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« Rousing | Main | In memory »

Aug 10, 2010


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The article/post definitely underscores the issues already brought forth in discussions on the issue. Is it possible that filtering tech has advanced somewhat since the latest of the studies (2008)? Two years is a long time in the computer world afterall. If not then the abilities of the technology do not appear to me to be up to par at this time. Cost effectiveness of the technology is important to the discussion.

Good info no doubt but the author is admittedly bias about the issues so grains of salt for everyone.

Michele Forrest

Apparently, the filter our family used for years was magic, because it did the things that everyone is saying a filter can't do, and it had an opposite-of-embarrassing accuracy rate of near 100%, as I recall. (I probably would have noticed otherwise, as I tested it across categories, and our computer-laden, high-usage family put it to good use.) In retrospect, we obviously got a good deal on this priceless product. I heart magic.

P.S. Here are some other stats I found on the web, all from peer-reviewed, scholarly web sites:

» Pornography-blocking software used in schools and libraries: "At moderate settings, the mean blocking rate was 5% for health information and 90% for pornography." (source)

» Filtering pornography: "Experiments conducted on a testbed of 400 Web sites including 200 adult sites and 200 nonpornographic ones showed WebGuard's filtering effectiveness, reaching a 97.4 percent classification accuracy rate when textual and structural content-based analysis was combined with visual content-based analysis. Further experiments on a black list of 12,311 adult Web sites manually collected and classified by the French Ministry of Education showed that WebGuard scored a 95.62 percent classification accuracy rate." (source)

» Identifying and blocking pornographic Content: "Support and confidence results from simple association rules suggest that using individual terms to identify pornographic web pages is useful for description, but unreliable for prediction. However, Bayesian classification provided 99.1% accuracy in classifying test pages from both pornographic and non-pornographic corpora.: (source)

I stopped searching after finding these three. I also found two other stats: 1% and 75%. Wait, what? Yeah. So what does that mean? I think it means that you can find statistics to support your position, whatever it is. In which case, I would go by first-hand experience, which in my case, parallels the 99.1% stat. Magic!!

Joe Guarino

I agree, Michele. Since I have had internet access at my home and business, we have used several different filters, and they all worked pretty well. The school my kids attended also institutionally had a filter system in place. It is very doable.


You'd need to feed exactly the same data against filters to rank them according to ability to recognize porn.

Anyone know what's behind sites that allow users to opt in to a "Safe" search or display option? Is that based on some kind of image recognition software or are they just relying on tags?


"Apparently, the filter our family used for years was magic, because it did the things that everyone is saying a filter can't do, and it had an opposite-of-embarrassing accuracy rate of near 100%, as I recall."

That's funny because I was holding back the same comments about my $30 buck set-it-and-forget-it Cybersitter bc I figured I would get slammed with a million reasons that that could have no possible relevance to the library situation (which could be true for all I know).

I guess you and I are just easily impressed by simple technology and are naive in having no concerns that our kids' development would be stunted by being locked out of some infinitessimal sliver of the infinite information on the web.


It is difficult to evaluate the significance of your sources, Michele, when all you make available are abstracts (the last of which does not seem to be a test of blocking software at all but a test of a statistical model). Nonetheless, as justcorbly points out, results will vary from one study to the next.

My questions are these: Is implementing a system at new cost to taxpayers that outsources the library's autonomy over their collection to firms that keep secret their methodologies with results that are imperfect in their ability to block adult content and to let through acceptable content the best way to keep children from seeing age-inappropriate materials at the library? Are the systems in place doing as good or better than the blocking software would? If the current systems in place are deficient, are there other options that may be better than content blocking?

Michele Forrest

I do sometimes fear that the day will come when one of my children will lose a job or a home or a relationship because they missed viewing a crucial page or image of the interwebs. And then, you know I'm gonna hear, "MOM!!"

Michele Forrest

Roch, you so completely missed my point. But nevertheless, you are an excellent debater. And I think you are awesome, period. And I mean that, 100%. And that's a stat you don't even have to evaluate, because you already know it's real. :)


"Roch, you so completely missed my point." -- Michele

Which one, that you like magic (which I did not address) or that different studies will yield different results (which I acknowledged)? (Thanks for the kudos, it is not easy arguing with someone you like.)

