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    There are plenty of things to criticize Google for – and this page does list a few valid points – but a lot of these points are … I’m not entirely sure how to accurately describe them without resorting to some rather negative and unfriendly adjectives.

    Calling parental controls “Google censorship”? Yeah nah, that’s just off the deep end lads.

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      Most of the “parental controls” I’ve seen from Google are highly opinionated about what is and is not appropriate for children, and do not allow the parent to meaningfully choose what things are and are not appropriate. The “parental controls” thus far I have seen, by taking control away from the parent are therefore fundamentally censorship whether intentional or not. Now you might agree with those positions, but agreeing with a censorship doesn’t mean it isn’t censorship. The positions they choose in the future may not align with your values. They may encourage content you oppose, and ban content you support. This is already the present climate on youtube, so it’s not a slippery slope. A lot of the “children’s videos” are genuinely very messed up, and a lot of the “banned content” is wholesome.

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        Most of the “parental controls” I’ve seen from Google are highly opinionated about what is and is not appropriate for children, and do not allow the parent to meaningfully choose what things are and are not appropriate

        They do not support a parent in choosing. They are in no position to disallow it.

        by taking control away from the parent are therefore fundamentally censorship whether intentional or not

        They don’t take control away from the parent though. The parent is perfectly free to not use googles (patently crap, in the case of youtube kids) filter.

        In general life, I’m a language descriptivist; whatever language gets the point across is fine. This, however is a technical forum. Words mean things, and diluting those meanings to score a point undermines technical communication in a way that actively sabotages building working software.

        This kind of semantic shenanigans (where a word to describe a genuine threat like ‘censorship’ get repurposed to also describe “software that isn’t sufficiently configurable for my tastes”) is actively harmful.

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          I genuinely disagree that these are semantic shenanigans. When dealing with children, and software that specifically claims to support child users, characterizing the issue as “software that isn’t sufficiently configurable to my tastes” is a really bold position. Censorship is not some boogeyman that can only be done by the federal government. It also is not some universal crime against society. It is however something that warrants concern when it shapes the kinds of content that children are exposed to on a daily basis. Especially when parents are faced with a binary decision to follow google’s social mores or not. You may feel it is as simple as not using their services, however problems are rarely so simple.

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            Especially when parents are faced with a binary decision to follow google’s social mores or not

            It’s not a binary decision. If it were, I would (tentatively) agree that this is censorship.

            Parents previously faced the choice between:

            • Keep kids off the web.
            • Let kids use the web supervised.
            • Let kids use the web unsupervised.
            • Let kids use the web unsupervised, but only while running one of the several available parental control packages.
            • Let kids use the web unsupervised, but learn enough computing to setup their own parental control package.

            I don’t see how adding an additional option to the list of parental control packages creates a binary decision.

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          I agree about this. As a parent, my opinions about what are suitable for my children are quite different than the consensus that Google uses. I am slightly more lenient about sex, much less lenient about violence, and am most concerned about brain-rotting addictive content (see YouTube Kids) that Google thinks is totally okay. I would really like to have flexible parental controls; IMO this is not about tastes, but about values.

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            I am slightly more lenient about sex, much less lenient about violence, and am most concerned about brain-rotting addictive content (see YouTube Kids) that Google thinks is totally okay

            It sounds like our values align fairly closely on this, but other people have different values, and all of us have the choice to use a different solutions/product than Google’s.

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              Choosing to use other products or not doesn’t mean that it is or is not censorship. You can choose a different product or solution and that is better than not having any other choice. It is still censorship. I think the position that only governments can censor because we can use other services implies that censorship is a complete and perfect ability to control media. This has never been true, not even when governments do it. It’s akin to saying to someone who is living under censorship in a particular nation that they can move to another country that doesn’t censor, or that if some censorship is not perfectly enforced it’s not real censorship.

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          Calling parental controls “Google censorship”? Yeah nah, that’s just off the deep end lads.

          That one crossed the line for me as well. I wish the FSF would stay a bit more objective and stick to the facts. It actively harms their credibility to pad lists like this with such items. It sure as hell means I won’t link this page to someone in order to convince them.

