Google exec: It's parents' job to protect kids from porn

Naomi Gummer, a public policy analyst for Google in the U.K., reportedly claims that just 14 percent of kids have seen sexual images, and just 2 percent have viewed images that are hard core or violent.

Gummer's Google+ profile is rather stark and content-free. Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

It is always stimulating when an executive from Google tells us something about, you know, life.

Recently, we've had Sergey Brin explaining that it is surely better to trust Google than governments. Or, um, Facebook and Apple.

Yesterday, it was the turn of Naomi Gummer, who is a public policy analyst at Google in the United Kingdom. Her declaration was a simple one: It isn't Google's responsibility to ensure that kids aren't confronted by online porn. That falls to the parents.

The way the Telegraph speaks of her speech to a conference of child welfare experts, it was a combative affair.

She reportedly explained that technology is moving too quickly for pesky old laws to catch up with it -- one of those remarks that, though true, does have a sense of the new world giggling at the creaky joints of the old.

However, being in Google's employ, she had to stoop to data and noted that the extent of sexual content online has been exaggerated. For she declared to the Telegrpah: "Twenty-five percent of kids have seen sexual images, but only 14 percent saw them online. Of that, 4 percent say they were upset by the images, 2 percent of those images are hard-core and violent and the rest is nudity in the same way as perhaps seen in the offline world."

There is something so very opaque about the apparent precision of these numbers. If 4 percent say they were upset by the images, does that mean 4 percent were upset by the images? Of course not. How do children know what really upsets them? And who defines "sexual images" anyway?

Somehow, the minute Googlies start pointing to numbers, their more telling arguments slip into the sand. Why try and make online porn seem like an insignificant issue and then demand that it's the parents' job to do something about it -- as if it's significant?

The point Gummer was really trying to make is that you'd be naive to think that the Web doesn't contain all manner of material. Just as some British high streets enjoy porn shops, it is parents' job to decide how to educate their children to weave through society's weird, wonderful and woeful contents.

As she quite rightly pointed out, it is parents who are sometimes entirely complicit in allowing their underage little beings to join Facebook. It is, perhaps, some of the same parents who are attempting to sue Apple for allegedly suckering the innocent young into spending large amounts of their parents' drinking money on in-app virtual goodies.

Of course, allowing a free-flowing stream of naughtiness doesn't hurt Google's business. Indeed, a free-flowing stream of everything is vital to Google's business. It's when some annoyingly exercise their freedom not to allow everything to flow that Google has a tummy-ache.

Some might find it skewed that so much emotion, angst, and attempted policy-making time is spent on protecting children from sexual images, when relatively little seems to be spent on protecting kids from violent images.

It's surely far harder for parents to protect their kids from violent images than from sexual ones. There just seem to be so many more of them.

 

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