Content Filtered--Parental Control Advised

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Nat Torkington
Sep. 29, 2003 10:20 AM

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On the editors list here at O'Reilly, someone recently suggested we do a book on content-filtering systems for parents. My reaction was "hell no!"

I'm opposed to this kind of book. It's not that I don't believe in the technology--when my son, William, starts typing URLs on his own, I want to have a program like that installed so he doesn't accidentally get porn by mistyping But at the same time, I don't ever plan on it being something he can't remove when he decides he's ready--I won't read my kids diaries, listen to their telephone calls, or limit and track their access to the Internet.

I don't trust many other parents to have the same trust of their children as I do, so I don't want to do a book on NetNanny-type software. It's a personal stance, not one determined by the market, so I'm sure some people will consider it unprofessional. But everyone takes these stances all the time--against patents, for open source, etc. These are all based on beliefs about "what's best", and we hope that our stances will affect other peoples' behaviour. This doesn't seem much different.

I'm not suggesting that this is an official O'Reilly stance on a par with support for open source. I can't speak of other parts of O'Reilly--I can't veto a Spyware conference, a SnoopOnYourKids DevCenter, or a new line of "Treat Your Children Like a Reality TV Show Instead of Sentient Beings" books from the consumer group. But I can affect what books we do as part of our security line, and I will strongly oppose any such books. I don't mind teaching adults how to hack, but I do mind helping them raise their children in a closet.


Nat Torkington is conference planner for the Open Source Convention, OSCON Europe, and other O'Reilly conferences. He was project manager for Perl 6, is on the board of The Perl Foundation, and is a frequent speaker on open source topics. He cowrote the bestselling Perl Cookbook.

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