"Christians and the Internet" newsletter
CATI, Vol. 2, No. 3:  February 10, 2001.
_______________________________________________________________

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. CONSUMER REPORTS REPORTS ON PARENTAL CONTROL SOFTWARE
2. EMAIL WARNING ABOUT DIHYDROGEN MONOXIDE (DHMO): TRUE??
3. "GHOST SITES" ON THE WEB: WHO NOTES THEIR PASSING?
4. SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION FOR THIS NEWSLETTER
_______________________________________________________________

Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is
Copyright (C) 2001 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved.  For
permission to reproduce material from this newsletter, contact
Barry Traver at cati@traver.org.  Permission is hereby granted,
however, to pass along this issue to others, provided that (1)
no changes are made and (2) it is passed along in its entirety.

To subscribe, write to cati@traver.org, including "Subscribe to
CATI" in the Subject line and including in the body your real
name and the email address to which you wish CATI sent.
_______________________________________________________________

1. CONSUMER REPORTS REPORTS ON PARENTAL CONTROL SOFTWARE

As I've said before, parents make the best parents, and there
is no substitute for good parental involvement in the lives of
their children (Deut. 6:4-7; Eph. 6:4).  Even though it may be
permissible at times to turn our children over temporarily to
someone reliable (e.g., when Christian parents may send their
children to a Christian school, which thus serves "in locus
parentis," in the place of the parents), in general parenting
by proxy is not the ideal situation.

So it is with the Internet.  Parental control software is no
substitute for good parenting.  Parental guidance and control
work better than parental control software, which at best
can serve only as a sometimes useful aid or supplement.  And
parents who rely entirely on parental control software may be
making a big mistake.

That's not just my opinion:  it's also the opinion of a recent
article reviewing "filtering software for kids" in the March
2001 issue of Consumer Reports (check it out in your local
library or purchase it at your neighborhood newsstand).  Here
is how their table of contents describes the article:

"Can you rely on these digital chaperones to shield your kids
when they go online?  Our tests of leading software aren't
very encouraging."

And here is a summary of the key findings from the article
itself (page 22):

"Filtering software is no substitute for parental supervision.
Most of the products we tested [e.g., Cyber Patrol] failed to
block one objectionable site in five.  America Online's Young
Teen (or Kids Only) provides the best protection, though it
will [also] block [legitimate] sites addressing political and
social issues."

Here's the "catch-22" for filtering:  In general, the better
the software is at protecting kids from "bad" sites, the more
"good" sites they will be unable to access as well.  Likewise,
the more the software allows access to "good" sites (including
some controversial ones), the more "bad" sites will be allowed
to slip through the filter.

In addition, the decisions concerning which sites are "good"
and which sites are "bad" are determined (depending on which
software is used) by either "software analysis" (such as the
presence of certain words on the Web page) or "human analysis"
(decisions by staff based on whatever criteria they choose to
use).

Both approaches have their disadvantages.  For example, if
live human beings decide, are they using the same standards
you would use as a Christian parent?  Some parental control
software would forbid access to the Web site for the American
Family Association at http://www.afa.net/ (unless things have
changed, that is true of Cyber Patrol, for instance).  The
reason for excluding the AFA is that their site is regarded
as a "hate" site, since the AFA regards homosexuality as
contrary to the intent and purpose of God!  (The position of
the AFA on this issue is the traditional position of Judaism,
Christianity, and Islam.)

Here's another example, this one from the Consumer Reports
article itself (page 22):

"...differences in judgment seem the most likely explanation
for why ... Cyber Patrol and both AOL controls blocked the
Operation Rescue anti-abortion web site [which can be found
at http://www.operationrescue.org/], which contains photos of
aborted fetuses [that is, babies].  Such differences raise
questions about how people decide what gets blocked."

It is important to note that parental control software not
only blocks pornographic sites, but also blocks sites on the
basis of religious, social, or political orientation.  I have
already mentioned my own example of the AFA plus the Consumer
Reports example of Operation Rescue.  Here's another example
from Consumer Reports:  the Citizens Committee for the Right
to Keep and Bear Arms Web site at http://www.ccrkba.org/] is
blocked by AOL Young Teen, by Cybersitter 2000, and by Norton
Internet Security 2001.

What about the ability of the parental control software to
block pornography?  Reportedly, only two percent or less of
the sites on the Web are pornographic, but those sites are not
difficult to find if one is actively looking for them <sigh>.
What did Consumer Reports find out about how well parental
control software blocked pornography and other objectionable
material?

Here's how they tested and what they found out (pages 21-22):

"We pitted them all [the two AOL parental controls plus the
six stand-alone software products] against a list of 86 easily
located web sites that contain sexually explicit content or
violently graphic images, or that promote drugs, tobacco,
crime, or bigotry.  [Again, who defines "bigotry"?  To some
people, all Christians are automatically considered "bigots"
by definition, since Christians claim that non-Christians are
not going to heaven!] ...AOL's Young Teen Control, the best
by far, allowed only one site through in its entirety, along
with portions of about 20 other sites.  All the other filters
allowed at least 20 percent of the sites through in their
entirety."

Here are the statistics:  AOL's Young Teen failed to block
14% of the objectionable sites, Norton Internet Security 2001
(family edition) 20 percent, Cybersitter 2000 22 percent,
Cyber Patrol 23 percent, AOL's Mature Teen 30 percent, McAfee
Internet Guard Dog 30 percent, Net Nanny (version 4) 52
percent, and Cyber Snoop 90 percent!  Even if the Consumer
Reports list of objectionable sites wasn't simply restricted
to pornographic sites, these results provide some significant
evidence that parents ought not to rely solely on "digital
chaperones for kids" to protect them from pornography on the
Internet.  Again, parents make the best parents!

If you have young children, parental control software can be
helpful--in fact, I often recommend that parents consider
using Cyber Patrol--but it is not sufficient in itself and
ought not to be relied on as if it were an adequate substitute
for parenting.  Good moms and dads take time to spend time
with their kids, and that's what's most important here.

Incidentally, you can find the Consumer Reports Web site at
the following address:

Consumer Reports
  http://www.consumerreports.org/

Access to most of the site, however, is limited to people who
are paid subscribers.  If you would like to read their full
report on parental control software, you may want to consider
reading it at your local public library or purchasing your own
copy of this issue (March 2001) at your local newsstand.
_______________________________________________________________

2. EMAIL WARNING ABOUT DIHYDROGEN MONOXIDE (DHMO): TRUE??

Most of the warnings I get via email are hoaxes.  Recently,
however, I received one which seems to be based on genuine
facts.  Read it and see what you think:
________________________________

WARNING!

Dihydrogen monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and
kills uncounted thousands of people every year. Most of these
deaths are caused by accidental inhalation of DHMO, but the
dangers of dihydrogen monoxide do not end there.

Prolonged exposure to its solid form causes severe tissue
damage. Symptoms of DHMO ingestion can include excessive
sweating and urination, bloating, nausea, vomiting and body
electrolyte imbalance. For those who have become dependent,
DHMO withdrawal means certain death.

Dihydrogen monoxide  is also known as hydroxyl acid, and is
the major component of acid rain. It:
  --contributes to the "greenhouse effect.
  --may cause severe burns.
  --contributes to the erosion of our natural landscape.
  --accelerates corrosion and rusting of many metals.
  --may cause electrical failures and decreased effectiveness
     of automobile brakes.
  --has been found in excised tumors of terminal cancer
     patients.

Contamination Is Reaching Epidemic Proportions!

Significant quantities of dihydrogen monoxide have been found
in almost every stream, lake, and reservoir in America today.
But the pollution is global, and the substance has even been
found in Antarctic ice. DHMO has caused millions of dollars of
property damage in the midwest, and recently California.

Despite the danger, dihydrogen monoxide is often used:
  --as an industrial solvent and coolant.
  --in nuclear power plants.
  --in the production of styrofoam.
  --as a fire retardant.
  --in many forms of cruel animal research.
  --in the distribution of pesticides (even after washing,
     produce remains contaminated by this chemical).
  --as an additive in certain "junk-foods" and other food
     products.

The American government has refused to ban the production,
distribution, or use of this chemical compound due to its
"importance to the economic health of this nation." Worse,
military organizations -- the Navy is the worst offender --
are developing weapons based on DHMO. Other branches of the
military receive tons the substance through a highly
sophisticated distribution network that's hidden underground,
away from public scrutiny. Many military facilities store
large quantities of DHMO for later use!

It's Not Too Late!

Act NOW to prevent further contamination. Find out more about
this dangerous chemical. What you don't know can hurt you and
others throughout the world.
________________________________

I received this warning not from an individual, but through
The Langa List, a free email newsletter.  You can find that
particular issue online here:

  http://www.langa.com/newsletters/2001/2001-02-08.htm#9

The Langa List concludes its "warning" with the following
important comment:

"OK: For those of you who slept during high school chemistry,
'Dihydrogen Monoxide' is ordinary water. <g>"

Yes, it's ordinary H2O (make that "2" a subscript, of course),
and everything that is said about "DHMO" is perfectly true!
Go back and re-read the "warning," and you'll see that it is
indeed based on genuine facts.  This particular email hoax is
instructive:  it shows us that we should take such warnings
with a grain of salt (although in this case, that would give
us salt water <g>).

Wondering about the "<g>"?  Don't be:  it's simply Internet
shorthand for "grin" (the equivalent of a smiley face to show
emotion).

Here's the lesson:  Christians are to be "the salt of the
earth" (Matt. 5:13) and to possess the "living water" (John
4:10).  They know that it is important to give quick heed to
the warnings of God (e.g., Heb. 3:12-13), but they are not
to give unquestioning heed to the world's warnings, since
God's people are not to fear what the world fears (Isaiah
4:12-13).  Warnings may or may not be valid.  Thus we should
ordinarily examine the premises and check out the facts before
we respond (particularly when it comes to the warnings we
receive via email!).
_______________________________________________________________

3. "GHOST SITES" ON THE WEB: WHO NOTES THEIR PASSING?

The World Wide Web is ever-changing.  Interesting sites, good
and bad, appear and disappear.  Who chronicles their history
and/or writes their obituaries?  Who keeps their memories
alive?

Although this is not a site I would recommend for everyone (I
haven't examined the site thoroughly enough, for example, to
confirm that all of the material is suitable for the whole
family; some of Steve Baldwin's other sites tend to be a bit
controversial), there is a site that is devoted to those Web
sites that are no longer with us:

Ghost Sites
  http://www.disobey.com/ghostsites/

Here's the history of this site (which at this point is not a
"ghost site" ... yet!), as described by the site itself:

"Well, this is all very interesting, but what...is Ghost Sites
anyway? Why devote a live site to Dead Sites?

"If you're interested in this Ghost Sites thing, it is a
project that I began in the summer of 1996 while I was working
for Time-Warner's Pathfinder. Late in the evening of July 4th,
while piloting a small craft across Long Island Sound, I had
what only can be described as an epiphany.

"From out of the depths came a cruel vision of the World
Wide Web. It wasn't a friendly place - an innocent place of
community, commerce and chat. It was a great and utterly
pitiless electronic ocean that swallowed up sites, careers,
and venture capital like a ravenous killer whale. Great sites
...were going down with all hands. Great fortunes were
collapsing and proud content sites lay wrecked on the bottom.
No one seemed to care. The future was a vast abyss - who would
record these days of New Media folly, disaster and despair?

