Ethics of School Filters for the Internet

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Dec 21, 2004

Ethics of School Filters for the Internet
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School Filters for the Internet

Protecting children from online pornography is a constant political issue on Capitol Hill, and local school boards could find themselves handed yet another federal mandate telling them how to do their jobs. The U.S. Senate recently added amendments to a large spending bill requiring schools and libraries to block student access to pornography on the Internet–despite any evidence that such institutions have turned themselves into electronic red-light districts. The toughest proposal is the Children's Internet Protection Act, sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.). If enacted, it would require schools using federal funds to install filtering technology to block access to pornography, violence, and other material "inappropriate" to minors. Schools would need certification from the Federal Communications Commission that such protections were in place.

The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), sponsored a law requiring all schools and libraries who receive federal funding to install Internet content filters, which was passed into law on December 21, 2000. This new law requires schools and libraries to maintain and enforce a policy of monitoring the online activity of minors by having in place an Internet Safety Policy that includes the use of Internet access by children and implementation of technology that will filter out objectionable content. Such a policy should use technology to block access to obscenity, pornography, or other material that could be harmful to minors. So what exactly are children not suppose to see and whose definition of inappropriate are we to use when installing a filter? Material that is considered "obscene" is fairly easy to spot. Obscene material would be any material that is completely off the scale of what is acceptable for a...
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