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            That one crossed the line for me as well. I wish the FSF would stay a bit more objective and stick to the facts. It actively harms their credibility to pad lists like this with such items. It sure as hell means I won’t link this page to someone in order to convince them.

            The FSF is more concerned with how easily this kind of functionality can be turned into a tool for mass-censorship. They are also concerned about the fact that parents don’t trust their kids anymore, what this technology means for us as human beings and how easily masses of people can be manipulated by this.

            As for the mass-manipulation, they certainly have a point there and I would definitely link to this page to show people how much this stuff can influence them and their decisions.

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              how easily this kind of functionality can be turned into a tool for mass-censorship

              Is the FSF also against firewalls? TCP wrappers? Ad blockers (Ad censorship?) And a long list of technology that can be used for this purpose?

              A lot of tools and tech can be subverted for nefarious purposes. I don’t really buy these kind of “sliding slope”-kind of arguments.

              concerned about the fact that parents don’t trust their kids anymore

              It’s not about trust, it’s about your 5-year old not stumbling on “ISIS soldier beheads infidel”, or “two young teens get assfucked by 8 men”, etc. All of that is … really easy to do.

              Either way, if they wanted to discus the finer points of the ethics of parental control over your children’s lives – a tricky topic with no easy answers – then fair enough. But that’s not what this page does: it just shouts “Google Censorship!!!!!11”

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                Imagine if software were written to not be hackable by default. Imagine that software were not susceptible to viruses. We wouldn’t need firewalls. We wouldn’t need CFAA.

                Similarly, imagine if software were written to not run unknown code without consent by default. We wouldn’t need ad blockers.

                A lot of the software that we use in daily life is software which works around the corporate and aristocratic controls which our society attempts to place upon us. It would be nice if we didn’t have to write so much code to work around faulty code written by bad actors with poor incentives.

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                  I can agree that the position as a bullet point could never neatly fit within a bullet point. I also feel that any firewall, tcp-wrapper, or ad blocker that blocked content on a moral basis, where only one moral perspective was represented is at best problematic. This gets more problematic as we consider that this filter would be the primary option for most people on the most used services. What happens when those positions deviate strongly from our views of right and wrong, but still prevents the content we definitely don’t want our children to see. Most parents would reluctantly use the filter that protects their children at cost.

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                  Why should the free software foundation have a say about parenting?

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                    Why should the free software foundation have a say about parenting?

                    It’s not about having a say in parenting. It’s about informing parents about the types of manipulation kids and parents are subject too. It’s also about making parents aware of the fact that a simple “gadget” or “technology” can severely damage the trust a child has in it’s parent or caretaker. With these kinds of tools that is a real concern, because kids also have secrets for their parents.

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                      The FSF has long held many moral positions, as it is common for non-profits to do. I would argue that it’s important for the FSF to respond to corporations attempting to shape our children’s minds. Without that, software definitely will not be free for long. Whether or not you agree with parental censorship (most do to some extent, as do I to an extent), I would be surprised to hear that you think that we should leave it to a third party who may or may not have motivated reasoning, and not our children’s best interest in mind.

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                  I for one didn’t bother clicking the link because I already knew what kind of wankfest it was going to be.

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                    Calling parental controls “Google censorship”? Yeah nah, that’s just off the deep end lads.

                    While I agree with you in the large and a big reason for not being an FSF supporter at all is that they don’t seem to be objective or in many cases logical (eg. commercial software should not be mentioned in ports collection, on website which feels a lot like what they elsewhere condemn as censorship), I think blocking content/access is the very definition of censorship. How is it not?

                    From Wikipedia:

                    Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information, on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or “inconvenient”.

                    To me parental controls sound like censorship of what is considered harmful material.

                    Of course that’s not to mean that it has the same level, based on motivation, but it’s nonetheless a form of censorship. Compared to other statements that still seems to be the most neutral. A reader can always consider it a justified mean of censorship.

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                      the suppression of speech

                      It’s not the suppression of speech. It’s the suppression of hearing.

                      By analogy: Telling your kids they aren’t allowed to watch a particular show on TV isn’t censorship. Telling the TV station they aren’t allowed to broadcast that show is.

