Gordon Ross: Meeting Sen. John McCain, the President and Vice President; Internet Content, International Ratings, and Self-regulation; Corporate Responsibility

This is the next interview in the continuing series of Computing Canada’s (CC) Blogged Down (BD) which is featured here “first” in the Canadian IT Managers (CIM) forum.

We began this blog series on September 15th, 2006. I continue my talk with Gordon Ross, Internet Filtering Pioneer, Biometrics / Security / Telecommunications / Ethics / Privacy Expert, Founder of Net Nanny; President of Virtual Perceptions Systems Inc.

Stephen:  Your expertise has led you to work with Congress, Sen. John McCain, and to meet with the President and Vice-President. Do you have a compelling story or two to share from these meetings?

Gordon:  These meetings were very interesting. It was amazing to see the interest and concern that were shared by these individuals. Testifying before Senator McCain was very interesting because he understood the issues, was very well-informed and asked very direct and knowledgeable questions. He put a few people in their place and I believe some people were not prepared as well as they should have been. Being a veteran myself actually helped me. I was fortunate to have enough time to get all of my points across, because others were cut short. 

Prior to presenting to the President and Vice President I selected a chair (that I thought was really comfortable), while speaking with another one of the attendees. Just prior to the President and Vice President arriving she chuckled and informed me I was sitting in the President’s Chair. I chuckled and told her that I would move because I didn’t want to cause an international incident, as I was the only foreigner at the table. We had a good laugh and I moved to a seat directly across from the Vice President.

Presenting to the President and Vice President resulted in opening up further discussions with various security officials around the table. I was very fortunate to have approximately 20 minutes to do a Q&A with these officials along with the President and Vice President. All the others had approximately 5 minutes each. In the end, everyone had a far better understanding of what could and could not be done technologically, and what was “smoke and mirrors or vaporware” and what was not.

Stephen:  You have spoken before the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). What are your views on Internet content, International Ratings, and self-regulation?

Gordon:  At the OECD I expressed concern over censorship and the lack of understanding of the Internet by many of our leaders. I was for a completely open internet. If you tried to rate it, those that you were really concerned about would just move around or disregard the ratings. I am a strong proponent of self-regulation and putting the responsibility on the individual.

I also expressed the concern of the large expenditure of taxpayer's dollars on trying to legislate the internet. It was amazing how so few realized that a law passed in Canada, the US, or other countries was only applicable to their own citizens. The Internet on the other hand has no country boundaries and laws cannot be legislated and enacted on a global stance unless every nation agreed on enforcing the same laws. Due to sociological and legal definition differences in the global arena I felt this was a no-win situation.

I pointed out that the global resolutions signed by some 120+ nations to stop child exploitation have not been fully enforced as some of the signing countries still allow and profit from this type of activity. Ratings, on the other hand, would just help WEB Browsers, and some sites would just mis-rate themselves or because of their sociological beliefs, just not be rated. It is a well-meaning but flawed solution.

Stephen:  You are a strong and passionate advocate for ongoing corporate responsibility and a recipient of an array of awards due to your work. How would you critique those who do not take a more active role? What are the benefits to participation and making a contribution?

Gordon:  I think it is a shame to not take an active role in this area. As leaders, if we do not set the example, how can you expect those who follow to be held accountable? Somewhere over the past 30 years or so we seem to have lost the acceptance of responsibility.

The benefits of making a contribution or contributing are many. One of the most important, for me, is the personal gratification of seeing your successes helping others. We are only here once and for a short time, so why not enjoy what we have and share our knowledge. We are very fortunate to live in a society that allows us the freedom to do these things. I once said to someone, we are born to die so let’s make everything count in the meantime. We are “guaranteed” to not get out of this adventure alive, so let’s enjoy it.

In the next blog, Gordon will discuss
his leadership lessons and career tips.

I also encourage you to share your thoughts here on these interviews or send me an e-mail at sibaraki@cips.ca.

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Thank you,
Stephen Ibaraki, FCIPS, I.S.P.

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