Michele Forrest

The part about finding statistics to say whatever you want, so I go by experience. And I do like magic. Which is why I use a Tinkerbell avatar. But I only like it in a pretend sense, because Jesus wouldn't like it if I liked it for real.


The point of comparison percentage is off by a factor of 100.

Michele Forrest

Joe said, "The school my kids attended also institutionally had a filter system in place. It is very doable."

My youngest will be a senior there in a couple of weeks (he's also an IT intern this summer), and I can assure you that if their web filter had an accuracy rate of 40%, they just wouldn't have computers for the students. They're way stricter than I am. I'm sure that I'm one of the more "liberal parents." (LOL. Imagine that...)


Interesting this initial part of the post: "Filters simply do not work on multimedia content..."

I think the librarian was addressing video and music and not only web pages. I'd like to know what *brand* of filter was used and if it was updated (annual subscriptions) and if all the little boxes were checked.

Home filters are a different animal and IMO aren't the proper solution for libraries; however, with an abuse rate SO DARNED LOW, why are there tons of posts dedicated to this? (Heck, I don't want to spend city money on filters; I want to get more bandwidth to libraries for the 99.999% of folks doing non-porn browsing.)

Michele Forrest

"...why are there tons of posts dedicated to this?"

I know, right? Can't we fight about something else for a change, Ed?


Issues surrounding porn always generate, Sue, great volumes of smoke and only a tiny spark of fire. The number of people who may be unintentionally offended is always tiny.

The key to keeping kids or Creepy Old Guys away from porn is recognizing it in the first place. Whether the filter is a librarian deciding what books to buy, or a software program based on proprietary code, someone must decide. In a very real sense, relying on a filter amounts to the community passing off its responsibilities to some software vendor. If the software works well enough, all will be fine until the mother of some 12-year-old catches him ogling photos that slipped through the filter. At that point, fingers will come out and start pointing.

It seems to me that the danger of porn for children is not their exposure to pictures of naked people. It's the chance that prolonged and repeated exposure will foster the development of unhealthy and unrealistic attitudes about men and women. The time for parents to begin working on instilling in their kids healthy attitudes about men and women is just about the time the kids' hormones kick in. Now, I'm not a parent, so maybe that's all hogwash. But, still, if a kid knows to recognize porn for what it is, aren't parents ahead of the game?

BTW, if I was buying a software filter, I'd sure want my techies to have access to the code. Building a filter that relies on lists of the URL's of known porn sites and the optional tags used at web sites, and then charging for "updates" that contain the same things, is so easy the geeky kids at the high school could do it.

Ed Cone

It may seem like much ado about relatively little, but it's a live issue. Our City Council seemed woefully underinformed at its last meeting. I hope some of the information and conversation posted online helps remedy that situation.

Jim Langer

I am surprised the French Ministry is trying to censor imagery. I thought this stuff was de rigeur.


[[ The time for parents to begin working on instilling in their kids healthy attitudes about men and women is just about the time the kids' hormones kick in. Now, I'm not a parent, so maybe that's all hogwash.]]

Well, it is hogwash, jc, but only in this sense: You need to start WAY BEFORE that. Toddlers are not too young to learn some basic lessons in this regard. At least, I presumed that mine weren't and acted accordingly, and (fingers crossed; knocks wood; invokes magic in a Michele-like way) they're now 12 and 9 and so far, so good.

Michele Forrest

Lex, I have a magic fairy wand that I'll let you borrow, if you'd like it. (StreetWatch has lots of fun with those. See my Facebook.) And I agree. Kids' attitudes about men and women are learned, beginning in babyhood.

Jim Langer

My 3-almost 4 year old is all interested in how babies get into mommy tummies. She says she is going to have a baby sometime this week, because her tummy is fat (it really isn't). I hem and haw some, mention something about tiny eggs and tadpoles, then she asks: "What do babies eat in there?" I say "Your bellybutton was hooked up like a straw or hose." She hasn't tried imbibing that way yet. Since she's been talking about how her skin can make vitamin D in the sun, maybe the whole osmosis thing will kick for now.


"Our City Council seemed woefully underinformed at its last meeting."