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                        To play devil’s advocate, that would mean that China isn’t censoring the rest of the Internet, just “suppressing the hearing of it”.

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                          So, that’s… actually quite a good point.

                          There clearly is a difference between:

                          • A parent telling their children they can’t access “harmful material” via the connection they are providing them until they are of age, and
                          • A government telling their adult citizens they can’t access “harmful material”, via any connection, ever.

                          The key differences are:

                          • Scale (I have two children; the Chinese government has nearly 1.4 billion subjects)
                          • Permanence (“You can’t read this yet” vs “You can’t read this, ever”)
                          • Provision (If my kids somehow arranged their own connection, I don’t think I could bring myself to filter it.)
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                          There is an “or” in that sentence and I mentioned it’s “harmful material”. I wrote nothing of this being suppression of speech.

                          Also if one reads on on Wikpedia:

                          It occurs in a variety of different media, including speech, books, music, films, and other arts, the press, radio, television, and the Internet for a variety of claimed reasons including national security, to control obscenity, child pornography, and hate speech, to protect children or other vulnerable groups, to promote or restrict political or religious views, and to prevent slander and libel.

                          Also this doesn’t make sense. By your definition China blocking the parts of the internet, CNN, etc. isn’t censorship, because they just don’t allow people to visit a website, book banning.

                          This isn’t about analogies though. That’s what I tried to express in my comment. Censorship isn’t about intent or mean.

                          Just to make it clear: My intention isn’t on putting these on the same level at all, which is why I avoided analogies. It was to raise the fact that on a purely technical level that term is correct. Or actually more that the author of this might have meant it that way.

                          I find the use of other words in this article, like malware way more questionable. But honestly that term is anyway very broad and is focused mostly on intention (it’s most likely not considered malware when an OS installer has a bug wiping a complete hard disk, rather then only a certain partition for example).

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                            By your definition China blocking the parts of the internet, CNN, etc. isn’t censorship, because they just don’t allow people to visit a website, book banning.

                            Leaving aside that China, as a Communist state is basically lawless (or rather, the Party is above the law), I’m pretty sure that there are statutes in Chinese law forbidding the publication of certain topics “at the discretion of the authorities”. Even a bandit regime has laws, so that the citizen that complains they can’t reach CNN can be admonished that accessing it is breaking the law.

                            Hence, the Great Wall is not a private company acting in its own interest, it’s a system maintained by the state to prevent its citizens from accessing information deemed harmful - i.e. censorship.

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                      This piece’s definition of “malware” is so broad as to be meaningless.

                      I dislike the use of loaded words like “censorship”[1] and “tyrant” too. How can a phone be a “tyrant”?

                      [1] in the sense of a 3rd party or a parent restricting access to some information.

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                        That is a literal definition of censorship, it just isn’t government censorship. While it doesn’t have the same universal or total impact, it can have a chilling effect on discussions or exploration, and I think it is worth discussion how businesses and media corporations can shape discussions by what people are exposed to. Children being the most vulnerable in this regard, I think that google forcing their opinion on what a parent would or would not want their child to see is genuinely censorship at a scale that governments in the past have failed to achieve.

                        This is true irrespective of how you feel about parents censoring things in general. It presents to the parents the options of “You can either avoid using our service, or allow us to shape what your child sees, or allow them be subject to the maelstrom of human depravity”. Now I’m not saying google is doing this intentionally, however it is the outcome nonetheless.

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                          I think it is worth discussion how businesses and media corporations can shape discussions by what people are exposed to.

                          This has been a fact of society since the dawn of mass media. In the earliest days we had book and newspaper editors, then radio and TV editors, and now our editors are algorithms. There’s way more content than any person can consume, and having a “trusted third party” doing the selection has been a rational decision for a long time.

                          It presents to the parents the options of “You can either avoid using our service, or allow us to shape what your child sees, or allow them be subject to the maelstrom of human depravity”.

                          In the article, they link to a page on the Christian Science Monitor. It’s from 6 Mar 2017, and states in part

                          On Wednesday, the tech giant introduced the latest addition to Google’s software product line: Google Family Link. Meant to be used on a preteen’s Android smartphone and linked with a parent’s phone, the app allows Mom and Dad to monitor and approve the apps their kids use, and set screen time limits and a “bedtime” for the device. “The goal in every area of Google is to improve what we do for kids,” Ms. Diwanji told CNET.

