Sunday, February 3, 2008

Recent Reports on Internet Filtering at School

I am working on a very short entry about Internet filtering for a brochure to be shared by the AASL Intellectual Freedom Committee. What I have now is about twice as long ans I can submit, but I thought I would put the information here in its entirety since it has some helpful links. Here it is:

Both ALA andThe National Coalition Against Censorship ( highlight a 2006 Public Policy Report from NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice which examined filtering products used in public schools between the early 1900’s and mid 2000’s.

o This document is an update of The NCAC’s 2001 Document, “The Internet: A Public Policy Report,” and reiterates that the highly imprecise nature of Internet filtering continues to be a problem.

o Overly broad parameters are commonly set for “unacceptable” categories which block categories such as “politics,” “intolerance,” and “alternative lifestyles”

o Keyword blocking continues to be the most common method of filtering despite claims that technology has improved through use of “adaptive reasoning technology.”

o Entire report available in pdf at or free copies available if requested by writing to

o The NCAC also provides a Fact Sheet with information about legislation including CIPA and COPA and filtering issues, available at

· Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) continues to voice similar concerns about Internet filtering at schools:

· Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use (CSRIU) Director Nancy Willard, describes continuing problems related to school filtering:

o Filters overblock, denying students and educators access to valuable information

o Filters underblock, in some cases allowing objectionable material through. But their presence offers educators a false sense of security that leads to less oversight of student Internet use.

o Centralized filters do not provide educators with immediate override as stated in CIPA, thus causing restriction to content beyond the letter and spirit of the law.

o Broad keyword blocks in many cases result in viewpoint censorship, which was clearly declared unconstitutional in Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District No. 26 v Pico.

o With the advent of Web 2.0 resources, filtering becomes even more of an issue as it denies educators and students access to online collaborative sites and services.

o Dependence on filters rather than teaching safe and smart Internet use hampers students’ ability to be safe online when not at school.

1 comment:

  1. I was in a Public Library the other day looking for resources in the reference section. I asked the librarian about accessing information on one of the computers. He told me to use the computers upstairs because the ones downstairs are filtered to protect the children from inadvertently accessing an inappropriate site. I was very surprised that a large public library had a filter on any of their computers.