" domain in which websites could apply for acceptance based on their content as child friendly domain. (This would likely be the easier alternative as the owner of barneyandfriens.com may be more likely to cooperate than hotonion.com.)

    You must be kidding! No child should be allowed to access a Barney and Friends website. BaF is just full of sexual innuendo. For instance, all the main characters run around without pants. And Barney is obviously an adult perv for hanging around with the youngsters all the time. And speaking of youngsters, what about the young "dinosaurs" on the show? Well, the little girl wears lots of makeup (just look at those fake eyelashes), often stands and walks her legs spread unnaturally wide and is named "Baby Bop". We all know that "bop" is slang for female masturbation (remember the Cyndi Lauper song "She Bop" about the subject?) So the little girl's name means "masturbating baby". Not exactly appropriate for children, is it? And the little boy dinosaur who just love to hag around with Barney? His name is "B.J.". Again, we all know that "B.J." means "blow job", which is slang for oral sex performed on a male. Need I say more? And here you are wanting to put such filth in a "safe certified" domain. Shame on you, sajjon, you pervert!

     

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  45.  
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    Azrael, Dec 30th, 2008 @ 1:29am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: xxx

    Because we can't exterminate all the religious morons, they're too many. I'm not saying we shouldn't try.

     

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  46.  
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    Mark Regan, Dec 30th, 2008 @ 1:31am

    What A Novel Idea

    That's the answer to the unemployment problem! Extrapolating on that concept, Google should be required to hire millions of employees around the world whose job it is to rate and classify and identify EVERY posting or search for compliance with every law or regulation and to ensure that NO copyrighted idea or concept or thought is posted, and that NO ONE is offended by any posting.

    We can add up the costs of all those employees to Google and pass them on to the posters, and charge them $1 for each word they post.

    What an innovative way to solve the unemployment problem, restore the economy to its previous state, and bring the sanity of dictatorship of every thought, word, and deed. We can even come up with some slogans, like "Let no evil thought go unpunished." Oops, I guess I owe royalties to whoever wrote Proverbs 11:21 for that one, since copyrights never expire.

     

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  47.  
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    chris (profile), Dec 30th, 2008 @ 4:59am

    everyone will get their own network

    when it comes to controlling a network of any kind the end result is fracture.

    the internet decency fight will result in at least two networks. those in favor of internet decency want everything bad lumped into .sex or .xxx domains. those who oppose censorship want a safe zone for families, like the .fam subnet suggested above.

    FCC bigwig kevin martin has been making noise about a free wireless network that is safe for children (and probably monitored for terrorism).

    one concession in the SBC AT&T merger was supposed to be naked DSL with no filters or caps, thereby creating the slow lane that the telcos have always wanted.

    what all of this does is split up the internet into smaller bits in hopes of controlling the smaller bits and if breaking up napster has taught us anything, it's that numerous smaller networks are much harder to control than one large one.

    so go ahead and try to make the internet safe for children. all you will be doing is locking the children into the digital equivalent of a mormon compound.

    and the purveyors of the materials the decency crowd is so opposed to will continue unchecked.

     

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  48.  
    identicon
    mobiGeek, Dec 30th, 2008 @ 1:29pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: xxx

    You know WAY too much about Barney...and sadly, so do I.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    identicon
    sohail khan, Jul 9th, 2009 @ 4:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: xxx

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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