                          Google’s page is here.

                          This really doesn’t sound like parents are faced with the trilemma {use Google; accept Google’s worldview; allow their child to be corrupted} that you state. In fact, I think the main draw will be the app restrictions and bedtime features. Not allowing free-to-play games with predatory pricing is a good draw too.

                          Apple has similar software. No doubt MSFT has too.

                          We have never used any sort of nanny-ware in our family[1]. I think its use is going to decrease as parents are more and more net-savvy themselves.

                          On the use of the word “censorship”

                          I stand by my position that “censorship” means I am not allowed to state my opinion. I can modify it by allowing that the entity prohibiting me is not just a state agency, but could be a community (say something ,and get ostracized).

                          But my employer’s firewall blocking Lobste.rs, for example, is not censorship. Nor is Google removing search results from an existing website. Free speech does not mean easy or convenient speech.

                          [1] although when my stepdaughter had severe eating disorder, I’d have loved to block or ban every “pro-ana” site on the damn internet. But it would not have helped her…

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                            Google defines censorship as “the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security. “

                            It says nothing about an inability to state one’s opinion, and it does not require a government to censor. Anyone can censor at any scale. I believe you are thinking about “First amendment rights”, however censorship and your first amendment rights are distinct constructs.

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                              I’m as concerned about you and many others about the power that Google/FB/Twitter has to control the narrative of our times. But we need a new word for it. Censorship isn’t it.

                              It used to be that the “powers that be” used suppressio veri, suggestio falsi. Now you don’t have to suppress the truth. It’s enough to suggest many falsehoods, you don’t need to bother to suppress the truth.

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                                Those are fair and real points, however when we’re talking specifically about the suppression of content, that is censorship no matter how benign.While certain political movements have begun tilting at windmills regarding corporate censorship and this is probably unfounded, I do think the FSF’s concern here is reasonable and legitimate though perhaps a great deal more subtle than those movements are claiming. Perhaps they don’t strictly need to censor, however they do also do it. It would be doing a disservice to only mention the yellow journalism, and fail to acknowledge that censorship for better or worse does happen. Youtube is probably the most potent example, where both positions on the left and right are being cut “to protect viewers”, and that’s before the child filters.

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                                  Thanks for taking the time to reply. I believe you’ve explained your viewpoint well.

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                                    Thank you, I have appreciated your responses as well. They have been illuminating regardless of our small conflict on definitions and terms :).

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                          Yes, I had to follow the link to see that a ‘tyrant’ phone is one with a locked bootloader. I’d consider a locked bootloader a terrible misfeature and would strongly prefer not to buy a phone with one given other choices, but the word “tyrant” isn’t even reasonably descriptive.

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                          A lot of talk about Google. People forget that the only (profitable) Google business is ads. Once it is gone, everything else is gone too.

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                            Play Store? GCP?

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                            There’s much justified complaints about censorship here, but I think the other odd point is some of the lockdown features - preventing or making it harder to load apps and plugins outside of a Google walled garden, ability to remotely delete apps, that sort of thing. It sounds kind of bad in a way, but experience shows that these types of restrictions are important for preventing actual malware and viruses (not hyperbolic accusations of malware) from spreading all over users’ devices and sending even more data to worse places, making the user spend money, etc. You may say there should be options to turn it off for developers, but honestly, developers who will want to change that are like 0.01% of the userbase. Probably 100x more users will follow the instructions to switch the setting on some sketchy website to see some dancing bunnies or something and get infected with piles of malware.

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                              for first: The alternative of automatic, Software update is manual Software update ? And you know what ? Non updated device, is the major cause of malware. (The only other one is zero-day vulnerabilities, and you know what ? google has also, the project zero, which has huge success in detecting them and by responsible disclosure force the software companies to patch their software).

                              Google release free software frequently, and event, publish detailed papers about their home technologies which by copycat became successful free software. Google is the best and powerful allie to free software one can think of. Of course google business is for selling ads and as such about knowing all about his users, and will control their product, But google don’t even, sells their user data to third party.