And that would be different from when? Seriously, Kudos to all who've examined this issue from every sick, perverted, twisted angle. You folks have an appetite for endless debate I admittedly lack, but it makes for (mostly) invigorating reading. As for City Council, I wouldn't trust those people to wash my car...


"...why are there tons of posts dedicated to this?"

Because as I pointed out several days ago, this isn't about library filters, it's about discrediting and ridiculing Danny Thompson.

Ed now comes in and says it may be "much ado about very little" after having posted more on his site about it (much of which were attacks on Danny Thompson) than anyone else.

The "I hope you give me credit for furthering the discussion" was also an expected bonus.

Infallible, that guy.


"Ed now comes in and says it may be 'much ado about very little'" -- Sam

No, Ed said it may seem like much ado as a precursor to saying it is not.

Sam, iniquitous, that guy.

Ed Cone

The problem of porn in our libraries appears to be a relatively small one, and one that is being addressed, as a bit of due diligence prior to the last Council meeting would have revealed.


I am glad DT brought it up no matter how ham handed. The issue has been brought to the forefront we have all learned a little something. At least I know I have.

Spag, I've seen your arguments "defending" DT but I still believe waving around a great big ol pile of incident reports and talking about porn was a tad misleading or minor grandstanding or political gamesmanship or whatever. However, I dont care now and I didnt care then. Nor do I care if his minor grandstanding was intentional or not. Perhaps he did what was necessary to get this moving. Probably could have done a better/cleaner job of it but so what. I wholeheartedly believe his heart and intentions were in the right place.

A little bashing on the blogs goes with the territory. He is trying to lead and I appreciate his efforts.

Ed Cone

Mick, I agree that what happens on the issue is what matters most. Pointing out the grandstanding and misinformation is important insofar as it puts the issue into perspective in terms of understanding the actual scope of the problem and the ongoing efforts at remediation.


"The problem of porn in our libraries appears to be a relatively small one, and one that is being addressed, as a bit of due diligence prior to the last Council meeting would have revealed."

At best, that's wishful thinking. At worst, it's a way to distract attention away from the fact that certain people really do not want this fixed.

Why? The available evidence does not convince me that a legitimate effort is being made to solve the problem.

We will be re-visiting this whole thing some time down the road. We're sure to have certain people with selective memories about the current events.

Jim Langer

Ross Douthat, a conservative libertarian, who nevertheless thinks it incumbent on the "upper classes" to push for censorship.

"(Pornography) has become a lark and a joke and a form of casual entertainment among many well-educated Americans, who can rest secure in the knowledge that they aren’t going to end up on a 'Girls Gone Wild' video, that they’ll always have healthier influences to supplement the kind of sexual education that hard-core pornography supplies, and that nobody they know will ever end up selling their souls to the pornography industry. As a class, this sense of security means that American elites don’t have a strong personal interest in trying to stigmatize pornographers (instead of being amused by their antics), or in allying with anti-obscenity crusaders (instead of making fun of them). But I think there’s a pretty good case that they should do it anyway, because other people’s children, further down the ladder of education and income and prestige, might stand to gain from a less pornified society. That would be a kind of noblesse oblige, and it would be admirable and welcome."

Now, I do think we should "stigmatize" porn industry execs. Maybe some Hollywood sorts while we are at it. Not sure about his later calls for making more laws to deal with it, though. I wonder how he feels about naughty words the courts are now allowing if they are said in haste, for example, on live broadcasts. He does tie this discussion of porn with the same-sex arguments, which is a tired tactic. Still, maybe his way of flattering those making more than, say, $70,000 a year as "nobles" has some chance at appealing their decency over their smarm factor.

Artists, though, will continue to push envelopes. Where their work falls on the spectrum will also continue to provoke alarm and defense of free speech. Those old masters knew how to straddle the line.

Ed Cone

"We will be re-visiting this whole thing some time down the road."

This is a real-time issue. This is not something that happened, this is something that is happening. The library director's report was due to the Manager today, and I'd guess further Council discussion is imminent.

That said, whatever the outcome of this round of discussion, we will be and should be evaluating and reevaluating the situation into the future.


I think this is an issue that has been raised and that we should be discussing this, and are, and have been, and I bet something will be decided by someone, at sometime, and some people will agree with it and some will disagree. That's what I think.

