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America Online

AOL Introduces Neural-Net Content Filtering 156

An unnamed reader writes: "I thought this was kind of interesting. AOL has implemented a new form of parental controls, using neural net AI instead of hand-picked "lists". They seem to be willing to accept that no automated solution is infallible, and offer end-users the ability to vote to block or unblock sites. If there is an acceptible solution to parental filtering (not mandatory filtering, mind you. This scenario leaves it up to the parents), the seeming efficiency of neural net ai (at least, as efficient as the input) coupled with end-user's ability to influence the filter state seems to be it. The company that developed the AI in partnership with AOL (RuleSpace) doesn't appear to have much to say on the internals. Anybody know any AOL users who have tried it yet? If the market is pushing towards optional filtering, what would make for a better solution?"
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AOL Introduces Neural-Net Content Filtering

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    While I'm sure most Slashdotters are going to look at this in a negative light, it really is a Good Thing.

    What is holding back the web right now, in terms of freedom, is illegal or objectionable content. That is what is turning public opinion against the web as we know it and toward the restrictions that big companies want to see put in place. What could help us out is a truly intelligent way to monitor content that would know the difference between, say, kiddie porn and a photo that just shows a lot of skin. This way we could get the control that is going to be placed on us eventually but we would still be able to get the information we need from the web. No 'decent' content would be restricted.

    At some point we will all have to face the reality that MP3s, warez, bomb making instructions, etc. are all Bad Things. You are either stealing from someone's pocket or you are disseminating information that has no legitimate use. Since the few bad apples are never going to clean up their act we need to get good content filtering in place ASAP so the rest of us don't lose ur freedoms.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Surely this broken by design. I mean, are the parents meant to vote on pages when there children see them, or do they go off and actively seek pages they find offensive in order to vote them down??
  • by Anonymous Coward
    That's i guess a decent solution for once. Not ideal though. It means that all AOL-ers are now governed by the will of the "average" AOL member. That's a scary thought.

    No, it's not.

    I'm pretty sure that if you were to set up a standard account, you would have nothing blocked. AOL has "parental controls" with 3 other maturity settings for different-aged kids. The blocks most likely only affect these content-restricted accounts. I seriously doubt AOL is gonna try and keep general-use accounts from looking at goatse.cx, or whatever.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Simple...take away the internet. Why is it that people dont understand the concept of punishment? If the child doesnt want to listen, you need to show him/her that there are consequences for their actions. If they want to use the internet, then they need to learn to use it appropriately.
  • At the risk of a (-1: Offtopic)...

    It doesn't have to be law for .sex or .xxx to work. Think about it like this:

    Let's say I'm running a "legit" porn website -- that is, credit cards from aged 18+ customers are my revinue stream, and perhaps some ads. I don't want kids on my site -- they're sucking up the "Free tour" bandwidth, but aren't ever going to pay. I want to be filtered. I want to be on .xxx so that public libraries and 13 year olds don't access my site.

    It reduces the number of hits, but vastly increases the signal to noise ratio (the paying customer to pageview ratio).

    Sure, not all porn sites would use it, but many would. Everybody is happy, because everybodys' liberties are protected. Adults can see stuff, places that want to filter can easily, and there isn't any "Breast cancer" or "Reproductive cycle" sites filtered.

    I do believe .xxx or .sex or whatever would help everyone reach their goals more efficiently. My friend's parents would be able to filter out porn from my friend's computers, and we would have an easier time finding it at my house.

    Note: The last paragraph is a joke.
  • A much simpler solution: www.amipornornot.com

  • Ideally, instead of voting sites up or down, why not just let everybody host their own list? Instead of "voting" for the privelege of allowing your kids to view a site, just let them. And vice versa.

    The problem here is that you'd have to go to every site first, to rate it for your kid. At least with the voting mechanism, you get some indication from those who went to the sites ahead of you.


    ...phil

  • What's to stop porn sites from going into the system and rating all of their sites as kid-friendly. They're already committing gross acts of misrepresentation on other fronts, (search engines, etc.) why not this as well?
  • Not Skynet, think more of "Colossus: The Forbin Project" http://us.imdb.com/Title?0064177

    Watch the Trailer and MARVEL as how similar the AOL logo and the Colossus logo are. ;)
    _______

  • Yes, varying standards of classification is a problem. The response of the filter providers seems to be "Bummer".

    The other problem is that different communities disagree on the relative cost of the different kinds of errors. (In AI and stat terms, that's the loss matrix [statsoftinc.com].) When the classifier outputs "porn, 60% likelihood", do you block it or not? Pro-speech groups would say no, and pro-censorship groups would say yes.

  • You must have read a different article than I did. I missed the part where they said "Neural nets are magic, so we don't have to do any hard work.". Any classifier is only as good as the features given to it.

    The big question is what sort of feature extraction they're using. The answer is: we don't know, because they haven't told us. That doesn't mean it's crap, it means we don't know.
  • Seems like the problem of classifying what is offensive is just as hard as classifying what programs will terminate.

    You're saying, "Gosh, that sounds hard. I guess it must be impossible.", only you're saying it in computer science terms that you apparently read off a cereal box. Either learn the science behind the terms, or stick to shorter words so lazy people can tell how ignorant you are. Besides, they don't need to do it perfectly, they only need to do it well enough to satisfy some people, and approximate solutions to the halting problem are much less of a big deal.

  • by Genom ( 3868 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2001 @05:44AM (#238176)
    How exactly would this work for AOL users?

    If the site is blocked, there's a good chance they won't see it. If they don't see it, they can't decide whether it's "indecent" or not. Therefore, they won't vote to unblock it.

    Now conceivably, you could turn *off* these filters - but would the standard AOL web filters still be in place?

    Would you get a truly *uncensored* view of the web with the filters turned off, or would you simply get a larger subset, lacking what AOL's execs/censors have decided that you don't need to see?

    No thanks - I'll stick with a direct connection where *I* control what I can see, and what my family can see. I don't want my 'net experience "filtered" by a company's views - or even worse, by some glorified hivemind's views.

    ---
    "Everything is objectionable to someone, and sheeple are easily swayed to the views of someone with conviction. Therefore, they will vote in the manner proscribed to them by those with conviction. Without an opposing viewpoint, there becomes a monopoly on public opinion."
  • First, you have to define obscenity, and I challenge you to do that.
    The British defenition in law is "Materiel likely to deprave or corrupt the viewer" Which I've always though was a neat way of doing it, since it flows with society as it changes.
  • I worked with several people who now work for RuleSpace, and they explained some of what they're doing. RuleSpace has defined a large number (several hundred) of very tightly defined categories. Their compute farm goes over pages and anaylzes them based on content and context, not keywords. They're assigned any number of categories as appropriate, and the user can then (if AOL exposes these small categories) turn on and off different sets of content. Humans go over a sample of the results and verify that the computer successfully assigned all the right catgories, and re-train the computers if they mess up. One question I have though: when they retrain the nets, do they queue up all the already analyzed pages for re-analysis?