"Back on shore, but still haunted by this vision, I launched
Ghost Sites as a modest attempt to document the great
disappearing fleet of web sites sinking beneath the waves....

"Ghost Sites has appeared in a number of places including Time
Magazine, ZDNet, The Netly News and more...."

    http://www.disobey.com/ghostsites/

Regrettably, Steve Baldwin's "Ghost Sites" site is basically
restricted to dead and defunct e-commerce (i.e., commercial
or business) sites, for there are many other memorable sites
on the Web that have gone away

Christians are immortal, but Christian sites are not.  Here
are three examples of sites mentioned in previous issues of
CATI that are not presently among the living:

Great Christian Books (bookstore)
  http://greatchristianbooks.com

Reformed Christian Literature (bookstore)
  http://www.rclbooks.com/

Sov/Grace (Sovereign Grace Theology Resource Center)
  http://www.dallas.net/sovgrace/

Here's a fourth, which was a "ghost site" but appears to have
been recently resuscitated or resurrected:

Grace Online Library
  http://www.graceonlinelibrary.org/

Here's something to think about:  a Christian site that is
here today may not be here tomorrow.  If a site has on it
something you'd like to download, the time to do it is now
(unless doing so would prevent you from doing something more
important).  As far as I know, whatever was on the Sov/Grace
Site is not presently available elsewhere (unless it happens
to be available in bits and pieces).

It is possible to download entire Web sites.  You should do
that, of course, only when doing so would not violate any
copyright or run contrary to the expressed policy of the
Webmaster of the site, but often the very purpose of such a
Web site is, for example, to make helpful Christian writings
from the past (such as the English Puritans, where copyright
restrictions do not apply) more widely available.

I am not suggesting the widespread downloading of Christian
Web sites (and if/when you download a site you will want to
be sure that you can do so ethically), but occasionally it
may be justifiable.  (For example, if you find you access
a certain site frequently, it may be better for you and for
the site if you download it and access it from your hard
drive or a re-writable CD-ROM than from the Web.)

If you do decide that you want to do this and can do so in
good conscience, one software program I would suggest you
consider is WebStripper:

WebStripper
  http://webstripper.net/

The program has gotten rave reviews.  Tucows gave WebStripper
a "5 cows" rating, and ZD-Net gave it "5 stars":

"Although it seems almost simplistic in design, WebStripper
offers a high level of control and top-notch performance."
  http://www.zdnet.com/downloads/stories/info/0,,0012MH,.html

I've used WebStripper to download my own CATI site (to access
the site without having to log on to the Internet), and I have
found the program very useful.  If it is appropriate to your
needs, you may want to try it as well.  (One nice thing about
the program is that it's free!)

One more thought:  even the sites that do not become "ghost
sites" are ever-changing.  The sites may not disappear, but
individual Web pages on the sites may disappear (or at least
change in content).  The hope of all of us is that whatever
is worthy of preservation will be preserved for the benefit
of future generations.

In the meantime, enjoy what's here while it's here!
_______________________________________________________________

4. SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION FOR THIS NEWSLETTER

This is the forty-eighth issue of a free newsletter devoted
to "Christians And The Internet" ("CATI," pronounced "Katy,"
but spelled with a "C" and an "I" for "Christians" and the
"Internet").

To subscribe, write to cati@traver.org, including "Subscribe
to CATI" in the Subject line and including in the body your
real name and the email address to which you wish CATI sent.

Past issues:  you'll find archives of past issues of CATI
available online at   http://traver.org/cati/.  ("It's not a
pretty site," but hopefully it may be a useful one.)
________________________________________________________________

Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is
Copyright (C) 2001 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved.  For
permission to reproduce material from this newsletter, contact
Barry Traver at cati@traver.org.  Permission is hereby granted,
however, to pass along this issue to others, provided that (1)
no changes are made and (2) it is passed along in its entirety.