Dave Ribar


I have no issue with the statement you issued about this issue, other than describing it as "thinking" :) I reserve the right, however, to issue a contrary opinion.


"This is a real-time issue."

Let's see if you can still say that next month.


" Pointing out the grandstanding and misinformation is important ..."

Then Ed would agree that coming forward and admitting that he attributed things to Danny Thompson that Danny never said is important and will do so promptly.


Ed Cone

Bob, I'm not sure what you mean about next month.

This is being worked on now. I'd guess that any new policy will be in place soon, and that the Council will be following this issue for some time afterward to see how usage policies are working.


Sam, why are you pretending that I have not answered your question? I have; on your blog; last month. You noticed because you responded to it. Please grow up.

Ed Cone

Take your off-topic feud to another venue, Roch and Sam. Thanks!


The time for those admonitions are when someone begins with off-topic accusations, or the second time, or the third or fourth or fifth, as you've had opportunity to do, not when the target finally defends himself with a response.

reverand arnold ben skimmin

i'm leaning toward lenslinger on this one. sometimes it's enough just to lick the needle after everyone has juiced themselves up on a topic. it's noble as hell that a councilperson is so concerned that he will touch a sticky stack of oozing pornucopia and hold it up for all to see sans gloves. but then i think of my favorite rabbi in christian mythology who said that nothing that goes into a man can defile him. only what comes out of a man can do that. then i think of the covetous looters, coercing plunderers and legal thieves who sit on the council and i ask myself...wtgdmfswjd? what kind of filter would he use on those rogues and their apologists.

Michele Forrest

Rev, I wonder if Jesus might say:

"Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean." ~ Matthew 23:26

Something to think about...


"I'd guess that any new policy will be in place soon."

Let's see if you can still say that next month.


Ed Cone refuses to admit that he misstated/mischaracterized what Danny Thompson said. You can bet that he never will.

That demonstrates that the depth of his convictions and quality of his advice to others is severely limited by his ego.

And now for the digression in response to Roch's claim that he answered the question:

Roch argued that anyone who thought marriage should be limited to a man and a woman and who argued that there was no Constitutional right to same sex marriage was a bigot.

Barack Obama has stated that he believes marriage is between a man and a woman and the Obama Justice Department argued that there was no Constitutional right to same sex marriage.

When asked by me on Joe Guarino's site if those positions would also make Barack Obama a bigot, Roch refused to answer. He isn't going to answer, it either.

That demonstrates that the depths of his convictions are severely limited by his partisanship and/or loyalty to Barack Obama.

You see folks, this is why I consistently maintain that the credibility of people is important to any discussion.

Andrew Brod

As are, apparently, infantile digressions.


Yes, asking someone to defend themselves in a debate/discussion is truly juvenile, isn't it?

Where were you Andrew when "Grown Up Roch" was calling people idiots, morons, etc?

Like I said, the credibility of people is important to any discussion. Add Andrew to the list of people to watch out for.

Andrew Brod

Yay! I'm on the list!

sean coon

if blog commentary were mathematics, the spagnutty property would state that the less positivity you have in your own life, the more time, energy and negativity you spend chastising a blogger on his site.

mathematicians everywhere sigh collectively in relief.


...and still no refutation of the substance of my comments.

Let's see, so far Grumpy, Sneezy, and Dopey have chimed in. Where are the other four dwarfs?


Just seems kind of a propos.

Jim Langer

It is off-topic, but if you read Douthat's blog post on the NYTimes, you'll see how he tries to tie the two together.

I am pretty certain Obama decries inappropriate websites in the public library.


"...and still no refutation of the substance of my comments."

Just Standard Operating Procedure here among those whom you mentioned.

But we've long known that, haven't we?


Ed, Sam has polluted this blog for weeks, hounding me to answer his question, knowing full well that I have. Even after I pointed out above that I did answer, with a link to it, he writes that I "refused to answer." I hope you can accomodate the annoyance of a few words to point out that he is lying.

Here is Sam's question and my answer, from Sam's blog, to which he responded, so we know he saw it and by which we know that he has been lying about me not answering him.

Sam: "Is Barack Obama a bigot for arguing that the Defense of Marriage Act does not violate the Constitution?"
Roch: To answer your question then, Barack Obama has not said that DOMA is not unconstitutional. He has said the opposite.

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