"If on Monday, the anti-Internet convention takes a powerful swipe at the latest technology, by Tuesday the kids (and the young at heart) discover something better and faster". Rabbi Weinberger, The Klal Perspectives Journal
The constant focus on internet filters scare me, and heres why.
Filters sound good, but they are not the solution. A filter is only as effective as much as the person using it wants to be filtered. And while it’s a great way to stop pop-ups and inappropriate web-pages, it is irrelevant to the issue we are facing. I will be brief as to why filters don’t work by highlighting some facts people may be unaware of.
- TECHNOLOGICALLY- The Internet by design was created not to be filtered. By designing it as a web, no matter how much you try you can’t control the information. Look at the middle east countries where dictators were brought down by social networking. Of course they tried everything in their power to pull the plugs, but the Internet can’t be controlled. The MPAA tried to stop peer-to-peer file sharing and was never successful. The internet was designed in the 1960's using a system called packet switching so that traffic can always reroute itself, which makes censorship almost impossible.
- PASSWORD - When I was just 17 and the web was first starting to explode my father was visited by one of the first “filter companies”. They wanted his haskama. During the demonstration my father asked me what I thought. I sat down at the computer and with a few clicks bypassed the filter. My father told them to come back when my child can’t disable the filter. They never came back. I wasn’t a computer genius and you don’t have to be one. Any child can learn to break even the most sophisticated password protection. All you need is for one person to figure it out and within seconds all his friends will too. And for those without friends they can google it. Monitoring software can be disabled just as easily. So can the “chavrusa system”. Don’t be fooled by the companies trying to sell you their products.
- WIFI. Free unfiltered wireless internet is available almost anywhere you go. The current goal is to have wifi available free over the entire USA, as it is already in some cities. Any filter you have at home is irrelevant. Almost every new electronic device has wifi capability. And trying to password protect every one of them is an unrealistic goal.
Enjoyment - Lastly, we need to make sure our children find enjoyment as being Jewish. Better that we have less tests and let the children have more fun, rather then have them think Judaism is boring and undesirable. Because those who don't find enjoyment in being Jewish will either leave the fold or stay Jewish but resentful inside, which may even be worse.
And so I leave with this question, to Filter or to Educate? Where should we Focus our Energies?