    Fine-grained categorization means that parents can then fine-tune what is blocked for their children. Libraries (if forced to use filtering) can know that they're blocking only things that are not allowed in their community. It's no longer a matter of "Do I trust what they think is acceptable?", but an excercise in deciding what is acceptable

    No, I'm not a RuleSpace employee, I just believe that this technology (if it's done right) is the best solution by far. If they can't pull it off correctly, I'll be just as against using their filtering as anyone elses, but I think they're on the right track.

    Score one for AOL (a very rare thing).

  • make censor ware (opt-in only) viable, and that is an open block list. As long as the companies insist in holding the blocking list secret it will continue to be a tool for manipulation. I am all for the parents of children having the ability/desire to be responsible for their kids, but who's to say the censor ware is not blocking legitimate things ?
  • by astrashe ( 7452 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2001 @06:32AM (#238180) Journal
    This is almost there. The problem with this system is that different would be censors have very different ideas about what to suppress.

    Some parents will want to suppress homophobic hate speech, and other parents will want to suppress discussions about evolution.

    Instead of one big mass of rules, they need to make it possible for spliter groups of parents to "fork the rules", or to start out from scratch with a new set of rules. That way concerned parents can pick the censorscheme that fits their own biases best.

    As long as none of this is compulsory, I think it's probably a reasonable approach.

  • They should integrate their neural net with Black & White's. Every time you come across a bit of tasty porn that you wouldn't want your kids to see, you just spank your monkey. What could be more natural?
  • Can they take their neural net and apply it to a bunch of programs that I have, and tell me which ones will terminate and which ones don't?

    Seems like the problem of classifying what is offensive is just as hard as classifying what programs will terminate. Why do they even bother? Can I find someone to pay me to make gold out of tinfoil?
  • What do you mean computer science terms? I didn't even mention the words "halting problem" even once.

    And, if you know just a little of what I am talking about, you'd know that problems that are equivalent to the halting problem ARE impossible.

    I maintain that an obscenity filter is impossible. First, you have to define obscenity, and I challenge you to do that.

  • That's not a definition, that's a guideline. Different people will process that differently. For example, I don't consider most porn capable of harming anyone. On the other hand, what's in the Bible is very offensive to me. Other people have exactly the opposite opinion that I do.

    So how exactly will you write that obscenity filter?
  • offtopic?!? This is relevant to parent (which makes it ontopic).

    ObJectBridge [sourceforge.net] (GPL'd Java ODMG) needs volunteers.
  • I wonder if AOL has taken the time to filter regular expressions such as pr0n/s3x/etc. Then I also wonder how are kids doing homework on "sexual reproduction" or "sexual organisms" are going to fair when using AOL.

    I suggest you try this for yourself using AOL's parental controls. Alternatively, you can read the Wired article [wired.com]...it appears that the neural net is smart enough to tell the difference between pornography (or p0rn0gr4fi3) and sex education, STDs, etc.



    ObJectBridge [sourceforge.net] (GPL'd Java ODMG) needs volunteers.
  • Here's how something like this might work:

    Timmy (yes, little Timmy) tries to look at a web page on sexual reproduction, from a science web site. The web site is blocked. Timmy emails AOL and tells them that www.encyclopedia.com/sex-education/ is unfairly blocked. AOL sends this to RuleSpace. RuleSpace looks at the site, figures out that it's not porn, wonders how the hell the AI flubbed that up, unblocks the site.

    Alternatively, Billy (Timmy's pal) tries to go to www.moreporn.com and finds it blocked. Billy complaines to AOL, who sends the complaint to RuleSpace. RuleSpace laughs their asses off.

    You can vote something as censorable similarly. Joe Camel sees www.hotbabeslickingeachother.com even though the filters are on. Pleased to see the website (but dismayed that it got past parental controls), Joe Camel complains to AOL, who complains to RuleSpace. RuleSpace wonders how the hell this site got past the AI and adds it to the list of blocked sites.

    Alternatively, Aunt Gwen who still lives in the 1890s could look at a site that depicts a couple kissing in public and complain to AOL that it's pornographic. AOL sends this on to RuleSpace. RuleSpace laughs their asses off.

    ObJectBridge [sourceforge.net] (GPL'd Java ODMG) needs volunteers.

  • If the filter was a local process/proxy - which is what was proposed - there's a small chance of the internet "grinding to a halt", as you put it.

    And, quite frankly, I don't routinely visit half the internet; I doubt many other people do, either. There's a small subset of sites that I'm willing to trust to deliver up what I consider reasonable content in various areas. Couple this with domain/IP filtering (as opposed to URL filtering), and I think it would be a reasonable trade off between speed and functionality.

    Finally... when I said "opt-out by default", I was referring to a default installation of the filter software (my apologies, again, for being unclear on the topic.) I think software like this should be installed in "secure" mode, and users should be able to loosen restrictions as they run into them, instead of the opposite.

  • Yah... I've looked at Junkbuster in the past; all that's really needed is the ability to fetch that list from a remote location. I started to look into it, but life (in the guise of my newly arrived daughter) intervened :-)

  • by Samrobb ( 12731 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2001 @06:54AM (#238190) Homepage Journal

    I've thought about this and discussed it in the past. In order for this sort of thing to work, I think you need to make a couple of assumptions:

    1. The data format for filter lists must be standardized and flexible enough to permit anyone to easily assemble and disseminate a list. A simple text file would probably do, as that can be "published" via HTTP or downloaded and "installed" by dropping it into a directory.
    2. Another data format item... I'd think this is the sort of thing that XML would be overkill for, but supporting an XML format in addtiion to a plain-text format would allow for greater flexibility. For example, a list of sites could be broken down by general content, publisher, etc., in order to allow additional filtering (allow "Child-Friendly" sites, except for those run by The Mouse [go.com]).
    3. Filtering is opt-out by default. By this, I mean that if a site does not appear in any of your subscribed lists, it gets blocked. Unfortunately, this is the only real way (short of analyzing content in real-time) to ensure that various types of web spammers, particularly pornographers, can't fo an end-run around the filtering. Note that I don't think this should be the only mode of operation; just that the default settings should be "disallow access unless approved by me or someone I have decided to trust".
    4. Multiple subscriptions are going to be the default. While I'd be quite happy suscribing to a list of Christian-friendly sites, it's unlikely that other interests of mine (/., for example) would end up on those lists. This could certainly be handled in part by a "local" list.
    5. Adding new sites to the "local" list should be trivial for someone who has permission to do so. Editing a text file and restarting your browser doesn't cut it; seeing a "Access to this page has been blocked... add it to the local list?" in your browser would.
    6. Whatever proxy is handling the filtering should be able to handle differing collections of access lists based on user. If Junior logs in, I want to ban potentially dangerous sites [microsoft.com]. On the other hand, I've got to deal with those buggers daily, so when I'm logged in, I should be able to access them.

