Dr. Larry Burriss Commentary: Kids & Internet

Kids children internet safety

Kids & Internet

“Google’s Zero-Tolerance: Mother’s Accounts Permanently Suspended Over Innocent Upload”

Several years ago, television stations around the country used to run a short public service announcement during the evening hours, “Parents, do you know where your kids are?”
Children internet safety

Well, let’s try two more relevant cliches: “Innocent until proven guilty,” and, “Better that 12 guilty people go free than one innocent person to go to jail.”
It seems a couple in Australia have 7-year-old twin sons. One day mom got an e-mail that her YouTube account was cancelled. And that was ok, she thought, because she didn’t use YouTube.


What she did have, however, was a Google account she used for storing photographs, banking, e-mail and a host of other services. And in case you didn’t know, YouTube is owned by Google.
So imagine her surprise when all of her Google accounts were permanently suspended because of a video that was flagged as possible sexual exploitation of a child. Google also reported her to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

And what was the video? It seems one of the children, unbeknownst to the parents, had uploaded, on a dare from a friend, a picture of his, um, bottom.
Within minutes, the safety and security system used by Google flagged the photo. And Google has a zero-tolerance policy for exploitive material.

The mother has, of course, appealed the cancellation of her account, but received a real review only after she contacted “The New York Times.”
At the opposite extreme of Google’s a zero-tolerance policy, Apple has refused to scan the iCloud for similar material, claiming innocent users have been swept up in overly-cautious dragnets.
Another interesting sidelight to this story is that a study by Facebook showed that more than 75 percent of apparent child pornography was not malicious, and most were of teenagers in a romantic relationship sharing intimate photographs of themselves.
Of course, we could ask why the kids had access to their parent’s account, or why the seven-year-olds needed unsupervised access to any Internet site?
As for the mother in question, she apparently has not set up a new account for her twins, who are now banned from the internet.
I’m Larry Burriss.

Dr. Larry Burriss MTSU
Larry Burriss, a professor in Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Mass Communication and president of the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame, welcomes the crowd before the induction ceremonies at the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters conference in Murfreesboro for the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame. (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)