I worked hard today. Really hard - as in 'hours of sweaty yardwork' hard. Now I'm tired, with thin slice of crabby on the side. And for no apparent reason today I got to thinking about Cheryl Miller and I got even crabbier.
Ms Miller has managed to garner a bit of press here in London by pushing for Internet filters on public computers at local libraries. The catalyst for her media crusade-lite was a recent incident where a rather disturbed fellow was caught surfing (child) porn at the library, and was summarily arrested.
Rather that acknowledge that maybe the system worked in catching this library patron, Ms. Miller would like to censor public access to the Internet - at least in libraries. Now I don't doubt that the Counciller from Ward 14 has some genuine feelings here. But she needs to keep them to herself. And she needs to knock off a call for public meetings on the subject - which is really a disengenuous path to getting her own way by whipping up public indignation at taxpayer expense.
Clearly, we should not be filtering Internet access at London public libraries. And I say this for two reasons:
Number One - It is no one's place to censor what someone else can say or see so long as no laws are being broken. The personal freedoms of Democracy are a very messy business, indeed. Certainly a city Councillor should know that.
Number Two - Internet filtering is, at best, imperfect. Having spent years as an IT Guy working with this technology, I can attest that they do not work well and are easily thwarted by someone motivated to do so. They provide a false sense of security and, ultimately, reflect someone else's idea of 'appropriate'. Who will be that Someone Else in London, Ms. Miller?
If we're worried about people accessing objectionable material in London libraries, then address the problem in ways that don't require censorship. Ensure the library's policy is clear on accessing porn, etc. Position public PCs so that their screens are not visible to anyone else. Assign someone to physically monitor and patrol areas where PCs are available. Get rid of public PCs altogether, if the porn problem won't go away.
But for heaven's sake, don't let the Cheryl Millers of the world decide whether Londoners should see images the the Venus de Milo or access safe-sex information on a public PC.