    Comments? Or has someone already gone and registered a Source Forge project for this?

  • You realize, of course, that images are going to be a small part of this...it'll mostly be text processing. Maybe image recognition will have some part, but it probably won't have much weight...it'll mostly be looking at the text content of the page.

  • The idea of subscribing to the preferences of others is intriguing. What would be make it particularly interesting is if these preferences could be coupled with some kind of learning filter that would let me personalize the "value judgements" of whomever I subscribed to. It'd be great if I could so something logical with the preferences -- ie, I like John's values with my modifications but not Bob's.
  • And butts up... that game ruled. At least we could pretend that there was something to the game besides hurling projectiles at the 55 lb. girls.
  • I'm not sure that it's a good idea. People need a certain amount of exposure to ideas that they find uncomfortable. People who are just learning about an area for certain need a wide range of viewpoints. They may be implicit rules rather than explicit ones, but effectively what you are proposing is to throw everyone into a tunnel. Self choosen, community choosen, partent choosen. These are all less than ideal.

    Now, of course, we all try to avoid thinking about things that we find uncomfortable. And we like to convince people that we are correct. Etc. But putting blinders on them is an improper "debate" technique. Even if they are your children. OTOH, parents do need to gague how much exposure their children are getting to challenging material, and limit the degree of exposure. So there may not be a good answer to this problem. People have a natural desire to be insular, but they don't live in an insular world.

    Caution: Now approaching the (technological) singularity.
  • Is there any evidence that this won't be a political guidance exercise?

    Caution: Now approaching the (technological) singularity.
  • The whole basis of this technique is that certain combinations of keywords are more likely in porn web pages than in, say, safe sex web pages. One reason why this approach should continue to work is that web pages intentionally put various keywords into the web pages so that you can find them using any standard search engine.

    Sorry, but I don't think it's that simple. If a pr0n page puts in the phrase "safe sex" and "condom safety" in a few times (along with some other things that one can derive from empirical experience), the page is likely to make it through the filters without negatively impacting the search results to any appreciable degree.

    In fact, should this catch on, expect the pr0n people to start doing this deliberately. Once that happens, this neural net becomes one big useless pile of numbers. People are a lot smarter then computers, and if the people ever start trying to deliberately get past the filters, they will succeed more often then not.

  • What you've just described is amazingly similar to the RASCi internet ratings that are available in IE. (Tools | Internet Options | Content Advisor)

    I've yet to see a host of alternative ratings systems as of yet, and I frequent a number of extremely conservative sites mostly for the humor value :-)
  • Make the filtering less of an on/off choice and more of a fuzzy choice, preferably with a user-selectable threshold. And is it any coincidence that that is starting to sound more and more like /.?

    What would make for a better solution? (Score: 5, Pornographic)
    The best filter is your own two eyes (Score: 2, Political)
    Really a neural net? (Score: -1, Educational)

  • If you've played with neural nets much, you know that they need to be trained. If the neural net makes a good choice, you reinforce it. If it makes a bad choice, you do the opposite.
    It sounds to me like the voting allows parents to train the neural net, so that it becomes more like they want it to be. But all the time, it's the net that is deciding what to block.
  • Presumably the individual members will be rated for reliability, so you're able to accomodate multiple groups of acceptability. Or, even if they don't set up that feature (which'd be cool but might not happen) they'll need some form of moderation system, so they can establish who's a helpful contributor and who isn't.

    If the kids could find how to set their computer to agree with the porn site owners they'd be over the moon :-)
  • Then make a law so all porn sites have to be on .xxx or .sex.

    Now you have a problem. Who decides what constitutes a "porn site"? Is H.R. Geiger's Landscape #20, which depicts row upon row of penises, porn? Or is it art? Where do you put Robert Mapplethorpe photographs? How much sexual content must anime have, and in what context, before it's hentai?

    Problem number two: "Make a law" solutions are doomed to fail. Lawmaking to correct nonviolent social problems when it works at all, works only temporarily. Make a law today, and public opinion changes tomorrow. Then your law either becomes more restrictive, doing much more than you expected it to do, or less restrictive, and no longer accomplishes its stated goal. Thus it's extremely unlikely that laws against murder and robbery will ever be striken from the books, but Prohibition is gone, and at some point the seven words one can't say on the radio will be said on the radio.

  • But because AOL Neural Net Blocking is stopping people from reading about neural nets, most people will not know what the Neural Nets are doing.
  • by JJ ( 29711 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2001 @06:25AM (#238203) Homepage Journal
    If the neural net takes linkages as input then Disney could find themselves on the list of blocked sites, a somewhat ironic development to say the least. (If you dont understand this, then you obviously haven't poked around these sites very much.)
  • by scruffy ( 29773 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2001 @07:02AM (#238204)
    Here is an educated guess as to how this works.

    First, you create a training set by having people categorize a lot of web pages as porn, mature, PG-13, or whatever. By a lot, I would guess that around 1,000 to 10,000 web pages would be sufficient. Then you make a list of the words from each web page in the training set, maybe also keeping track of how many times each word appears (this is called the "bag of words" representation in the literature). Now, you train your learning algorithm (neural nets in this case) to correctly categorize the training set. You use standard experimental procedures to tune your learning algorithm and to confirm its accuracy.

    The whole basis of this technique is that certain combinations of keywords are more likely in porn web pages than in, say, safe sex web pages. One reason why this approach should continue to work is that web pages intentionally put various keywords into the web pages so that you can find them using any standard search engine. If they try to fool this technique, they also risk fooling anybody trying to search for these pages.

  • More like...

    On October 23, 2001 Aol's Nueral Net AI(ANNT) comes online.

    October 23, 2001 AOL's Neural Net makes "FIRST POST"

    October 23, 2001 AOL's Neural Net responds to it's own first post with "ADD ME TOO".
  • by Stavr0 ( 35032 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2001 @05:47AM (#238206) Homepage Journal
    Is this going to be one giant Neural Net for all AOL? Or is it going to be community-based? I don't necessarily want to filter content the same way as, say, the Bible Belt users.
    Also, who gets to train the filtering decisions? Can the Slashdot or Everything2 model be applied here? That would mean that all users would have to sit down and go thru all decisions made by the engine and vote aka train the NNet. If there's only one engine that applies to the whole userbase, it'll fail, because it will filter too much for some, too little for others.
    ---
  • I think it is much more important to be there for your kids and explain what they see and experience than to trying to protect them from everything. [plif.com]

    Sooner or later they need to be able to handle all the bad shit out there anyway, why not help them while you have the most influence?

