A consideration of Cameron’s standpoint…scope for investigation.   no comments

Posted at 10:06 pm in Uncategorized

Rather than focus specifically on my disciplines in this blog, I thought I might share with you the basis of the topic that I am exploring in a little more detail. The reason for this is because, as part of my reading and understanding of the web, it raises some interesting points that are shaping the direction of my enquiries into the disciplines in question. It is also important because it has given me specific consideration of avenues for discussion as both disciplines are considerable in scope- to wade in without a clear focus isn’t achievable.

A question: Did you know that 1/3 of children have received a sexually explicit text or email?

The article referenced, actually a speech given by David Cameron, which influenced my decision to follow this particular topic, is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-internet-and-pornography-prime-minister-calls-for-action

If we explore this from a critical stance it opens up a range of issues relevant to both my two disciplines. Notably, however, are the wide range of potential philosophical arguments that relate to moral ethics. There are clear themes regarding virtues, action and moral duty as well as links to categorical imperatives. Further to this, the entire basis of the proposed reform is in fact, philosophical- it is grounded in the idea of taking action, even though it may be unpopular. This is eerily affirmed in the closing remark “That is what is at stake, and I will do whatever it takes to keep our children safe.” This could be interpreted as a strong stance on the importance of protecting individuals, those vulnerable, from harm- moral ethics and action. Likewise it could also be considered a political philosophy, a statement in its own right about the decisions of Governments being made irrespective of the agreements of the many. A number of other systems of Government, especially those on the extremes of the political spectrum, have argued that taking such action is justifiable if its for a specific purpose. Likewise could such a philosophical stance be argued by a Government in order to justify other actions? To where would that lead? Is censorship valid if its for good?

Likewise it opens up a range of interesting debates about the idea of responsibility, a key theme within philosophy as evident in reading so far. At many times, in fact, the speech appears as an attack on the web itself, as an entity beyond the control of society, its leaders and the search providers such as Google. “If there are technical obstacles to acting on this, don’t just stand by and say nothing can be done, use your great brains to overcome them.” The most interesting application of this is with the following argument: “Companies like Google make their living out of trawling and categorising content on the web, so that in a few key strokes you can find what you’re looking for out of unimaginable amounts of information. That’s what they do. They then sell advertising space to companies based on your search patterns. So if I go back to the Post Office analogy, it would be like the Post Office helping someone to identify and then order the illegal material in the first place and then sending it on to them, in which case the Post Office would be held responsible for their actions.”

It is clear, then, that the topic identified has further relevance in terms of philosophical action- in that, who has responsibility to act, why and how should they. This links back to my previous post about the responsibility of parents and just whose moral duty it is to take action. It is also important to recognise that the stance explores two very different issues and this, in itself, creates confusion: child pornography and children accessing pornography. It relates back to the argument of harm, interestingly offering a philosophical argument of which is of greater priority. Distinctions are not drawn in the argument, rightly placing equal emphasis on both. What is clear, however, is the stance of Cameron that not enough is being done and that those of us in a position to shape the web have greater responsibility than we are acting on, apparently. Set your greatest brains to work on this. You’re not separate from our society, you’re part of our society and you must play a responsible role within it. I could offer a point about social shaping and technology here.

The premise of censorship is relatively simple, according to Cameron: “we’ve agreed home network filters that are the best of both worlds. By the end of this year, when someone sets up a new broadband account, the settings to install family friendly filters will be automatically selected; if you just click next or enter, then the filters are automatically on.”. However will it work this simply? How do filters identify what is and isn’t adult material and to what extent can it be affirmed as technologically viable? After all, the speech itself doesn’t appear to make any difference between the web and the internet; in fact, not once, is the word ‘web’ used at all. How then, will such filters work? Are they operating on the ISPs network, or are they instructing the web browsers through the network…and so on.

Written by Michael Day on October 27th, 2013

Leave a Reply