Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Surf No Evil

I thought there was some irony to the fact that National Public Radio aired a story about "Parental Controls for Computer-Savvy Kids" and then shortly afterward aired a story about how "China's Gay Pride Week Mixes Celebration, Caution," which noted with disapproval that computers shipped after July 1st would be equipped with an Internet filter that screens out content from keywords related to terms like "homosexual" and that such events would be therefore difficult to publicize in the future. NPR's producers obviously didn't see any cognitive dissonance that would come from this juxtaposition, but let me suggest a few ways that this should have given listeners a pause.

First of all, Henry Jenkins is running an interesting series on Risks, Rights, and Responsibilities in the Digital Age: An Interview with Sonia Livingstone (Part One) that cautions against moral panics and forms of rhetoric that make children's rights very different from human rights by stripping kids of certain forms of agency.

Second, as David Coursey points out in "China's Citizens Oppose Green Dam, So Must U.S. Computer Makers," many technology firms are complicit with the requirement that Green Dam be installed on new PCs.

For a fascinating write-up on resistance to Green Dam, including screen shots from what turned out to be an Internet voting fiasco for the Chinese government, see Rebecca MacKinnon's post "Green Damned."

Update: More about the "Green Dam Phenomenon" from MacKinnon at the Wall Street Journal.

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