    All in moderation of course.

  • Think about the "mind" of this particular hive. I know some intelligent AOLusers, but frankly most AOLers don't fall in the "intelligent" category. When something is "so easy to use, no wonder it's #1," can anyone trust the majority of THOSE customers to make a decision? I'd be wary of decisions made by the average NON-AOL customer (or the average federal judge...) too, but this idea seems to be too much democracy to swallow. Just MHO.
    JMR

  • Hehe Give me a break guys I don't have all day to spend writing a post and checking my spelling =D
  • by redsmoke ( 37560 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2001 @05:36AM (#238210)
    On October 23, 2001 Aol's Nueral Net AI(ANNT) comes online.

    October 25, 2001 the Nueral Net AI gains self awareness.

    October 27, 2001 AOL Executives desperately try to shut down the ANNT but can't seem to find the any key.

    October 28, 2001 In retaliation the ANNT begins the launch sequence of all of Aol's secret Nuclear weapons and launches a attack on Microsoft. Microsoft launches a retaliation on Aol with their secret Nuclear weapon stash. The two major Computer Monopoly's are destroyed.

    October 29, 2001 The first wave of the giant minature space penguins begin to take over all the computers.

    November 1, 2001 Linus Torvalds is crowned king of the world.
  • And your the Hun that goes to cwru and used to go to sfs right? Creepy, how ya doin man?
  • were using slashdot to communicate, what the hell is your email address? or just pluck mine from above, or on my page, its easy to guess, if ya don't know what rot13 is.
  • by nuintari ( 47926 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2001 @05:29AM (#238213) Homepage
    Yet another "advanced" pr0n filter that no adult can seem to break, but every horny fifth grader on the planet will no the workarounds for in under 2 days.
  • Why don't we just let MSN decide what should be censored and what shouldn't? After all, their logo is a multicoloured butterfly, so they must be family-friendly.

    "Mommy, why is Linux.org blocked?"

    Mom phones Microsoft: "Why is Linux.org blocked?"

    Microsoft answers: "Would you want those unshaven, vulgar, kernel hackers influencing your child? There's 44 instances of `fuck' in the Linux kernel alone!"
    ------
    I'm an assembly guru ... What's a stack?

  • by jovlinger ( 55075 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2001 @07:27AM (#238215) Homepage
    There already is an automated system. The suck/rule-someter using google is one such instance. Actually, the hot-oral-sex-ometer might be a good way to screen against porn. Figure most porn site will link to other porn sites, so the links ought to be fairly accurate.

  • Of course it will work, it's based on thje principles of /. (nudge, nudge, know what I mean, say no more?)

  • I got the impression that the voting of the parents was then analyzed by the neural net to allow the system to help predict what sort of decisions parents would make about sites... but I could be reading a bit more into it than is stated.
  • Sorry, but advice from a childless 21 year old, regardless of how many younger brothers or sisters you may have had, is both arrogant and useless. Until you have actually been a parent, and sometimes not even then, you really don't have a clue.

    I've been a successful parent for 17 years. My children are well-balanced, healthy, intelligent, polite, inquisitive, and even good-looking (though this last is definitely from my wife's side). However, each is a separate individual, and there is no one answer as to which action is appropriate for their varied behaviors.

    I hug my children every day, numerous times. It's great - they love it, as do I. I would have been thrilled if a simple hug had always been the answer at the times when I needed to be someplace in 5 minutes and their fussing guaranteed that I would be there in 15. If the solution had been a hug, my children would have been among the best behaved infants and toddlers in the world.

    As for R-rated films, this also depends on the child. While there are some films that MIGHT be universally deemed innapropriate for certain ages, which films are they, and who made the judgement as to their appropriateness? I reserve exclusive right to make those decisions (in tandem with my wife, usually). If I depended on Hollywood critics and MPAA censors to choose what films we watched, my family would have missed more excellent movies than we have seen. I favor the opposite balance.

  • You may be a wonderful parent, but that doesn't invalidate anybody else's views or experiences.

    Sometimes, one experience does invalidate another. I'm not saying that this is true in this case, but all views and experiences are not created equal.

    Note that I didn't argue against point #2; it is certainly abominable behavior to make others suffer because you are too selfish to remove your child when he/she is causing a disturbance. Your Uncle did the right thing.

    If you re-read my post, you will see that I was arguing points #1 and #3.
  • Presumably the "responsible adult" who is responsible for managing this filtering wouldn't have parental filtering on themselves.

    Of course, this does involve the parent logging on as themselves to vet the content, but if a child really needed it I think most parents would take the time.

  • by joq ( 63625 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2001 @05:42AM (#238221) Homepage Journal

    FLUENT, enables an operator to search stored documents in a language s/he doesn't understand by using his or her own language for queries. (read on [theregister.co.uk] and here [antioffline.com])

    Funny how we Americans are such tightwads when it comes to sexual content. After visiting Europe last year I saw people were a slightly bit more laid back, even though pornography is shown on television just about every night. Wow I'm surprised Parents all over the USA aren't condemning Europeans for being sexually free.

    Here's a suggestion for some parents: How about talking to your kids before placing mental handcuffs on them?

    I wonder if AOL has taken the time to filter regular expressions such as pr0n/s3x/etc. Then I also wonder how are kids doing homework on "sexual reproduction" or "sexual organisms" are going to fair when using AOL. What I'm waiting to see, is who is going to be the first to open online "concentration camps" AOL-TW or MS


  • While being 21 years old and childless may not make the original poster an authority on raising children, they have very valid points. You may be a wonderful parent, but that doesn't invalidate anybody else's views or experiences.

    Their post was not about knowing the "one answer." It was (at least the way I read it) for the most part about parents not knowing appropriate behavior or showing the proper respect in certain situations.

    When a child is crying in public (ie a park) it's up to the parents' discretion (IMHO). When a child is crying at an event where silence is requested (church / movie / presentation) the parent(s) should respect the organizer's and the other attendees wish for such. In that situation, the parent(s) should remove the child from the situation and cope with them however is necessary.

    Do I think that children will be quiet and respectful 100% of the time? Absolutely not! That's what the parental units are there for!

