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« Free assembly, but not here | Main | Dacia King »

Aug 28, 2010

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Spag

Ah the return of "useful". I thought this was "much ado about nothing". Why advocate a solution if there is no problem?

Roch101

Come to think of it, I don't remember reading Sam's opinion on the issue or how to address it. Plenty of criticism for how Ed is approaching it, but...

cheripickr

Here is a montage of statements from Ed regarding his thoughts on how to approach the library porn problem, aside from the multiple statements of opposition to filters without any offered explanations of how they would be inferior to the throttling system currently in place:

“Discussion of the issue is a good thing”

“Raising the subject, as I've also said often, is fine.”

“Filters and throttles are both methods of controlling access to content, which is something that pretty much everyone seems to agree is desirable at some level.
So: an imperfect approach versus another, related imperfect approach, to a commonly-agreed-upon problem.”

“More accurate information is a good thing”

“The job here is to find the best solution available at the moment to an issue with multiple moving parts”

“we need accurate information on the problem and possible solutions before jumping to conclusions. I'm pleased that we're moving in that direction.”

“Filters may or may not be the best way of dealing with the real challenge of policing inappropriate content.”

“Still, testing filters is something that should be considered.”

“I think we all agree with Joe's statement that kids should be "protected to the maximum extent feasible." It's defining "feasible" that's the hard part.”

Here is the sum total of response from Ed that I can find to Kathy Hartsell’s multiple posts that she took the time and courtesy of posting on his blog of accurate information (at least I’ve not heard it challenged), which confirms the easy feasibility of implementing or at least test-driving our currently owned filtering software, and which strongly refutes the (few) arguments I have heard against filtering as compared to throttling:

“maybe it makes more sense to enforce standards in some manner other than blocking content, which is itself an imperfect solution in more ways than one.”
???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
Talk about filtering useful information!
Can you imagine the difference in reception if our heavily-promoted library director had bothered to put in a guest appearance?
This latest thread, and its obligatory cutesy title, confirms his selectivity in assimilation of available information into his predefined, seldom-explained team-loyal position on this issue.
This is getting so easy to expose, it's getting a little embarrassing.

Ed Cone

CP, you may have missed the comments and subsequent post where I guessed at, and then verified, the pricing and implementation process for the filtering module mentioned by Kathy, and also discussed, based on her work, the idea of testing filters. Today's post also deals with information from Kathy, on the subject of upgrading GPL software. I know I've responded directly to her in the comments, too, so I have not been ignoring her contributions, and I hope she does not feel that I have been doing so.

dale

I don't live in Greensboro and I have no idea what the physical layout of the library is like. I'm also having a hard time not making jokes. But I do have a serious question.
How easy is it to actually see what other people are looking at?

Spag

CP, I think he missed your point- on purpose.

Michele Forrest

Dale, there are over 100 computers at the Central library. The computers around the circle upstairs are easy viewable by anyone walking by. There's a separate computer room upstairs, and those computers are viewable by neighbors beside and behind the user. There are study carrels/computer desks in various places upstairs and downstairs. They have partitions on the sides and back. They are more or less visible depending upon the placement. Some are in rows, with the walkways beside the users/partition. (Less viewable.) Some are lined up side-by-side with the walkway behind the users' backs. (More visible.)

The new Benjamin Branch Library has computers clustered in small groups, kind of like triangles, so that all computer screens face outward in the big, open room. It's a bit awkward. Recently, I was perusing the book stacks and I happened to glance up and see an email on the computer screen that was in my eye line. (It's a small library.) I looked away quickly, but I felt like I needed to say, "Oh, excuse me!" ;) On the other hand, it's unlikely that those computers will be used for porn surfing.

Using a similar setup at Central might help deter someone who was thinking of looking at porn, and I like the idea. But I'd think that would be an expensive solution, to have to replace all those desks and rearrange the floor plan so extensively.

bubba

"CP, I think he missed your point- on purpose."

Imagine that!

justcorbly

Maybe I missed it, but who or what in Greensboro gets to decide what is or is not porn?

