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NYET--attempted formal specs (again)
I hope I'm not becoming Detweileresqe about this, but I've had some
requests for these. Since not even I was satisfied with my original
notation, I thought I'ld try again...
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Copyright 1995, Nathan Zook. All rights reserved.
NYET-- Non-Youths Exhibit Temperance.
This is a rising, legitamate concern among parents that their children
have all-to-easy access to porn on the internet. Last year, there
were numerous proposals for various voluntary self-rating systems.
AOL and Prodigy heavily censor their systems in various ways. This
year, Senator Exon advanced his own proposal. Of course, this occured
just about the time that SurfWatch came out.
But none of these proposals can ultimately succeed. Here I restate my
NYET proposal from last year for your consideration. The system is of
necessity ISP-based. Home-based systems are subject to attacks at
home. Since many (most?) children are better with computers than
their parents, these attacks can be expected to succeed.
Any ISP-based system requires that the ISP determine which customers
are not of majority age and who is legally responsible for them.
There are technical solutions to this problem which are part of the
basis to the proposal.
The elements of NYET are as follows: the ISP, monitoring software, the
parent/guardian of the minor, and one or more ratings services.
A NYET-ISP does not grant access priveleges to minors without prior
contact with the (generically) parent of the minor. This contact
includes explaining and helping configure the NYET software in
accordance with the parent's wishes.
The NYET-software runs as superuser on the ISP's machine. All minor
accounts have a corresponding configuration file sitting in their
account owner's parent's directory, which is locked with read/write by
owner only flags. The correspondence between minor and parent
accounts sits in a file owned by root and similiarly locked.
The parent sets the configuration file to permit and deny access to
various parts of the net. Since it is unreasonable for the parent to
personally "rate" the net, it is expected that various organizations
will form ratings services. The parent could then select various
combinations of ratings criteria from these agencies as default. It
is expected that the services would charge for their information. It
is likely that these charges could be added to the monthly bill that
the parent receives from the ISP.
And the role of government? Right now--none other than to encourage
parental involvement. Any attempt to force this, or almost any other,
type of restriction by legislative "I say so" (fiat in Latin) will
meet with fatal opposition. Until the legislature understands the
net, the combined efforts of the millions who use the net will swamp
any efforts to control it.
Speaking of government, school internet access is the bane of any
attempt by parents to control the access that their kids have to the
net. Anyone seeking to limit children's access should look carefully
at this experimentation.
I post this proposal because I believe it to be one of the few stable
attractors in this problem. I believe that Prodigy and SurfWatch
amount to first iterations, and that the market will push them towards
NYET. When it does so move, and a majority of ISPs provide or nearly
provide NYET service, and ONLY then, the government might mandate the
NYET standard. As a somewhat earlier measure, the government could
offer to hold harmless ISPs that adhere to these standards--but only
when the market has already handled the technical hurdles.
I feel it necessary to reiterate the importance of the government
waiting for a market solution to this problem. By its design, the net
appeals to libertarians and anarchists. For many years, it has been
accessible almost exclusively by people demographically predisposed to
a libertarian or anarchist world view. The net.gods, when angered,
can produce no end of michief. And since they designed the system,
they won't be stoppable.
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