Past EED rants


Live leaderboard

Poker leaderboard

Voice of EED

Wednesday 22 October 2003

Can we save the internet? Or are peedos here to stay? [brit]

If the press is to be believed, there are probably more paedophiles online than there are genuine non sickos - as Chris Morris so put it 'recent government figures show an alarming trend, there are now more paedophiles than children in the UK'.
Or words to that effect.
In the last six months, the news wires have been running non stop with stories of evil old men (interestingly, I've never seen nor heard about any female peedos, do they exist?) lusting after children and using the internet as the primary tool to groom them until... the rest is well documented.
Recently, MSN shut down it's entire chat network because paedophilia has become the new facism (in terms of the immediate often ill thought out reactions I've witnessed of late) and the major downside to this, is that knee jerk reactionaries are now attempting to define the way the internet can be used for real time communication, and perhaps more worryingly are being listened to by people who should know better.
I don't honestly believe we're seeing a peedo explosion, as I don't believe we're watching London degenerate into a Jamaican Yardie playground; what is happening is that the media is now 100% 24 hour, and as such everything gets reported, regardless of relevance or (recent events run to mind especially), the truth.
But there is clearly a problem, and to my mind shutting off the likes of MSN chat in it's entirety will only make things worse in the long run. No, what's needed is a system to safeguard kids online by guaranteeing that the instant they enter 'a room', they do so in the knowledge that little 11 year old comic mad Billy really *is* that person and not a 42 year old sweaty ex-garage mechanic from Dunstable.
So how do we do this?
Shockingly enough, I've come up with the solution - and it seems so easy as to hurt my mind. Basically, if you want to get onto a chat server, you need to register with your parent or guardian for a special card. The kid gets one card, the parent(s) the other - each card has a 6 digit number on it.
When the kid joins a room, it asks for both sets of numbers; with the parent(s) card never being given to the kid - essentially preventing unmonitored or out of hours access (so the parents always know when their child is chatting online).
At the same time, the chat client filters all outbound messages based on the registration data completed by the parents when the card was applied for; so it automatically prevents the kid from telling anyone their address or other personal details.
Does that make sense to anyone? It does (kinda) to me, and seems pretty easy to implement.. but then hey, I'm not some self certified professor emeritus of internet safety (oh the yanks seem to breed those as quick as rabbits); perhaps that's where they're all going wrong.
Listen to EED. The crosshatch knows all.


  1. Interesting idea, parents might feel it's a bit high maintenence and it may drive kids to join up their own thing anyway? It would only really work with lots of supervision anyway (to ensure they aren't in other chatrooms) but if the parents were doing that, the problem wouldn't exist in the first place.
    I do want to pick up on MSN closing its chat rooms. They claimed, as you've said, it's for the protection of children. It is absolutely nothing at all to do with the current mass drive to get people using MSN Messenger going on now, of course. IE the posters on the tube with a girl and boy sprouting out of a pot saying 'grow your relationshops'... Hmm. And nothing at all to do with the fact they're widely rumoured to start charging for the service as soon as they've got everyone from MSN's chat rooms onto Messenger.

  2. It all comes down to the same damn problem that afflicts EVERYTHING on the net - anonymity.
    What we desperately need more than anything is an online identity tied inextricably to your real life identity. I'm a privacy advocate, not up for a national ID card as such (Your paperien, mein herr?) but a voluntary-membership based Internet ID card backed by a gubmint funded initiative (government required to check that ID is genuine) for a small fee per year would be superb. Services could then choose to provide access only to members of the card scheme, and could query the database for details, including a system which allows the member to decide which companies view which details (accept or deny requests).
    Essentially, everything MS Passport tried to be, only done well, and genuine, because details are checked by the government. It would be at least as reliable as current paper ID methods, and there would be a money trail in the event of trangressions.

  3. I got the same feeling as Lurks about MSN, some ulterior motive was involved. Maybe server costs for the ever expanding range of chat rooms was starting to become prohibitive, and they made the decision to plough their resources into IM.
    How about they are beta testing the IM software on the kids, prior to making a big push into Corporate IM - that's viewed by some as a potential money spinner.
    Still, whatever reasons, it's a bit shitty on da kids, IM isn't the same, you are pretty much confined to your friends and roving spambots. Which ain't no fun. They must have a plan to expand IM-ing into system where you can create your own sponteanous, local chatrooms/conferences. Who knows.
    The other thing about closing down the chat rooms is that there are a helluva lot of adults who enjoyed them on a daily basis. God knows how, it just seems like multi-personality-disordered babble to me.
    Finally, the children, won't someone think of the children. Are children in more danger from paedos then ever before? No, I've read the levels are about the same, and the most likely source of kiddie-fiddling is going to be your own family or people you already know. As ever it's the fear of the crime that forces the kneejerkers to come roaring out of the Daily Mail and spoil it for da kids.

  4. Jeez, think about what your saying Brit. If the kids young enough to be influenced by a perv, they shouldn't be using the computer without adult supervision at all, card or not. It's easy enough to password protect this shit so that the kid can't go online without your knowing it.

  5. Exactly - and that's pretty much it, isn't it? We can sit around until doomsday coming up with cunning technical solutions to this problem, none of which will work because either they'll be so restrictive as to have massive privacy implications for everyone on the net, or they'll be easy for clever kids (and kids brought up with technology as second nature ARE clever about this stuff) to slip past...
    .... Or we can just accept that the only way for kids to be genuinely safe online is for their parents to keep an eye on what they're doing. The Internet hasn't made the 'stranger in a dirty mac' stereotype of child abusers any more true; a massive, massive majority (well over 90 per cent) of child abuse is still carried out by family members or close family friends, not strangers inviting unsuspecting kids home to see some puppies. Defending against the online equivalent of those strangers isn't a task for technology, it's a task for parental vigilance - the technology is already there, in fact.
    Would any sensible parent let their kid chat away on the phone for hours without finding out who they were talking to? Would they let them go out in the evening without finding out where they were going and who they'd be with? Of course not. They just need to understand that the Internet is no different.

  6. I think tying up the house telephone is more visibile to a parent, and has more of a consequence to them (they can't receive calls).
    My 11 year-old newphew has the skinny broadband (150k) from NTL, and he's always online - I don't think parents understand what they are doing online and/or can't be arsed to supervise their computer use... well y'know, Eastenders is on.
    When Microsoft turned off the chatrooms, I thought, why not make every chat room user only gain access after a credit card authorisation when they set an account up. That's obviously prone to all sorts of security problems, starting at kids snaffling their parents card for ten minutes, to online harvesting of ids. Then I read last week that Visa is launching a credit card for 11- 18 year olds...Lo and behold, yesterday saw the launch of Office Live Communications Server 2003 (LCS), their corporate IM server to handle all the im integration with Office System:,39020396,39117260,00.htm