That done, it ought to be a relatively simple matter to block access to any site on the list. How that would happpen depends on how the library's network is set up.

cheripickr

JC, you'll have to pose that question to Roch, the only other person who seems particularly hung up on that question. Everyone else seems content to have allowed the programmers of the software they choose to purchase, after comparing the various products available, to make that distinction. Who or what in Raleigh got to decide?

justcorbly

I don't have a clue who decides in Raleigh. If it's an issue around here, it hasn't surfaced in the media. Idon't know if that means no one has raised a fuss, or if Wake's libraries use something that works.

If programmers simply compile a list of the URL's of alleged porn sites, then, at the least, this list will not remain static. New porn sites will come online, old porn sites will go away, domain names will be bought and sold. Someone needs to maintain that list.

If the programmers claim not to use a URL list, but say they can identify porn based on a real-time analysis of content, I would certainly ask for a demonstration and the names of current users. That's essentially image recognition.

Another way to do it is to look at the common textual components of a porn site. That ought to be pretty accurate, although it might return some false positives. Those would likely decrease if they can evaluate the design of a page and associate textual components with images, etc.

With any software approach, I would want to keep an eye on those false positives, i.e., innocent sites tagged as porn.

dale

Michele Forrest - Thanks for the description. Hope it's useful for others.

You seem to have taken somewhat contradictory positions. You didn't want to see someone else's email. Then you suggest reducing the level of privacy would deter looking at porn. Is your concern that you might see the porn that other people are viewing or that other people are viewing porn?

JC

As for innocent sites, you'd always have the option of asking the librarian to unblock a site - perhaps electronically from your computer, or you could mail the owner of the filter, which would take more time, but be more anonymous. Some might think that's an infringement on some right, but internet use at the library is a privilege, not a right.

If the problem really is just a few people looking at porn, the filters could be tried out, and if a user attempts to access above a certain number of sites, or generates above a certain number of flags, then the librarian could talk to them, put them on probation. Violate the probation and lose the privilege of using the internet at the library. As the most frequent offenders lost their privileges, then that should show up in the statistics.

cheripickr

“CP, you may have missed the comments and subsequent post where I guessed at, and then verified, the pricing and implementation process for the filtering module mentioned by Kathy, and also discussed, based on her work, the idea of testing filters.”
I sure did miss those comments, Ed, and stand corrected and apologize for doing so. I’m OK with expressing ”wrong” opinions, but I try to be careful making statements about other people’s comments which can be easily determined to be accurate or inaccurate. I went back and read and reread your threads on this topic and finally understood at least part of what you are referring to:
“Also: I asked Sandy Neerman about the filtering module included in the library's existing software. The answer was what I suspected -- users pay for the modules they use, so adding the filtering module included in the package would incur cost to the library.”

Did you also think to ask her what the differential cost to the library would be for switching from the bandwidth-shaping module to the filtering module, since the user only pays for the module(s) they use?

As far as your discussing “based on her work, the idea of testing filters” that remains quite elusive to me. In fact, there is only place where I can find that you have addressed her or acknowledged the information she provided in your threads:.
“Kathy, thanks for commenting here. What if anything can be done about content on laptops using GPL wifi?

Is “Still, testing filters is something that should be considered.” what you mean by “discussion”? I mean, that idea didn’t exactly originate at your blog with Kathy Hartsell.
In fact I believe it was the "fiasco" and "disaster" of a proposal originally put forth by Danny Thompson that has fueled this entire process, the direction of which you are so pleased with.

Moreover, the comment I referred to earlier, “maybe it makes more sense to enforce standards in some manner other than blocking content, which is itself an imperfect solution in more ways than one.”
sounded so completely unhinged from the content of her comments that preceded it, I’m not even sure that was directed at her, but I assumed so since it came directly after it.

And frankly, nowhere could I find you acknowledging any possible usefulness or value of a single point of information she has contributed at your own blog into this discussion.
Again, I stand ready to be corrected and apologize on that point as well, and actually am hoping that will be the case.

Roch101

"JC, you'll have to pose that question to Roch, the only other person who seems particularly hung up on that question." -- CP

Justcorbly, Don't ask that question of CP. What is porn and who decides should be fundamental in this discussion as many people have acknowledged. In typical fashion, CP would rather puke into a discussion "logic" that skips over sound premises and take personal swipes at anybody who asks that we think.

