Online safety

While no one could disagree with the sentiments in Russell Hopwood’s letter (13 April) and others, the reality is sadly somewhat different. Politicians can, especially during elections, make sweeping statements of the “something must be done” variety and make promises which are practically unsustainable.

Having been involved in the computer industry since writing core processor operating systems in the 1960s and spending more than 20 years lecturing to alleviate students’ insomnia with the intricacies of processor machine code and data processing, I welcomed the internet for its simplicity of basic design.

However, the very open structure of the internet and its universality mean it does not 
discriminate on the data handled by it.

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Whether it be a control signal, text page, picture or movie the basic transmission based around the TCP/IP layers means that 
anyone anywhere can access the same information.

The problem for the politicians is that they need to make restrictions in two areas, firstly the user.

How do you certify the age of an user of the tablet, PC etc? Passwords are easily circumvented, facial recognition, fingerprints and eye scans require complex add-ons.

Even then any determined teenager is bound to find some machine without the technology.

Trying to restrict the source is even more complex. Aside from the fact that most sites are outwith the control of our MPs, most sites are cached (stored) on duplicate sites to speed access.

The Scotsman webpages might or might not be hosted on a server in Britain but copies of the pages are stored around the world.

Even if the source address is known, the people involved often change their addresses regularly, making blocking difficult.

All politicians of all parties can no doubt support what would prove to be empty promises.

Bruce D Skivington


Gairloch, Wester Ross