Friday, October 26, 2007

Sting, The Police and "Filter(s)"

It seems to me if you wanted to make the best case against Internet "filters" you would want to avoid using that term ("filter(s)") in relation to applications that supposedly "filter" objectionable Internet content. Why? The acceptance and use of the term itself implies comprehensive, accurate and beneficial "filtering" is going on.

1. Let's examine "beneficial". Think of filters in every other context, water filters, air filters, etc - they keep out the harmful stuff, leaving only the healthy stuff. Should the term "filter" be then applied to applications that block access to health care information?

Contrast the connotations of "filter" and "censor". Which implies their action will beneficial? What would the climate of the discussion be if we were talking about "electronic censors" as opposed to "filters"?

2. "Comprehensive and Accurate". Through the use of proxies and terms in languages other than English, getting around these applications is not difficult. So the case can be made that calling these applications "filters" - in so far as they imply the filtering is comprehensive and accurate, is misleading and counterproductive.

Gvien the above, it undermines the argument to say, "We oppose (mandated) filters" and then in the next breath say "Filters don't work". From this perspective, accepting and using the term "filter(s)" is like agreeing to let the other side cheat (in so far as they are allowed to inaccurately describe a central factor in the debate to the benefit of their argument, although perhaps not knowingly) - not to mention it is misleading to our users.

If you are going oppose these applications, couldn't you argue it would be more accurate and better inform the discussion to use language that accurately reflects what these things are, something like "faulty electronic censors" (maybe others can suggest better phrases or terms) as opposed to using language that implies these things are something they are not (comprehensive, accurate and beneficial) and then say they say in the next breath they are not those things?

So where do Sting and The Police come in you ask? Well, without getting too philosophical I have a vague recollection of a Police/Sting lyric which implies that you ought to be careful about the language you use because it creates your reality. I've got to run this morning, and I wasn't able to find it quickly in several lyric search engines, but it makes the point nonetheless.

(Please share if you know the lyric I'm grasping for....)


Tamara Monster said...

Hi Patrick,

Did you figure out which Police or Sting song you were thinking about with regard to language, reality, filters, etc.? I'm a big fan of both Sting and the Police, but I could not come up with which song this might be.

(De Do Do Do De Da Da Da is definitely about language...)


Patrick said...

Hi Tamara,
No haven't come up with th lyrics yet. I did check "De Do Do Do De Da Da Da", and it wasn't in there. I'm beginning to wonder if it isn't someone else's work I'm thinking of....