Roch101

Justcorbly,

To answer your question: A company decides. The throttling system at the library uses a combination of content analysis and URL lists. I made a request of the library last year for the criteria and lists used by the library's vendor. The vendor considered it proprietary and the best they would do is to share how they describe porn: sexually explicit material material for the purpose of sexual arousal.

cheripickr

Roch, how do you define "responsible" as opposed to "irresponsible" adult for the purposes of deciding who is allowed to view porn, however defined, in a public library? That seems to be at the crux of whatever your position is on this topic. Could you explain that fundamental and sound premise to me?

Michele Forrest

"Is your concern that you might see the porn that other people are viewing or that other people are viewing porn [on public library computers]?"

Dale, both.

Spag

CP, everyone knows that Kathy Hartsell is just too "Tea Party" for any of her ideas to be Useful™.

The best policy is to continue to discuss what you have predetermined to be Useful™ because that Just Seems Reasonable™ without committing to any course of action so that regardless of what actually happens you can link back to something you wrote earlier about what is Useful™ and what Just Seems Reasonable™ and say "I told you so".

Roch101

"Could you explain that fundamental and sound premise to me?" -- CP

Sure, CP, I'd be happy to. Thanks for asking because you have brought to my intention that my suggesting we wait for adults to prove themselves irresponsible might have appeared as rhetoric instead of the practicality it is.

We do this all the time. Driving and drinking make a good analogy, I think.

Properly licensed adults are free to drive on public streets. They can even have a drink or two and do it. If they get drunk and drive, however, they are deemed irresponsible and denied the privilege for a while. They might even be required to install a breathalyzer on their car for a period that keeps their car from starting if they have been drinking -- a filter of sorts.

If adults can use unfiltered internet access responsibly, which is to say, in accordance with the rules, they should be allowed so surf unmolested by imperfect filters. Those who prove themselves irresponsible, who are caught not abiding by the rules, lose the privilege -- in fact, that's what currently happens -- they get banned. An alternate or complimentary response might be to allow them only filtered access for a while -- like the drunk driver.

Responsible means you abide by the rules by your own volition and therefore suffer no loss of privileges. Irresponsible means you have demonstrated your unwillingness to abide by the rules by your own free will, so the privilege is denied or restricted.

Roch101

"without committing to any course of action" -- Sam

Yeah, because that would be really petty, annoying and childish.

Spag

Speed limits exist because there is an assumption that regardless of how well a person can drive and how responsible they may be, some reasonable preventative restrictions must be put in place for safety reasons.

In North Carolina, it is illegal to have an open container of alcohol in one's vehicle- even if one is not drinking it. Another preventative measure.

In most states, a person must get a handgun permit to buy a gun. Even though the Constitution guarantees the right to own a firearm. Permitting applies even to people who haven't shot anyone and are otherwise responsible. Another preventative measure.

In most states, a person must take a course and get a permit to carry a concealed weapon- even if they haven't shot anyone or are otherwise responsible. Another preventative measure.

So we see that there are a number of things- this is only a short list- where some reasonable prior restraints are put in place even over responsible adults to prevent or reduce the possibility of victimization at the hands of irresponsible adults.

So if all we need to do is bank on adult responsibility then NO filters of any kind, including the ones that are in place are necessary. We'll just send the library staff around to monitor the computers and punish violators. That seems to be the argument I'm hearing from some quarters, CP. Don't deter the crime by making it harder to accomplish, just punish after the fact.

Roch101

Brod is right, Sam, the false equivalence is your trademark. None of your analogies include a preemptive prohibition on legal behavior as filters do.

George Hartzman

Are members of a church more likely to give campaign contributions
to a Council Member who attends the same church,
after said church’s preacher gives a sermon on the dangers of pornography?

Roch101

So, how about it Sam? You have seen fit to poke people for their opinions without expressing your own. Got one? What does Sam Spagnola the man think is the best way to address this issue?

Roch101

Spit it out, George.

Roch101

BTW, Dr. Hayes, while I gave you a genuine and respectful response to your question about what defines responsible and irresponsible, I did not notice that you managed to premise it on a straw man (which is itself disrespectful). I have not, as you dishonestly misrepresented, said that we identify responsible adults for the purpose "deciding who is allowed to view porn." I have said that we allow responsible adults the option of using unfiltered computers as long as they abide by the rules.

cheripickr

I like your analogy, Roch.