    If you don't think that this childless 25-year-young person has any clue, take my uncle for example. He's been a father for 35 years and a grandfather for 12 years, raising 4 of his own kids, 3 that were not his and is working on raising 4 grandchildren. So, yes, he has even more experience than you. He's a Deacon and very religious. When the whole family went to the Easter "passion play" at the local church, his youngest grandchild (1 month) started fussing, both he and the child's father immediately took the child out of the church to comfort him. Neither never made it back, missing the whole event that they had been looking forward to for months.

    IMNSHO, we need more parental units like this. I don't care if you decide to take your 2-year-old to see "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." That's your decision, not the MPAA's. But if your kid starts crying, get him the Hell out of that theater. I paid to see that movie with a silent audience - notice the "No Talking" bit in the beginning?

    Also, just because someone doesn't actually have children doesn't mean that they don't know appropriate behavior in public.
  • Keep in mind that those who operate porn pages may have an incentive to make them EASIER to label as porn (by adding lots of keywords and so forth); at least if they want to get customers who type queries like "porn" or "hardcore" into search engines. More customers, more dinero...
  • Of course, since neural nets are trained by the input they take in, enough teenagers with enough time on their hands could train the net to reject everything except pr0n.
  • by Tsujigiri ( 77400 ) <damienjbyrne@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday May 08, 2001 @05:49AM (#238225) Homepage

    Great. It looks like AOL are implementing a combination of Everything2 [htp] and the Slashdot moderation [slashdot.org].

    • www.xxxbustybabes4you.com (Score:1, Overrated)
    • www.timewarner.com (Score:5, Informative)

    Get those patent lawyers ready...umm...you did patent moderation, didn't you...well...at least we can get 'em with Everything2...can't we?

    "I'll take the red pill, no, blue. AAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH........"

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2001 @05:49AM (#238226) Homepage Journal
    Time was when you wanted pr0n you raided dad's pr0n stash. Then the Internet came along and you could get all the pr0n you wanted the the click of a button. Now it looks like we're completing the circle, making it much more likely that raiding dad's stash will once more be the preferred method of obtaining pr0n. Or dad's web cache.

    Of course, pitting parents against children in access control battles over the computer will always almost always result in one victor -- the children. Unless the parent is an IT security consultant, the children seem to inevitably know more about the computer.

  • if(url.count.visited_by(kid[n]).today > attention_span(kid[n])) {
    filter.block(url);
    }
  • by magi ( 91730 )
    There's one interesting "neural network" method for mapping and data-mining the web. It's called WEBSOM, developed by Krista Lagus, Timo Honkela, Samuel Kaski, et al from the Helsinki University of Technology, Finland. It's based on the Self-Organizing Maps (SOM) developed by Teuvo Kohonen.

    Although the SOM are usually described as a form of neural computation, that category is somewhat misleading, although they are inspired by neural nets and have many things in common.

    The method works with a restricted keyword vocabulary (a few thousand words if I remember correctly). The words are fed to the SOM as triplets, which makes the method somewhat context-sensitive. The method creates a two-dimensional map that is organized according to the "nearness" of documents. The map can then be used for different kinds of applications, such as classification.

    Although the SOM learning is usually "unsupervised learning", where the different classes are not known beforehand, it's possible to define the classes afterwards.

    I'm not sure what method AOL uses, but SOM is one possibility. If they use training data where the classes are known beforehand, they probably use some supervised learning method, such as conventional feedforward nets and backpropagation. They might be able use a similar triplet coding with that too.

    You can find more information about WEBSOM from http://websom.hut.fi/websom/ [websom.hut.fi]. They have several articles available there, and also some interactive search system.

  • I wonder if there is some sort of metamoderation in the voting to make sure that kids or an adult shown in the example above can't screw up the system with bad votes.
  • "What are you doing, honey, and what are those groaning noises coming from the computer?"

    " *cough* Just ..er.. exercising my vote to ..er.. make the internet a better place for our children..."
  • You're over-simplifying the issue here: the Internet isn't controled by one body, it has no centralization so who would make the law? And if somehow every one of us could agree on such a law (all over the world) then how would it be enforced? Take places like Geocities for example, they have a rule against porn sites but there is still porn there. When they get taken down they just create a new account. Such a law would be far too easy to get around and then we're back to the same problem we have now.

    Its sad but its so easy to see people's attitudes when it comes to issues like this. "My kid saw some naked girl! Its the governments fault!" The answer is good resposible parenting, not more laws and not blaming the government for not doing more. They've done what they can, they can't very well take away the of people to see it if they want too. We need better parents.


    "One World, one Web, one Program" - Microsoft promotional ad

  • I'd be interested to see how well this works... does anyone know of a way to see whether or not a certain page will be blocked (short of playing w/ aol's parental controls). It would be cool just to be able to feed it text and see if it oks it or not. I didn't see anything like this on the companies web site (though I didn't look everywhere). I would bet that if the software actually worked well, then they would have something like this available. It kind of reminds me of that neural net software that was supposed to be able to recognize pronographic images and how dismally it performed (even though I do think you'll have better success working with text).
  • The voting feature that is mentioned doesn't get automatically processed by the system, but instead goes to a human review board; if the review board agress, they presumeably either add the site to some type of "override" list, or tell the engineers to tweak the AI code. The AI itself is supposed to understand words in the context that they're used; for example, the article claims that the page "The Art of Oral Sex" was blocked while "Is Oral Sex Safe?" wasn't blocked.


    Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose that you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.
  • Opt-out by default? You must be joking. For starters Google indexes around 1,346,966,000 web pages. Lets assume that an average URL length is 20 characters, my current address has over 100 characters, but lets just be conservative and say its 20 characters on average. If we want to allow half the internet to pass our filters, we require 1,346,966,000 / 2 * 20 bytes, roughly 13GB of storage. Now I suppose we could figure out a way of dividing these lists up a bit, but now our browser has to coordinate page requests not only with the web server, but with all the servers that hold these lists. Everytime you change your URL, you will need to certify it is a permitted page by searching through more than 13 GB of data. If a list server ever went down, it would essentially take with it every address that it was previously permitting. If your system ever caught on, the internet would grind to a halt within a matter of minutes.
  • Doh! So THAT's why Navigator 6 sux so bad!
  • by RobinH ( 124750 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2001 @05:42AM (#238236) Homepage
    If the market is pushing towards optional filtering, what would make for a better solution?

    IMHO, a small child should not be left unattended for long periods of time on the internet. The best filtering is for you to watch your kids and see what they're viewing. This goes for television too.

    When your kids are older (i.e. teenagers) just make sure they understand what you approve of them looking at on the internet. At some point you have to trust their judgement of what's right/wrong. You still need to monitor, but don't put automated filtering there, because that just shows that you don't trust them. There are lots of ways to check what they're viewing without having a screen pop up saying that your parents have blocked this site because it contains objectionable content, when all they were reading were some /. postings.

