Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Child Wise statistics - why these ones?

From Child Wise's media releases page, dated 14 August 2006 we have the article "Australians say no to child porn". It cites the same Newspoll study that Bernadine cited in her recent op-ed in The Australian regarding the attitudes of internet users over 18. Newspoll is generally reliable, so I see no particular reason to doubt the statistics presented.

I am curious about two statements from that press release, though. Child Wise is devoted to prevention of child sexual exploitation, so I wonder why the findings "78% believe that ISPs should offer customers the choice of blocking all pornography" and "64% are not confident that home based internet filters are effective" are quoted as if they're somehow relevant to that task. Home-based filters are of course entirely voluntary, and designed to prevent minors from accessing adult content. They are NOT designed for preventing universal access to illegal content such as child porn. So why even mention them?

The curious inclusion of a statistic about what people think about ISPs offering to block (presumably legal) pornography has no relevance to Child Wise's mission either that I can see. There might be a tortured argument in there about how preventing children from accessing adult sexual material might prevent "mental sexual abuse" from the imagery or somesuch, but I don't think that's the reasoning that Child Wise employs. The relevance to Child Wise's mission of the distinction between child pornography and legal pornography seems completely unconsidered here.

The press release here pre-dates Stephen Conroy's "if you don't support our filter plan then you love paedophiles" smear by over a year, so I don't think the conflation is part of any intentional political smear campaign. I suspect that the conflation is unintentional. But I think that only makes it more problematic. It shows a genuine inability to distinguish between filtering illegal content and filtering adult content only. I think that a lot of Australians share this blind spot. And I fear that that's going to make things very hard for people arguing against this censorship proposal.

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