I think that if there were a simple software program that would prevent drivers from drinking and driving, (even if it only worked 85% of the time), we would not only employ it but mandate it and every sane person would support it rather than waiting for someone to cause a fatality and then punish them for their irresponsibility.

Also, I assume that anyone who supports both Roch's expressed ideological and definitional opposition to filters, would be equally in favor of disabling the current throttling mechanism just as adamantly and vocally, both on the basis of the personal responsibility factor and the imperfect science of distinguishing porn from legitimate sites. Does that indeed depict your attitude in regards to the current system, Roch? If not, why not?

Roch101

"I think that if there were a simple software program that would prevent drivers from drinking and driving, (even if it only worked 85% of the time), we would not only employ it but mandate it..." -- CP

There is, but we don't.

Any ideas why reality does not conform to your expectations for "every sane person" on this?

To answer your question. I think responsible adults should have the option of unrestricted access.

justcorbly

>>To answer your question: A company decides. The throttling system at the library uses a combination of content analysis and URL lists. I made a request of the library last year for the criteria and lists used by the library's vendor. The vendor considered it proprietary

Thanks, Roch. Not surprised about the proprietary gambit.

JC: If the problem at any library is just a few people looking at porn, then the same legal justification for the filtering system (presumably, there is one) might be directed against those few people.

Britain has a mildly controversial law called the ASBO: Anti-Social Behavior Order. Basically, the courts give cease-and-desist orders to people doing obnoxious things and disturbing the neighbors E.g., stand on the street corner every night and scream obscenities at pedestrians and you'll be served with an ASBO telling you to shut up. Something like that might be useful to ban repeat porn viewers from entering the library.

cheripickr

"There is, but we don't."
Sounds like that's because it's a new concept/ technology that hasn't evolved to the point of implementation, unlike porn filters.


I had no idea. Thanks. I guess we'll see, perhaps after trial testing to determine its effectiveness.

I agree that responsible adults should not have should not be restricted from responsible access. If responsibility is defined as adherence to the library's pornography policy, then pornography filters/throttlers will not restrict responsible access. If irresponsibility is defined as violating that policy, then filters will prevent irresponsible adults from their irresponsible attempts to do so. From a practical standpoint the pound of cure this ounce of prevention frees up for for more productive uses is self-evident. So simple a cavem....

Kathy Hartsell

Content Filtering and Blocking: Network Composer provides tier one filtering capabilities to protect against access to in appropriate content. This starts with a best of breed database with over 66 million URLs classified into over 90 categories including Pornography, Child Pornography, Mature Content, Drugs, Hate, Criminal Skills, Hacking, Weapons and other topics relating to CIPA. Additionally, because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, Network Composer provides real time content and keyword analysis of web pages to prevent access to new or changing sites with inappropriate content. For further protection, the database and dynamic analysis check against 20 international languages to prevent sites from foreign countries getting past the filter.

GPL had to choose their definition of pornography when they set up the rules for the shaping software. The shaping software does not ship with preset rules in place.

As for only paying for the modules that the organization will use... back when this device was being sold, it sold for around $4,500.00. When the proposal was made by GPL for this device along with a hardware and software contract for 3 years - GPL listed $5,700.00 as the amount requested. The price actually paid was $8,000.00. What exactly did they pay for?

No opinions here... just looking for the facts.

As a side note, I have just reported facts on this device and what it is capable of producing. There are many reports that can be generated from this device and according to a post over at caramichele.com the conversation between Tommy and Zach concludes that the staff needs more time and training to understand what is in place and how to get the most out the device that is currently being used at the GPL.

Tommy: “There are a number of reports that that device can generate that we don’t currently generate as it is still new to us. We’re still sort of testing it out and looking at all that but I believe that that is a report that can be generated…”

As for the wireless access. It is wide open without any filters, blocking or software shaping place, password or encryption in place.

Roch101

"Sounds like that's because it's a new concept/ technology that hasn't evolved to the point of implementation, unlike porn filters." -- CP

No, not new. They've been around for years, prescribed by courts even here in North Carolina. From the article I linked to: "There are already about 150,000 interlock systems now in cars in the U.S., placed there for drivers with multiple DUI convictions."

