posted Oct 16, 2000

Congress weighing Internet filtering for schools, libraries
Free Speech
10/16/2000; 2:12:31 PM

'Four Republicans are promoting legislation that would force schools and libraries to use Internet filtering software or lose federal dollars intended to help buy Web access. The effort is alienating civil liberties groups, conservatives and industry executives....'

'Introduced in the Senate by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rick Santorum, R-Pa., the plan is attached to an appropriations bill that could get a final vote this week. Reps. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., and Charles Pickering, R-Miss., are behind the effort in the House.

'"This is insuring that the government is not paying for access to pornography through libraries," said Istook's chief of staff, John Albaugh. "We have received tremendous support from the public on this. It just seems like it's a no-brainer to the average Joe."'

Unfortunately, this is a case of lying to the average Joe. The government will be telling the average Joe that now your children can't access pornography, and presumably that it won't affect any other aspect of the Internet. Neither of these clauses is true. Mandating incredibly faulty (and in fact impossible to build) software is a bad idea.

'Mandatory filtering opponents say the filters are imperfect and frequently fail to block pornography. Sometimes, they say, the filters reflect a political view. At various times, filters have blocked sites that cater to gays and lesbians as well as conservative sites that contain language hostile to homosexuals.'

"Sometimes the filters reflect a political view" is incorrect. Filters always reflect a political view. The decision to censor a site catering to gays and lesbians is an inherently political decision... each side may claim that their position is the only natural one, but frankly, both are wrong. Whether or not to expose children (or adults) is a political decision, regardless of your opinions on the topic.

Madating these filters is mandating their politics. This does not belong in our schools.

 

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