"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 firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com, 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 firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com. 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.