So, CP, it is not that they are new or untested. What other reason might there be that these DUI prevention systems are not in every car, as you suspected "every sane person" would want to mandate?

Roch101

" If responsibility is defined as adherence to the library's pornography policy, then pornography filters/throttlers will not restrict responsible access." -- CP

Porn filters do block sites that are not porn. You can say, "don't worry, they won't" but they do. Can you unhitch your argument from make-believe and tether it to the facts?

Brandon Burgess

I can't understand why Cheri wants to give people the chance to drive drunk.

Roch101

He says he does not. He says that if a device existed that prohibited it (even only 85% of the time) every sane person would mandate that we implement it. Well, such a device does exist. What CP cannot explain is why every sane person is not demanding that it be mandatory.

Spag

CP, I decided to stop engaging Roch after the Obama/gay marriage hypocrisy because there is no point in discussing anything of value with a person who is intellectually dishonest and does not really believe in the things he claims. Such a person is exactly the kind of person I sought to expose and continue to seek to expose as a big part of the problem with the discourse in America. True intellectuals search for truth instead of engaging in partisan and ideological hypocrisies and acts of phony outrage. Add to that a savant like obsession with minutia and a gaping hole in logical reasoning that he is blind to see, and I think my actions are justified.

Making statements like "None of your analogies include a preemptive prohibition on legal behavior as filters do" after I cited several examples that do exactly that (driving is legal with a license, but the speed limit is there to prevent you from going too fast and causing harm to someone else; handgun permits entail background checks to ensure that felons don't get guns, etc) is just one sign of this disconnect.

I surmised that under the solution offered by Roch, there would be no need for ANY kind of filtering, etc. We simply punish after the fact. Great, but you can't uncrack an egg. The simple question of why we would want to prevent the viewing of porn at the public library seems lost on him.

Doc Alexander

Roch is a stand-up guy. Witness the forthright manner in which he answered my question about child porn. OH WAIT, I forgot; he never answered it. In fact he ducked it everytime I asked it.

bubba

Spag, what do current Federal and state law require of libraries regarding filtering?

In your opinion, does GPL currently meet the standards under the law?

What legal options does City Council, or the citizens of Greensboro have to change current policy while remaining in compliance with applicable law?

cheripickr

"So, CP, it is not that they are new or untested. What other reason might there be that these DUI prevention systems are not in every car, as you suspected "every sane person" would want to mandate?'

Ok, Roch, let me throw you a bone. You got me. Every sane person was an exaggeration. Roch one, CP zero. Hear that everybody?

We can argue this all day, from whatever angle, but what it boils down to is a difference in values between the two of us.

Trying to apply your litmus test for filters to the alcohol detectors, the expectation that a vast majority of rational, responsible adults would support such a system, if effective, is predicated on the assumption that most rational, responsible people would consider drunk driving an irresponsible adult choice, and that saving a few lives here and there might be an acceptable trade off for the occasional false positive misread.

As with your drunk-driving analogy, see, if we have available a system that prevents a child, or an adult for that matter, from willingly or unwilling viewing semen streaming down some girl's face, or a fist rammed up someone's anus, in a tax-funded public library, then I can accept the odious, ominous possibility of occasional lack of access to some of the valuable information you exampled of which you so dreadfully fear for our deprivation. Assign me a “research” project on "the six secrets of gay anal sex", or a thesis on the best sex films of all time, or how to find a nudist colony using sources other than a non-filtered computer, and I am sure I will do just fine. But then again, I may be wired just a little differently than you. At the end of the day, we just have to agree to disagree on the relative importance of different values. Agree or disagree?

Anyway, if they do not adopt filters, I will be in your corner, pushing that they get rid of those throttlers too. Nothing worse than a solution that combines the worst of both our opposing arguments.

Roch101

Roch is a stand-up guy. Witness the forthright manner in which he answered my question about child porn. OH WAIT, I forgot; he never answered it. In fact he ducked it everytime I asked it. -- Doc Alexendar

Doc, I did answer your question:

"The answer to your question is no, of course not. Not only is it repugnant, it is illegal.
If you are going to besmear people, at least get your facts straight. Now what was that you were saying about stand up guys?

