Think of the children

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Think of the children (and similar phrases citing the interests of children including what about the children) can be used to justify why something should, or should not, be done. When used as a plea for pity, this appeal to emotion can constitute a potential logical fallacy, while when used as an appeal for sympathy for weaker members of society, or the social good of the long-term health and viability of a society, it can constitute an argument for social justice generally accepted as appropriate.[citation needed]

It can be seen as:


As justification for censorship[edit]

Internet censorship of, and content-control software for offensive material, is often implemented as "done for the children".

  • China: One of the largest attempts was the Green Dam Youth Escort, by the People's Republic of China, which failed to mandate Internet content-control for all children in the country. This resulted in the forced pre-installation of "Green Dam Youth Escort" software on computers destined for China (software which was largely pirated from a program called CyberSitter). Unintentional consequences included that computers with this program were subject to a remote buffer overflow security vulnerability.[3]
  • UK: David Cameron and his government have warned that certain types of pornography will be criminalized (such as pornography with rape-like elements, even if acted), and a country-wide block of all pornography. This proxy-circumventable block would prevent any site with allegedly pornographic content being accessed by internet users, unless the subscriber requested to be unblocked from the ISP. The reason given was that online pornography was "corroding childhood".[4]
  • Australia: Former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy billed his Internet censorship scheme as being for the purpose of protecting the children,[5] despite concerns from organizations such as Save The Children which specialize in children's rights.[6]
  • Self-described "pirates" Christian Engström, Rick Falkvinge and Oscar Swartz have alleged in 2010-2011 that censorship of child pornography is being used as a pretext by copyright lobby organizations to get politicians to implement similar site blocking legislation against copyright-related piracy.[7][8]
  • US: Operation Protect Our Children (2011) blocked high-level domain names where only a subnetwork was allegedly responsible for the distribution of child pornography. This resulted in a large network being blocked and having a child pornography accusation on their homepage for days.
  • The Russian Internet blacklist was implemented with "Internet Restriction Bill" (2012), which included corrections to a recent content rating law, and introduced blocking of sites (including their IP addresses) containing information the bill said to be harmful for children, and any information prohibited from distribution by a court. Since then, there was a lot of discussion of Internet censorship, with many proposals of expansion, correction or reversion.[9] In 2013, the Duma passed a law introducing blocking of sites containing copyright-violating video content.

As justification for action[edit]

  • By 1977 there existed a Dade County, Florida ordinance which outlawed discrimination in employment, housing, and public services on the basis of sexual orientation. Anita Bryant led a campaign called Save Our Children. By claiming that gays and lesbians threaten children's safety, Bryant created a movement which convinced 70% of the voters to repeal the ordinance, removing those civil rights protections. In 1981, Jerry Falwell echoed these claims in a fundraising letter that reminded his followers, "Please remember, homosexuals don't reproduce! They recruit! And they are out after my children and your children."[10]

Usage to circumvent logical debate[edit]

Claiming to do something for the benefit of children is not a fallacy of itself, but if used to avoid logical debate, it is a thought-terminating cliché[citation needed]. Ethicist Jack Marshall described "think of the children!" as follows.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Michelle Obama: "We Gotta Move Forward". April 30, 2008. 
  2. ^ Meany, John; Kate Shuster (2002). Art, argument, and advocacy: mastering parliamentary debate. IDEA. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-9702130-7-5. 
  3. ^ Wolchok, Scott; Yao, Randy; Halderman, J. Alex (11 June 2009). "Analysis of the Green Dam Censorware System". University of Michigan. Retrieved 21 June 2009. 
  4. ^ BBC. "Online pornography to be blocked by default, PM announces". Retrieved 22 July 2013. 
  5. ^ Stephen Conroy. "Helping keep Australian children safe online". Department of Broadband, Communications & the Digital Economy. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  6. ^ GetUp, Ltd. "Joint Statement on Internet Censorship". Retrieved 22 July 2013. 
  7. ^ Rick Falkvinge (9 July 2011). "The Copyright Lobby Absolutely Loves Child Pornography". TorrentFreak. Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  8. ^ Christian Engström (27 April 2010). "IFPI’s child porn strategy". Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  9. ^ "Радар законотворчества: невесеннее предчувствие". RosComSvoboda (in Russian). 7 Mar 2014. Retrieved 16 Mar 2014. 
  10. ^ "Anti-Gay Organizing on the Right". Retrieved 22 July 2013. 
  11. ^ Jack Marshall (February 16, 2005). "'Think of the Children!': An Ethics Fallacy". Ethics Scoreboard. Retrieved February 12, 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]