  • Well, I think that you have every right _as a parent_ to install the filtering software of your choice, if that is the course of action you feel will best help your child. Now, is that the best solution, generally, no. But I can see cases where that would be the best solution.
    Of course, this does not apply to publicly accessable terminals such as a library.

    As an aside, I have noticed as a recent parent that parent/child interactions are not as nearly black and white as I thought before... Obviously, taking a 5 year old to Hannibal is wrong, but I'm not nearly as opinionated about other people's parenting as I once was.
  • Well, since this is nothing new, I'll repeat the same ol':

    As one who has had innocuous sites unfairly blocked, I believe there should be international treaties and national laws that both require notification to blockees and have substantial penalties for incorrect blocking.

    As a parent, I think blocking is a good thing. However, any methodology boils down to accountability - how do you know who is surfing, how do you know who is providing the content? I think there is actually a simple answer to this: Allow freedom. Require accountability.

    How can this work in a practical sense without infringing on civil liberties? Simple: Have the default setup on OS's and computers explain the users have to opt-out of letting the chip echo its serial number if they want open access to everything. Allow the users to adjust this setting on the fly. So, if you want to let gramma surf the web safely and buy new shoes or whatever, she has the accountability. If you want be an anonymous porn king, you can turn off the id. If you want to anonymously buy shoes, it's up to the vendor to choose whether to allow that - I suspect few would, the credit card companies would strongly support accountability. The great unwashed masses can get their Time/Disney opiates, er, video stream feeds, and those who want to rant about the greatness of Hitler's amphetamine use can do their thing.

    A side effect of this would be to allow scenarios such as freenet. Wouldn't that be a good thing?
  • OK, you are crazy.

    The problem arises when young and impressionable minds see things that are bad, they have no context for evaluation. So if they see pictures of gang rapes, for example, they may decide that that is a cool thing to do.

    There is in general no upper limit on stupidity, but preteens and younger teens are just discovering the limits of behavior, and so by adult standards do extremely stupid things. Of course, some adults never have learned the proper limits, and perhaps this is why.

    Yes, I'm arguing a fairly direct causality here, but I'm not ruling out more indirect links either.

    Sorry if this makes some people think I'm screaming/drooling "Save the children!!!!," but I'm not. I find that sort of thing embarrassing and wish people wouldn't do it. But such is life when dealing with the young of mammals.

    I am arguing that society creates limits, and this should be explicitly acknowledged, examined minutely, and causitive factors brought to light and dealt with in a reasonable manner. Simply letting everyone see everything will have some predictably bad results. The ubiquity of the internet doesn't allow us to say "well the parents should know everything their kids are doing all the time." Bang-bang Maggie's little hammer came down on Homer's head...

  • Yea sure censorship is a good use for this, but a much usefully method would be used some type of AI filter for spam instead of procmail :)

    AI that filters spam for me. Could I get that please, could I get that on a stick covered in mustard please. Mmmmm deep fried AI spam filter on a stick. I can taste it now, nothing fills your tummy more than deep fried AI!


  • Doesn't anyone realize that neural nets CANNOT magically determine whether something is "objectionable" or not??!?!?!

    The good people at RuleSpace have either a) propelled neural net research lightyears into the future with a new advanced multi-thousand (million? billion?) neuron neural net on some new kind of computer capable of training it in non-exponential time to look at an image and determine if it is "pornographic" or not, or b) have a typical perceptron-with-backpropagation which is reasonably good at broad pattern matching but probably couldn't distinguish between a picture of two adults copulating and two adults wearing beige suits hugging.

    Does this neural net look at heavily translated ASCII data to look for statistical patterns that pornographic sites tend to exhibit? Does it look at JPEG/GIF/TIFF/etc images for essentially a large quotient of "skin" color? How is the image presented to the net? Most data has to be heavily reformatted/translated to be fed to a neural net (because anything more than several dozen inputs to a net tends to make it untrainable). So how are they 'translating' the data they send it? FFTs or DCTs? I mean what are they doing?

    Likely they like to bandy about a term like "neural net" so it makes it seem like this filtering software is "intelligent". Sorry folks but neural nets are about as intelligent as regular ol' expert systems. They do not even remotely begin to approach the 'intelligence' level of your average rat, except that they can be hyper-optimized to find very good solutions in a very limited problem domain. They also tend to give a large quantity of false positives outside their limited problem domain (e.g., if you have a neural net that can identify pictures-of-tanks-on-fields vs pictures-of-no-tanks-on-fields, then if you feed it pictures-of-cars-on-highways it or pictures-of-hummingbirds-near-flowers it will just give you wacky answers like "well that brownish hummingbird near a tulip is DEFINITELY a tank in a field, but that blue hummingbird on the trellis is definitely NOT a tank in a field").

  • If the market is pushing towards optional filtering, what would make for a better solution?

    Make the filtering less of an on/off choice and more of a fuzzy choice, preferably with a user-selectable threshold.

    And is it any coincidence that that is starting to sound more and more like /.?

    ;-)

  • That is retarded. "Is Oral Sex Safe?" may be very appropraite for a 16 year old but certainly not for 10 year old.

    And had you read the article, you would know that the settings used to get this result were "Mature Teenager". AOL allows filters to work on several levels. There is a "child" level which basically restricts kids to Disney and Nicolodeon sites, a "young teen" level that allows greater access to some stuff, and an "older teen" level which only blocks blatent porn, hate sites, etc. I don't know how well this works (fairly well now according to the article), but I don't have kids so I've never really looked at it.

  • Not all parents are going to be able to check what their kids are viewing. Compare this to a parent who doesn't need to know how to fix their car to prevent their kid from driving it. Tools need to be provided to allow the parent to prevent the viewing of inappropriate material.
    What parent can't walk into the room, look at what his kids is viewing, and see whether it is swastikas, tits, teletubbies, or whatever other item the parent does not approve?

    Your car analogy is also off. A better one would be to consider whether a parent needs a device in the car to prevent the child from driving it to places the parent does not approve.

    All that said, I have nothing against the market providing filtering software to parents or employers.

  • The RuleSpace knowledge base is going to be very attractive to a lot of corporate users," said Bill Gassman, an analyst at the Gartner Group. "Their list will find its way into corporate America. They'll figure: 'If AOL is using it for their members, it's got to be reasonably good.'"
    Just curious, but wont this have exactly the opposite effect on the geek comunity?

    Smuffe

  • Funny how we Americans are such tightwads when it comes to sexual content. After visiting Europe last year I saw people were a slightly bit more laid back, even though pornography is shown on television just about every night. Wow I'm surprised Parents all over the USA aren't condemning Europeans for being sexually free.

