According to a news.com.au article by Peter Farquhar, head of Deakin University’s School of Information Systems Matt Warren has claimed that the recent trolling of a foul-mouthed 11-year-old Jessi Slaughter by 4chan users is a perfect example of why the Internet needs filtering. It’s scary that someone in his position could ignore facts so easily.
To summarise the original story: 11-year-old Jessi Slaughter posted an expletive-laden outburst onto YouTube, including such classy statements as “poppin’ a glock in your mouth and makin’ a brain slushie” and “Suck it and get AIDS and die”. 4chan users picked up on it and began pranking her phone, ordering pizzas to her home, and posting comments on her Facebook, Myspace and Twitter accounts. Jessi’s mother claims some even went so far as to make death threats (although the police have told Gawker this isn’t true). Three days later, Jessi uploaded another video to YouTube, this time in tears as her father threatens the anonymous pranksters with retribution.
It’s certainly a horrible situation, especially for an 11 year old girl who probably doesn’t know any better. But having a mandatory internet filter would do absolutely nothing to stop this situation. Let’s go through the reasons why:
1. YouTube, and other high volume sites, won’t be filtered
One of the key findings of the original Enex tests was that filtering high traffic sites like YouTube or Facebook would slow down Internet speeds significantly, and so they would not be a part of the filter. Considering both videos were on youTube, how exactly would a filter have stopped this situation from occurring? That’s right, it wouldn’t.
2. Cyber bullying can’t be filtered
This situation is clearly a case of online bullying. Considering the proposed filter will simply blacklist URLs (which won’t work either, but for the sake of argument), what URL would be blacklisted in this case? 4chan? Tumblr? An article about the YouTube video? The video itself? Any site that published the girl’s personal details? Remember that this all occurred over a matter of days – do you really think that the bureaucracy would be organised enough to monitor all the new webpages being created around this and then add them to the blacklist?
Online bullying is a problem, but it’s not something that can be fixed with a filter. It needs something a little more discreet… like a big red button maybe?
3. This is a parenting issue
This, perhaps, is the biggest failure in Professor Matt Warren’s argument for a filter. He rightly claims that this is an education issue, but “the parents aren’t necessarily the ones that should be giving that training, because they don’t understand it either.”
Aside from the fact that this neglects the large number of tech-savvy parents who do understand the potential dangers of the Internet for children, saying that they shouldn’t have a responsibility here is paramount to neglect. In Warren’s own words: “Parents will be concerned about their child going out all hours, but they don’t care about them staying on the internet all hours.”
So what needs to happen here is that the parents need to take some responsibility and educate themselves. If a parent doesn’t know how to drive, you don’t expect them to give the keys to their teenage daughter and say, “Go and find someone to teach you how to drive”. It’s their responsibility to monitor who is giving lessons in their place. You certainly wouldn’t give the keys to the government and let them teach your daughter how, when and where she could drive either.
It’s incredibly telling in the story of Jessi Slaughter that her mother openly states that she doesn’t use a computer and hasn’t seen the original expletive-laden rant that started this whole mess. And while the bullying of an 11 year old girl is reprehensible, sacrificing our online freedoms will do absolutely nothing to stop bullying, no matter the forum. Like bullying in the real world, parents need to take a more active role in their children’s life, whether it’s online or not.