Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Net Nanny, Anew

The Ringer’s Alyssa Bereznak compares Twitter’s “Quality Filter” to Net Nanny, the original web filter:

Net Nanny is not the only program of its kind (I see you, Christian Broadband), but it is an example of how internet filtering began, and how flawed it was (and is). In the world of Net Nanny, visiting the Victoria’s Secret website is deemed “provocative,” while a Google image search of “best lingerie” is permitted. Looking up another word for “abusive” on Thesaurus.com, as I am ashamed to admit I did for this article, is for some inexplicable reason considered “mature.” Gawker and BuzzFeed were out of the question, yet somehow a Redbook post on how to give a good blow job is OK.

Considering that Net Nanny has been featured in many a tech advice column, and is now overseen by company called ContentWatch, you’d think it would have addressed some of these oversights. But this is the downfall of any filter, whether it be for a social network or your entire web browser: The internet embraces and rejects new slang, celebrities, websites, and social networks at a breakneck pace. What once was offensive, now is not, and on and on.

Twitter’s rollout of the Quality Filter has been slow — I haven’t seen it appear in my account settings yet.

It’s not going to be perfect, and there’s a very real chance some abuse is going to get through, particularly when it’s targeted towards specific users. Like any spam filter, it’s also likely to catch some false positives. I hope Twitter is more adept at managing the Quality Filter than it has been at addressing harassment for the past ten years, but I’m not particularly optimistic.