Archives For content filters

a historical timeline for censorship and down near the end are some interesting dates:

1995 – United States Senator Charles Grassley from Iowa proposed the Protection of Children from Pornography Act. The law was eventually placed with the Telecommunications Act.

1996 – The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was passed. The new law discussed issues of obscene material over the internet.

26 June 1997 – The United States Supreme Court voted unanimously that the Telecommunications Act was in violation of the first amendment.

1997 – The White House stated that, “Advanced blocking and filtering technology* is doing a far more effective job of shielding children from inappropriate material than could any law.”

20 April 2001 – The Children`s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) went into effect. The law requires all schools and libraries who receive federal funds for the Internet to install blocking software.

May 2002 – The American Library Association received a ruling that CIPA is unconstitutional. They appealed the decision, making the case go to the Supreme Court.

March 2003 – Arguments for the CIPA case began in the Supreme Court.

February 9, 2004 The United States Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).

But that isn`t the end: “When the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), the ruling was limited to issues of whether the statute, as written, was an unconstitutional limitation of freedom of speech. In holding that the wording of the law did not present an unconstitutional limitation on the exercise of free speech, the Supreme Court did not address the constitutionality of the application of the law. Two of the Justices who concurred that CIPA was legal on its face, in fact, suggested the possibility of future legal challenges to CIPA as it is applied in public libraries. This paper discusses potential problems related to the implementation of CIPA that could affect the exercise of free speech in public libraries. It also suggests possible legal challenges to the application of the law that could be made using established First Amendment jurisprudence. The legal issues that might be used to challenge the Court’s decision include least restrictive alternative, vagueness, overbreadth, request policies, prior restraints, public forum, and limitations on political speech. The discussion of each legal issue offers an approach that could be taken in formulating and raising a legal challenge to the application of CIPA.”

this opens the CIPA to be challenged on other grounds.

*the problem with the filters however is that they tend to be flawed, blocking information that is pertinent and useful as well as inappropriate:

Given the tremendous amount of material on the Internet that must be reviewed, it is inevitable that a few mistakes will be made and otherwise useful material blocked.  Groups critical of Internet filters have found that the following sites have been blocked:

• Amnesty International

• American Family Association

• Banned Books On-line

• The Religious Society of Friends

• The Safer Sex Page

• The Web site of Rep. Dick Armey

• Dozens of Web sites of candidates in the last election

• Child Online Protection Act commissioners’ pages that had the word “cum” (as in “magna-cum-laude”) in the bio

• Information on China’’s response to the spread of AIDS

• National Association of Women

• People of the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

• The American Association of University Women Maryland.

A useful report concerning Internet filters is the “Electronic Privacy Information Center’s Faulty Filters: How Content Filters Block Access to Kid-Friendly Information on the Internet”

Peacefire recently conducted a review of the sites one Internet filter, SurfWatch, blocked of the first 1,000 working .coms. According to Peacefire, out of 1,000 sites tested, 147 were blocked. Of those 147 blocked sites, 96 sites were under construction and did not have content, 42 were non-pornographic and did not have sexually explicit content and nine were pornographic.  According to Peacefire, this constitutes an error rate of 82 percent. A search of the Surfwatch (now SurfControl) Web site revealed press releases acknowledging – but not refuting – the Peacefire study.

today`s post brought to you by:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation