I have done a lot of reading of articles from various media, especially internet technology news sites and forums, where the internet is criticized extensively for being outdated. Most of them made mention of Web 2.0. This is a proposal that, if implemented, would give the internet a makeover. We have seen where websites such as Yahoo!, MSN and others have gone ahead to change the user interface of their sites to give users a smoother feel. This is most evident in their email services. The logical thinker would think that all they have done is change the clothes of the man who is dying of a disease.
Another very popular topic seems to be the whole argument of implementing of IPv6 to replace IPv4. This, they allege, would solve the whole issue of IP addresses running out. IP addresses for computers on the internet is like license plates for cars. If all possible combinations of license plate numbers and letters are used up then they would have to implement a new set of numbering system that would exponentially increase the possible number of license plate numbers. (We have witnessed the same problem for telephone numbers.) The reality here though is that it will be very difficult for IP addresses to run out because of the implementation of IP classes with the combination of routers and Local Area Networks.
When all is said and done, the real problems of the internet are not being addressed. One would think that the issue of what is to be censored would be more critical than just the look of a button that a user might click on. We have seen where countries like China have taken the step to go to the very extreme to completely block entire domains such as Google.com because they allege that the site exposes their citizens to material that is considered offensive. This method of censorship is also very common in the Muslim states.
As a user of the internet for more than a decade, I am totally opposed to completely blocking a site that does not contain the majority of the material that its users view but rather provide the link to them somewhere else. Such is the nature of search engines. The attentive user would also discover that Google.com has a safe search option that works moderately well when searching for images. The bottom line is, implementing extremist measures will not solve any problems humanity faces in any particular instance. How about euthanizing the mathematics teacher suffering from a common cold? After all, a common cold might last for about a week and a half while the knowledge in the brain of a mathematical genius literally lasts for eternity (if documented or passed on to generations to come). If we should substitute the period the common cold lasts with the percentage of material, which is considered harmful to any group, that the internet contains and the entire internet (as a very powerful learning tool and for an endless number of other very resourceful uses) with the mathematical genius himself and his usefulness, and, the number of people the internet itself is capable of educating (even in China) with the mathematical genius’ ability to pass on his knowledge to generations, we would not see the need to spend the money to send our children to art school. The big picture paints itself.
This leaves us with the question of what to do where censorship is required. We have watched countless numbers of very popular talk shows that shed light on the issue of predators preying on minors on the internet but none of them really pay keen attention to the fact that the main tool that these predators use to condition their victims is pornography or pornographic websites, which is so easy to access by just typing any vulgar sexual expression in a search engine (even the ones that China does not block) or pasting the direct link to the page in a chat window of a chat client. Then there is always the very ‘more than relevant’ question of ‘Why talk about something if you are not prepared to do something about it or at least make an attempt to propose a formidable solution?’ More than often, one is left with more than enough evidence to believe that these shows only do this for popularity and, in the process, give the predators more ideas how to get away with their dreadful crimes. (I make that accusation without any feeling of remorse.)
I therefore propose, ‘domain name reconstruction’ as a major step towards solving the problem of controlling what the users of the internet view (make note that I did not state that this will solve the problem completely). The greatest majority of content that is considered harmful to any user (whose greatest majority is minors) is pornography.
While pornography can be downloaded from a various number of file-sharing sources, we must be aware of the fact that the files obtained are, often times, packaged in a way that will require a little bit more expertise, than the greatest majority of the minors possess, to view them. Some of them may require a password to extract them from the archive that they are transferred in and even after that they may require special media players (that the user might have to download and install), media player configuration, or media player extensions to play them.
While they are faced with these difficulties, the easier way to access pornography or pornographic images is to go directly to a pornographic website address or domain name (eg. pornography.com). Also make note that these websites often contain even videos (sometimes samples) that are not packaged in any special archives or password protected that can be downloaded and played using the standard media player that is shipped with the operating system without any form of configuration. Some of them even play directly from the websites.
The U.S. Congress passed an anti-pornography bill in 1998: the Child Online Protection Act (COPA). COPA required commercial Web sites to ensure that children could not access material deemed harmful to minors. A federal judge blocked COPA in 1999, ruling that it would dangerously restrict constitutionally protected free speech. The judge’s ruling was upheld by a federal appeals court on the grounds that the law’s use of “community standards” in deciding what was pornographic was overly broad.
Domain name reconstruction would have internet domain names classified by their domain name extensions based on the type or genre of the website they represent. While this system is being used, to a certain extent, and keeps evolving, an extension for pornographic-specific website is not created. (Domain name construction and supervision is controlled by Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Their website can be found at http://www.icann.org/. Pay attention to the extension).
In the beginning when the internet was invented, among the major domain name extensions that were created were .com (for commercial websites), .org (for non-profit organizations) and .net. .edu was later created for educational institutions and .gov for governmental organizations. At around 2001 many other unique domain name extensions were created such as .biz (for businesses), .info (for informational sites), .name (for individuals to register their name for a Web site or for an e-mail address), .museum (for museums) and .aero (for the aviation industry). Regular users of the internet should be well aware by this that country specific domain name extensions do exist such as .uk (for websites belonging to the United Kingdom),.jp (for websites belonging to Japan), .cn (for websites belonging to China), etc. Pay keen attention that no attempt has yet being made to address the issue of separating or specifying websites that contain adult (pornographic) content.
The Solution – Part I
I am suggesting that a .xxx extension be created for this purpose. In this case pornography.com would become pornography.xxx and taboo-sex.com would become taboo-sex.xxx. For country specific adult websites you would have .xx.uk (for adult websites belonging to the UK), .xx.jp (for adult websites belonging to Japan), .xx.cn (for adult websites belonging to China), etc.
Should we achieve this feat, then China and the Muslim world, for example, could block websites with the .xxx or .xx.XX extensions. In this case, should a user in China search for a particular topic using the Google search engine and that particular topic is located on an adult website, whenever that user tries to open the link from the search engine it would be blocked. The same would happen should someone obtain an adult website address (with the .xxx or .xx.XX extension) and type it in his/her browser as an attempt to browse the particular site.
A common trend these days is for non-pornographic websites to have advertisements with adult content embedded in their web pages. Should these advertisements be hosted by a domain with the adult site extension and such an extension is blocked on the internet connection from which a user is browsing a website which contains such an advertisement, then the advertisement would not show to that particular user.
NOTE: After the creation of the adult site domain name extension and the law is enforced that would require all adult sites to be registered under .xxx extension (this includes .xx.XX for country-specific adult sites), the relevant authorities such as the FBI, Interpol, ICANN, and local authorities in other countries that do no rule under the jurisdiction of these authorities, would need to make a dedication to get all websites containing adult content transferred to these extensions by a particular international deadline. This would make it easier for these authorities to monitor adult websites for illegal content such as child pornography and other pornographic content created with persons against their will. Should owners and operators of adult websites remain delinquent and fail to get their domain name extensions changed from .com, .net or whatever extensions their sites may be registered with within the required deadline set by the law, then the relevant authorities would have the right to shut them down or even impose finds, and in special cases (such as where a site may contain illegal pornography), terms of imprisonment. The actions taken would be due to the local laws set by the authorities in various countries or regions regarding pornography. (One can imagine there will/would be a devastating number of beheadings in the Muslim world. Not that I condone it.) An organization such as ICANN should consider the proposal of a universal set of international laws that would apply to pornography in any country based on the logic that any website hosted in any country can be accessed in any other country under any normal circumstance. (This is where Interpol would come in.) (There are a few cases where some adult websites (and non-adult ones too) are set up using just an IP address and are not registered with a domain name. Such sites are usually less popular and are more difficult to find by just search for them with a search engine. As the various authorities comb through the Internet (for illegal content) and stumble upon any such site, they could either force the owners and operators of them to register them with a domain name under the .xxx or .xx.XX extension, or, if they refuse to, shut them down.)
Should a vast variety of domain name extensions be created for the various types (genre) of websites that exist, we would witness the reservation of the .com extension for the type it was truly created in the beginning (commercial websites only).
It is quite logical that adults should possess the right to view legal adult material (websites) in their own private space (especially in the privacy of their homes, and where minors live in such homes, in the privacy of their bedrooms or on computers that adult websites are not blocked from) as they feel the need to. (This is the main reason why the anti-pornography laws that were passed in the past failed to stand.) This is where having a dedicated adult domain name extension system to work with solves all the problems that would exist in this case.
It is a fact that whenever China and other countries block a domain name such a Google.com, they block it from every internet connection in the entire country. This is usually achieved by blocking it on the main connection which connects China to the outside world.
With the creation of an adult website-specific domain name extension, a number of ways and rules could be implemented to block such an extension. These rules would allow for the blocking of adult websites on a per user basis (hence giving adults their freedom while protecting minors). This would rule out the need for the extreme step that China would take in an attempt to impose censorship.
The Solution – Part II
Whenever a customer signs up for internet service (broadband), it is common for that person to receive a piece of device that is called a modem or router (home router) that will be installed in the home and connected to a line (commonly phone line) and then to the computer. (This is similar for businesses and other public establishments such as schools, libraries and internet cafes.) The final step to make the internet service active to the customer is to, usually, run a configuration wizard (mainly from the internet browser) that will configure the device settings. During this process the customer (system administrator) gets the chance to set an administrator password (sometimes username). This password will be needed should someone try to reconfigure the device in the future. This password can always be changed in the administrator section of the device settings. (There are many cases where a technician from the Internet Service Provider’s office would go to the customer’s house or establishment, where the internet service is to be activated, and install and configuration of the device. In some of these cases and installation fee is charged.)
Some devices already offer the option to block specific (individual) websites in this same section but one would consider it (most definitely) impossible to search all the .com domain names and manually enter the ones that are adult sites (and after that, the other billions that are not .com). And there is always the possibility of, after the administrator blocks one billion .com adult websites, the minor, who might be browsing the internet from his or her dedicated computer could stumble upon the one billionth and one one.
With the creation of the .xxx and .xx.XX adult-specific domain name extensions and the enforcement of the laws that would require that all adult websites are registered under them, there would be one more vital step towards completing the task to protect minors. An international standard would have to be set (by the International Standards Organization (ISO)) that would govern the manufacture of modems and routers. This standard would require all modems and routers manufactured (regardless of the brand or country it is manufactured in) to have the option, in the administrator section of the configuration interface, to block websites by their extensions (this could appear under the parental control sub-heading). An additional checkbox option could be added that would give the option to ‘block adult websites’. By checking the box beside this option, all websites with the .xxx and .xx.XX extensions would be blocked automatically. This method would block adult websites (registered with the .xxx and .xx.XX domain extensions) completely from all computers sharing the internet connection in a particular household or establishment and would be appropriate where the adults in the household or establishment consider pornography offensive even for themselves.
Another method that could be used to achieve this objective is to have the Internet Service Provider (ISP) block adult websites (with the .xxx and .xx.XX extensions) remotely (from their office) to a particular subscriber (household or establishment). There are other scenarios where this other method would be very useful such as where a particular community might be very conservative or religious and consider pornography offensive to everyone living there (they could have the ISP block adult websites for the entire community); kindergarten and high schools, libraries and other public internet access places where only minors use the internet; open WIFIs that minors might, more than likely, access; government institutions where the viewing of pornography is prohibited; churches and other religious institutions where internet service is made available.
While the previous methods might be suitable where adults in the household or establishment consider pornography offensive even to themselves, there must also be a provision for adults who want to view adult websites in their own private space on their dedicated computers while protecting the minors. In this case, the ISO standard would have an additional option created, in the administrator section of the configuration interface (under the parental control sub-heading), that would allow the blocking of adult websites (with the .xxx .xx.XX extensions) per computers connected to the modem or router (per IP address, or in the case where an IP address can change, per MAC address). This would allow the system administrator to block adult websites from the computer in the living hall or guest rooms (that minors might have access to) and the computers in the children’s rooms but not the computers in the adults’ rooms. Another scenario in which this method would be useful is in the case of a public library that offers internet access and has a section for minors and a section for adults (adult sites could be blocked from the minors section but not from the adults section).
Many colleges enroll students that are both minors (under 18 years old) and adults and have a more sophisticated computer networking system. Students usually have their own personal college intranet accounts with internet service made available whenever they logon. Many of these intranets use WIFIs so that students can access them anywhere on campus on their laptops. Here is another scenario where the institution will have to differentiate account types based on age groups. What will be required in this scenario is a rule created to automatically block adult internet websites (registered with the .xxx and .xx.XX domain name extensions) for students whose intranet accounts indicate that they are under the age of 18 years and not necessarily block adult websites for students whose accounts indicate that they are 18 or older unless they request for this to happen. This decision would be made automatically by the network system database, after the date of birth of the student is entered upon creation of the account, without the intervention of the system administrator.
Obviously, should the whole system to block adult websites be implemented, there are internet subscribers who would have already had internet service with modems and routers that would have an interface that would not offer the options. This problem could be solved in one of two ways: either have the modem or router replaced by the ISP with a new one that would have the interface that would offer the options or the various manufacturers of the modems and routers could update their firmwares and make them available on the websites for download so that owners of their product could get them and update their modems and routers’ interfaces. Please note that the latter procedure would, in many cases, require someone with a bit more than just average computer knowledge to complete it. Where an internet connection exists that is only accessed by adults who would not mind what they browse, then the subscriber could stick with the old modem or router since no blocking of any websites would be required.
In the days of dial-up internet service, which is rapidly becoming extinct, the computer would be connected directly to the phone line, hence, eliminating the external modem or router. This type of connection still exists so internet subscribers who own any such and want to block adult websites would have to go about achieving this goal in a different way than they would on a broadband connection. The ISO could create a software that would have an interface similar to that of the modem or router with the options. Administrators would have to download and install it on the computers with the dial-up internet connections. (It would be password protected to prevent minors from changing the settings.) Various browser manufacturers could create a browser plug-in for their products that would allow this action and operating system manufacturers could also make the options available in the administrator accounts of their products.
On A Final Note
Another major step should be taken to remove adult (pornographic) content from online multimedia (video and pictures) sharing websites that are accessible by minors such as Youtube, Flickr and Photobucket. Though the companies that host and operate these websites have personnel monitoring the content uploaded to them constantly, we must never rule out the possibility that a percentage of this content will go unchecked. The best way to discourage users from uploading materials with adult content to these websites is to give them alternative adult-specific multimedia sharing websites to upload them to. In this process there would be the creation of specific pornographic video hosting websites (some of them already exist) similar to Youtube; specific pornographic image hosting websites similar to Flickr and Photobucket; specific adult advertisement hosting websites; specific adult file sharing websites. All these websites would be registered with the .xxx or .xx.XX domain name extensions where new ones are created, and changed to .xxx or .xx.XX where ones already exist, making them easier to block from minors and adults who would wish to have it done.