Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Yet Another Problem with Filtering

Since the minute I let it out of my hands on the day I got it, my phone hasn't had a browser. Then I went to San Francisco for a school choir trip and my dad reinstalled it in case I got stranded in the middle of the city and needed to look up directions. It wasn't complete freedom, however.
In addition to blocking all websites it considers inappropriate, it restricts me from using certain search terms. For example, a friend and I got into a discussion about the gay population of San Francisco, so I tried to look up statistics. "Gay population statistics San Francisco" gives me a restricted screen, but "San Francisco population statistics" comes up just fine.
A few days after I got back, a friend sent me a link to a website that had the word "women" in the name. The browser wouldn't let me open it, but I thought it was just one more blocked site. The filter blocked all blogs and most personal websites.
Then I tried googling the word woman and got this.
The words girl and female were also blocked.

Here's what happens if I google the word man.
I can only assume the filter thinks the only women on the Internet are porn stars.
I can look up the name of a specific woman (including porn stars) but I can't search for a woman if I don't know her name. So if I want to look up the lady who invented fire escapes, I need to know that her name is Anna Connelly, and if I knew that I wouldn't be googling her. If I want to look up a news story about a local woman, I have to google key words about the story and hope one of the results won't be blocked for having a woman in it.
What I get for similar searches about men
It disturbs me that someone would make a filter that restricts women. So I went to my dad and asked him to remove the filter. He told me I was entitled and spoiled for wanting unrestricted Internet, I can't ask him to make changes to it because I live under his roof, and I should be grateful that I have a browser at all.
I love my dad, he's a great parent, but this post can't be about that. This happened on a Sunday and my getaway options were limited, so I went to church in a different neighborhood than my family. When I came home three hours later I was finally able to talk them my parents into a modified filter.
I can now look for women and read my own blog. Still, it's the principle of the thing. Once they have their own house, their own money, their own rules, adults forget what it's like to be crushed by someone else's will. It's not I can't look up women. It's that I'm considered entitled for wanting to do so and I have no bargaining chips. The only method to get what I want is a bowed head, a hushed tongue, and utter submission. Then I have to pray they're sympathetic.
They tell me I can come to them and they'll add any website I want to access onto the filter's "approved sites" list. This is handy for some websites I want to view every day, but sometimes I need something in the moment and I'll only google it once.
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There are no perfect filters. Every filter out there blocks more and less than it should. Any phone user with the tech savvy of an eleven year old can find a way to get porn around them-because porn is the only thing worth blocking, I don't honestly think anyone can be damaged by reading a history site about Queen Victoria.
Putting a filter on a phone is like putting a bandaid on a paper cut. It makes you feel better knowing it's there, but its presence doesn't do much.

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