Roch101

Trying to apply your litmus test for filters to the alcohol detectors, the expectation that a vast majority of rational, responsible adults would support such a system... -- CP

But again, Dr. Hayes, let's deal with reality instead of your pretending. They do not. Seemingly nobody does. Why is that? It is not because as you first thought, that no such systems exist. It is not because as you then imagined, that the systems are untested. It is not, because as you then dreamed, that a vast majority would support the systems. The systems exist. They are in use for people who drive drunk. Why is there no broad effort to have them installed on every car as a preemptive measure? You think it is a good idea, why isn't America with you?

Spag

D.A., he ducked one of my questions for weeks. Then when he did finally answer it, he hoped nobody would notice because it exposed him for the intellectually dishonest, hypocritical partisan that he is. People like him are exactly what is wrong with politics. They will call people racists, bigots, etc. all day long for no other reason than political advantage. 90% of their outrage is phony political posturing, an attempt to sell a narrative that as Roch's hypocrisy so clearly unveiled, they don't really believe themselves. It's poison, and all because they are angry extremists throwing a tantrum because America continues to reject their vision for this country.

Ed Cone is similarly going on a month now, writing countless paragraphs explaining why he shouldn't have to answer five simple YES/NO questions instead of simply answering them.

It doesn't matter whether they deny it or are claiming to Just Seem Reasonable, or label themselves impartial ombudsmen- it's all crap. That's why every time you box them into a corner and confront them about their hypocrisy they immediately gang up and lash out and try to make YOU the subject. They live in an imaginary world where if enough of them get together and call you an asshole, they think they've won the argument.

CP, notice how Rain Man has no answers to his own irrelevant questions. It's a comparison of one cost benefit to another that are on different scales, something that is lost on him. Nevertheless, I shall end his misguided argument and time wasting exercise. Every car has a seat belt, even the ones driven by "responsible adults". That wasn't always the case.

Checkmate.

Bubba

"....suggesting we wait for adults to prove themselves irresponsible might have appeared as rhetoric instead of the practicality it is.

We do this all the time. Driving and drinking make a good analogy, I think."

Really?

Why do DUI checkpoints exist?

Why do police officers post themselves at strategic points near drinking establishments near closing time?

Without probable cause, exactly how have the people stopped proven themselves irresponsible?

Those strategies are called preemptive enforcement. It's the same concept the filter serves in enforcing a library policy.

cheripickr

Roch, if you really choose to formulate your opinions on issues based on what is instead of what should ever be and why, that's fine with me. It's a safe enough play. But in that case, what would be the point in debating anything anyway? Sorry that my mind doesn't work that way but it's comforting to know you don't dispute the differences in values that I see between us.

Bubba

"They are in use for people who drive drunk. Why is there no broad effort to have them installed on every car as a preemptive measure? You think it is a good idea, why isn't America with you?"-- Roch

"Every car has a seat belt, even the ones driven by 'responsible adults'.- Spag

Roch is obviously not knowledgeable about the 1974 seat belt interlock fiasco, and how "responsible adults" reacted.

Bubba

"They live in an imaginary world where if enough of them get together and call you an asshole, they think they've won the argument."

......thus furthering a sense of entitlement and their erroneously perceived moral, academic and intellectual "superiority".

Roch101

Sam, what permissible behavior is prohibited by speed limits?

Filters, in their imperfection, preemptively prohibit permissible behavior. Speed limits do not. Your analogies are not analogous.

Roch101

"Every car has a seat belt, even the ones driven by "responsible adults". That wasn't always the case." -- Spagnola

Seat belts do not preemptively prohibit a permissible activity, as filters do.

Roch101

CP, I'm glad you brought up values, that's what this is about. I won't speak for you, you say we have differences -- I'll take your word for it. The values that drive my opinion on this issue are that adults in a free society should be allowed to make their own decisions about what information to access -- what to know; that it is government overreach to preemptively prohibit permissible activities. My values are American values, that adults who have violated no law, not even broken a rule, should not have their liberties infringed.

It is these values Americans share in declining to clamor for breathalyzer ignition locks on all cars, btw.

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