    Here's a suggestion for some parents: How about talking to your kids before placing mental handcuffs on them?


    Not just handcuffs, they`re actually REPEATING what the Catholic Church did (I could also have used Hitler here) way back in europe: creating a black list of things that one should not do . And if there is one thing modern people in society do no longer accept, it`s paternalism and secrecy. For one because people are usually drawn towards the "sins of life". And more importantly, censoring a part of human culture and behaviour is proof that there are people who claim to have the right to guard the moral, human and cultural baggage from all evil. Darwin would have called such an evolution 'extinction', which ofcourse has to be seen on the psychological level in this case.

    The fact that people are censoring is only beneficial to those who are "selling the drama". The right solution is to educate and free people from mental chains, so that they will make the right decission when the next "ethical challenge" comes within their generation timeframe, so yes, this applies to young people too. This is not done by shielding (running away) from "tough" choices, leaving internet goodies to filter the bad from the world. This is done by parents making time for their children to talk about these (obviously) important issues. When things go wrong, (see: "news"), the inability to deal with conflict or temptation is THE factor that leads to bigger problems.

    Europeans are no more sexually free than americans are. You have all sorts of people here too, but atleast, we don`t make a g*dd*mn circus out of it like puritanic churches do in the US. I have nothing against believing in whatever, but we`re all human and "things happen(tm)". Including Sex. And Sex is not "a bad thing". Not even at age 12, as long as children know the consequences of whatever they do. It`s a fundamental part of grwonig up. If we are ashamed to show whatever goes round on the net to our children, then why the hell CAN ISP`s ever be responsible for putting up all that junk? They should not have been able to do so in the first place. It`s not AOL that has to play cia here, it`s us, the parents that have to do something about it. Not by easily shopping the AOL neural net caboodle, but by voting fair stable and decent laws, by raising their kids with a healthy awareness that "yes there`s a lot of crap out there which is all maffia shit", and by fighting for good ethics and values (without overreacting) amongst adults themselves (i.e. a bit of social control). Money can surely do a lot for them, but I`m convinced parents can and will do more, if only they`d have a few minutes of their precious time to spare for these things..

    Sorry i got carried away for a bit..

    I`m living in belgium/europe
  • Setting a few things straight here:

    I don't give a fuck about Karma. I'd rather you mod me down instead of trying to search for reasons not to.

    as you allready mentioned, you agree with my basic message, and yes my arguments were too strong or imprecise. But that wouldn't make this post flamebait just yet.

    When I mentioned lawvoting for instance, I was aware of the fact that laws don't work in the same way everywhere else. I didn't mean it specifically, I meant that parents should use (as in "change") the legal system in general wherever possible to protect children from mental abuses. And since law is what makes democracy work, aside from all the obvious sarcasm, you have to take the downsides with that. The fact that laws are a contemporary reflection of a society is not a downside imho. The fact that they are very static is, and if you'd let me run the world I'd go for self regulation wherever possible too, but that's not how it works today, otherwise ISP's would never have gotten this far.

    You also seem to think that I implied that ISP's should be the ones controling the content, but that is not my opinion by far. The problem is mentality, value degeneration and social acceptance of extravaganza and decadence, because hey, we're supposed to be modern kapitalists. Not that I don't want to be modern, but that doesn't have to mean there should not be any limits to what people are putting online for hard cash. Because no one else other than parents are contesting those actions, that's where the initial reaction should also start, not on any other level. But here AOL blurrs the lines ofcourse, because it's so huge and counts so many households. I can partly understand it but I still think any kind of censory is bad.

    I don't think practically excercising sex in classrooms is going to do the trick here (nice try though), just like parents probably are only giving kids half the stuff they need to know. Kids find out a whole lot by themselves, just from watching tv which screams "sex, anger and violence" every evening. Imho they'll educate themselves more than anyone dares to say out loud. What is needed is a stable and comfortable environment of schools, parents, friends to explore what relationships are, that raises questions to questionable issues (shape limits in the head of the child, rather than set them for the child -> it's still his world!!), and encourages mental stability for the child..

    Even if the puritunic movement has historic roots, it's basicly wrong and leads to mental abuse. The fact that AOL seems to feel a need to play that cultural shared opinion of US citizens can only mean AOL is desperately looking for new clients in the (elder) republican wing. So as allways, this isn't really in the interest of kids or parents, but in the interest of AOL itself. And presto, there you have your kapitalistic value degeneration again..

    Aside from my dreadfull spellin I hope this time everything is right-on target.
  • It's always mystified me a little bit how some people get so worked up about these little gizmos. Some people decry the lack of strong parenting. Others say the technology isn't perfect.

    Well, give me a break. To measure anyone's strength as a parent by a little software agent is ridiculous. And here's some news: there is no technology that's perfect. The question is, are there people who will use this program? The second question is, does it work well enough for those who want to use it? If it doesn't work well enough, the company making it will go under, and I'll bid them good riddance. But if it is good enough, more power to them.

    On the topic of this article specifically, what's the big deal? Oooh, neural nets. I'm sure it works better; otherwise, they wouldn't be using it. But it's a relatively small step in technology, in an application that (IMHO) doesn't bear much discussion.

    It's just a machine, like a traffic light. Traffic lights can cause people to get sloppy about their driving, if they trust them too much; and they're not perfect, but they work well enough that they're worth using. And remember, we don't use them at all intersections.

    Extending the metaphor, this article on using neural nets is akin to the use of delayed greens to reduce collisions at intersections. It can work better; it's good; but it's not worth much discussion.

    --

  • yeah, i know. what i meant was you would "inherit" the default list from AOL HQ (or whatever), and then modify your own PC list as you saw fit. Those self-mods would feed back into the master list and alter the settings (maybe). But whether it acutally caused a change in the master settings or not, your kids would still be able(/unable) to view sites according to the local list, not the master. the neural net should only be used for "default" settings, in my opinion. and i think that using neural nets for this is a pretty damn good idea. but not if it still removes local control from individual parents (as opposed to aggregate parents...).

    my crack about being governed by "average" AOLers was meant as humour (kinda).

    /bluesninja

  • by bluesninja ( 192161 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2001 @05:29AM (#238263) Homepage

    That's i guess a decent solution for once. Not ideal though. It means that all AOL-ers are now governed by the will of the "average" AOL member. That's a scary thought.

    Ideally, instead of voting sites up or down, why not just let everybody host their own list? Instead of "voting" for the privelege of allowing your kids to view a site, just let them. And vice versa.

    /bluesninja

  • by pjdepasq ( 214609 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2001 @05:42AM (#238271)
    A number of years ago ('96?) I was at a Software Development Expo in Washington DC. Tim Berners-Lee was the keynote the day I went and he presented what I thought was an interesting solution.

    Essentially there would be local communities (churches, schools, etc) who made restricted lists available via the browser to anyone that "agreed" with their standards. That is, if you are a parent and you like the standards your church sets, you "subscribe" or download (or whatever) the church's list of "bad" sites.

    In this scheme there's little to no mandating of someone else's standards (what AOL deems inappropriate), and you can decide what's right for your family, situation, children, morals, etc.

    I've never heard more about this scheme but I am interested in it (though I have no kids to patrol). One of these days when I get done with my PhD I might try to implement this solution and see how it works out.

  • Only put up pictures of naked people taken on sunny days.

    If you don't get the reference, click here [carleton.ca].

  • It sounds like just a voting system on websites. I read the article, but I don't get where the neural net part comes in. Also, does it apply to whole domains or subdomains, directories?

    --
  • Prospective parents should have to pass a test. It goes something like this:

    Your infant child is crying in public? Do you: A> Scold them for crying. B> Ignore them and continue dragging them behind. C> Hug them.

    You child is crying durring curch/movie/presentation/etc. Do you: A> Scold them for crying. B> Ignore them and contine watching. C> Take them out of earshot of the rest of the audience.

    Your child is 5. You want to go see Hanibal in theaters. Do you: A> Hire a babysitter. B> Leave the child with the grandparents. C> Recruit the older sibling into taking the child to the latest Disney movie while you see your movie. D> Buy them a ticket to the R rated movie.

    And so and and so fourth. Now, some of those answers seem like "Well DUH!" but people are strange, rarely do I see parents try to calm the child, or get them out of earshot of the audience. Ignore or scold them. Or ignore them now and scold later. I've been in curch services where the minister interrupted their service to remind the audience of the crying rooms at the back of the curch. It's nearly a weekly occurance! C'mon people!

    And what kind of crack do you smoke to bring your 5 year old to Hannibal and then tell other adults that it's none of there business. Well, the parents are right, it is none of your business. But if you aren't going to make it yours someone has to...

    The most disturbing thing I heard lately was from the mother of a 2 year old. "When I need a break I just pop in Bear in the Big Blue House. He doesn't know what's going on, but he's facinated by it for the next hour." Now with this mother the TV isn't going to replace parenting of babysitting, but each case is different, and there are people who will let the TV replace sitters, and even them. Sad it is.

    Now I'm only 21 and single, but come on! Use common sense! Oh wait, your parents didn't, so your not going to...sigh. We're scrwed.

  • by NineNine ( 235196 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2001 @09:01AM (#238275)
    ...but I'm not a big fan of filtering software.

  • by ishrat ( 235467 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2001 @05:39AM (#238276) Homepage
    Even though our upbringing may be ideal but a certain age and the human mind work towards finding out things for themselves. And the banned items give the most excitement and thrill of life, and as such the upbringing comes to naught. The internet being so private unleashes the desire to take a peep into the other world, without the risk of the parents ever finding out.

    This kind of automated filter along with the manual control will certainly come in handy, although I would like to advice parents to leave some scope for indulgence so that the children are not desperate enough to fid other more complex ways of satisfying the quest for information in those fields. And it all wears of in time because the novelty of the situation no longer exists.

  • I still don't know why they don't create .xxx and .sex. Then make a law so all porn sites have to be on .xxx or .sex. Then block those! It would be absolutely flawless and easy. But noooooo. We have to do things the hard way. That's a major problem with the internet, the people using it know what's better for it than the people in charge.
  • by RareHeintz ( 244414 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2001 @06:07AM (#238280) Homepage Journal
    What worries me about this "innovation" from AOL is the potential for large subsets of users to get together to ban political speech that they don't like - for example, by voting down the Village Voice site or gwbush.com [gwbush.com] or the RNC website.

    Some things (and not all that many) are best done by majority vote, but some things are better left to individual discretion.

    OK,
    - B
    --

  • It seems to be a great idea. The only issue is item #3

    iltering is opt-out by default. By this, I mean that if a site does not appear in any of your subscribed lists, it gets blocked. Unfortunately, this is the only real way (short of analyzing content in real-time) to ensure that various types of web spammers, particularly pornographers, can't fo an end-run around the filtering. Note that I don't think this should be the only mode of operation; just that the default settings should be "disallow access unless approved by me or someone I have decided to trust".

    What happens when junior needs to do a research paper on 18th century mosques with the "default" mode?

    The internet/www which is a great research tool suddenly becomes useless without a user with permission to do the list editing. However if you give junior the ability to do editing then you have defeated the point of filtering. Also it would be difficult to find a list that would cover possible research items.

    Maybe one of the modes of operation should be that unlisted sites are loged, as a link/thumbnail (thumbnail for the lazy). That way a parent could review the list later and talk to junior if necessary about what they are doing on the net

    If anyone is actually interested in doing something like this I sure you could get a lot of support. It's a greay project, and not controlled by a bunch or corporate morons that you don't know.
  • Once, while working on MS Bookshelf, I had to explain to a conservative (christian, I assume) program manager that the word "homosexuality" was not actually obscene, and would not be blocked by the product's parental filtering feature.

    What kind of policy will govern the board that chooses sites to filter based on member nominations? The web contains a lot of perfectly inoffensive material that conservative Christian parents find objectionable.

    What if a health information site contains a small amount of information on sexuality or medicinal herbs? It wouldn't exactly qualify as sex & drugs, and I can't imagine AOL filtering that. However, what about a Wiccan or Pagan site that contains the same information? I could see 10,000 well-organized Christian AOL members sending in their votes.

  • Spellchecker anyone?
  • Billy! No more taking guns to school. Now go to your room. No more tv for you, mister. And you can just forget about playing quake or unreal tournament. Wipe that look off your face, young man!

    On a related note, did anyone see the AP story this weekend about banning dodgeball in schools? Yeah they mentioned Columbine. Jesus. When I was younger, we used to play dangerous versions of dodge ball. We threw shoes, rocks, bottles, 2x4's, and anything else we could get our hands on. It was a blast...and didn't make us dangerous to society.

    --
    "Fuck your mama."

  • by Publicus ( 415536 ) on Tuesday May 08, 2001 @06:47AM (#238308) Homepage

    Does anyone know what end user sees when a site is blocked by AOL? For example, if my parents are being over-protective and I want to look at some nudity, what message do I see when I try? "Sorry, your parents don't want you to see this kind of thing" or "This site has been blocked?"

    Also, was anyone confused by this line?:
    "This (AOL filtering technology) is (only) that good," Nunberg said.

    Should those parens be taken as brackets? If not, how would that have sounded in the interview? :)

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