Dirty Work (with apologies to Bob & Ray)

Author’s Note: This column was written for ComputerUser, and is still available on their site. Well, sort of. For some reason, it’s truncated well before the end. So I give it to you here in full.

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Dirty Work

DEK: Surf is in the mind of the beholder

Bob: Good evening. This is Bob LeBlob welcoming you to another edition of Unusual Occupations. And now let’s welcome tonight’s guest, Raymond Hayes Breen.

Ray: Hello, Bob.

Bob: Hello, Ray. So, Ray, what do you do for a living?

Ray: Well, Bob, I do something very unusual—I look at pornography on the Internet.

Bob: Gee, Ray, that must be as rare as looking for oxygen in the atmosphere. So tell me, do you actually get paid for doing this or is it just how you’ve chosen to spend your time?

Ray: Both. I work for JackBoot Software, the makers of that famous child protection program, JackBoot Software. My job is to search the Internet for anything we think you might think your children would find unthinkable.

Bob: And what sort of unthinkable things should my children not be seeing?

Ray: Well, first and foremost, they shouldn’t see anything that criticizes JackBoot Software. Negative reviews, editorials, or legal documents are all rated Absolutely Intolerable.

Bob: So you have a rating system?

Ray: Of course. In addition to Absolutely Intolerable, sites can be rated Slightly Sensitive, Somewhat Salacious, and Sensationally Sleazy.

Bob: So how does JackBoot Software treat these different categories of objectionable sites? How would my experience differ if I went to, say, a Sensationally Sleazy site as opposed to one that was merely Slightly Sensitive?

Ray: Well, Bob, on a Slightly Sensitive site, you might see an illustrated discussion of how condoms can be used as water balloons. But on a Sensationally Sleazy site, you’d find…

Bob: That’s alright, Ray. But how does JackBoot treat these differently? If I had your software running, what would happen if I visited a Sensationally Sleazy site?

Ray: JackBoot would block access.

Bob: And a Slightly Sensitive site?

Ray: JackBoot would block access.

Bob: So what’s the difference?

Ray: Well, like I said, on a Slightly Sensitive site, you might see an illustrated discussion of…

Bob: Thank you, Ray. What I meant was, what’s the difference in how JackBoot Software treats a Slightly Sensitive site and a Sensationally Sleazy one?

Ray: Well, it would block a Slightly Sensitive site so that you couldn’t access it, but it would block a Sensationally Sleazy one with extreme prejudice.

Bob: Meaning?

Ray: It would e-mail everyone on your mailing list about your viewing habits. But keep in mind that we at JackBoot Software recognize the difference between erotica and pornography.

Bob: And that is?

Ray: What turns me on is erotica. What turns you on is pornography. At JackBoot Software, we ban them both.

Bob: Sexually explicit sites aren’t the only ones that worry parents. Do you ban hate sites?

Ray: Of course, but we also ban sites promoting love and understanding. Then we discovered that some parents are against love and understanding. We have to take into account the needs of all kinds of parents.

Bob: What happens if parents want to see something about, say, love and understanding, themselves?

Ray: They ought to be ashamed of themselves. And, of course, JackBoot Software caters to those kinds of parents, as well. That’s why we have a special Ashamed Parents Override, which gives you access to banned sites after you type the secret password—IamNotaKid. In case you forget the password, it’s displayed in the lower-right corner.

Bob: Ray, I understand that JackBoot Software is branching out into the business world. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Ray: Gladly. We’ve recently discovered a new market in the business sector, where many companies are concerned that they’re not sufficiently treating their employees as children. In order to cater to employers who don’t want their workers using the Internet for anything that isn’t business related, I’m now searching through the entire Internet, listing for banishment any Web site that someone somewhere may find entertaining. Luckily, there are fewer of those than one might think.

Bob: Ray, getting back to family issues, do you think that government censorship is a viable solution?

Ray: Oh, absolutely. I censor everything by the government.

Bob: I’m sure we’re all thankful for that. Ray, I’m sure there are countless people in the audience who are wondering the same thing: How did you get your job?

Ray: Well, Bob, I didn’t so much find my job as it found me. You know the big Internet advertising company doublespy.com? It’s the one that’s been in the papers lately—you know, the controversy about whether or not it’s been tracking people’s surfing habits? Anyway, they sold my name to JackBoot Software; I was apparently on the top of a list of people especially adept at finding pornography on the Internet.

Bob: And how much does it pay?

Ray: You know, Bob, I’ve been trying to figure that out. But the Web page with that information is rated Absolutely Intolerable and Unfit for Anyone.

Bob: An apt description of your status. Thank you, Ray, and goodnight.

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