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Issue: Online Access: Blocking Technology
Internet blocking technology, sometimes referred to as "filtering software" or "censorware", provides a means for preventing certain information from appearing on the computer screen. More than a dozen blocking technology companies provide such technology.

However, blocking technology can't work because it often fails to block content it aims to block, often blocks other content it did not intend to block, and causes other administrative, technical, and ethical difficulties.

The Online Policy Group provides blocking technology research, tracks legislative and policymaking efforts related to blocking technology and Internet access, and catalogs a wide variety of blocking technology problems and bloopers in the Online Oddities and Atrocities Museum.

Check out the Media Coverage on Internet blocking issues, as well as the links to Organizations and Related Publications below.

Media Coverage

South Dakota: Fire, Don't Filter
The State Government of South Dakota has chosen to treat their employees like adults and fire them, as opposed to installing Internet blocking software, when they use work computers for errant Net activities, Wired News, June 7, 2001

Massachusetts Internet Filtering Technology Company Says Mandatory Filtering Laws Aren't Needed
SurfControl has issued a statement saying that Internet blocking laws are not necessary, CNET News, June 4, 2001

Controversial Ruling on Library Filters
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a preliminary finding suggesting that librarians at the Minneapolis Public Library may have been subjected to a hostile work environment due to viewing of porn at patron computers, New York Times, June 1, 2001 (Free registration required to view article)

Employers Call Internet Filtering 'Absolute Necessity'
More than 75 percent of U.S. employers say that they need to use Internet blocking and monitoring technology to "combat" personal use of the Internet by workers during business hours, Newsbytes, May 31, 2001

Some Librarians Balking at Internet Filter Mandate
Many libraries in Iowa are not happy with the prospect of blocking Internet resources from their patrons, Chicago Tribune, May 30, 2001

Bill Ties E-Rate Funds To Net Anonymity Blockers
A bill proposed by Felix Grucci, Jr. (R-NY) would require schools and libraries recieving E-rate funding to block anonymous web and emailing services, Newsbytes, May 16, 2001
Additional Resources: Who Is E-Mailing Our Kids Act (HR1846)

Libraries Win Delay in Installing Internet Filters
Public schools and libraries have until at least July 2002 to comply with a federal law requiring Internet blocking technologies in exchange for federal grants and discounts, San Francisco Chronicle, May 16, 2001
Related media coverage:
Washington Post, May 16, 2001
SiliconValley.com, May 16, 2001

Filtering Company SurfControl Gets Patent
SurfControl, which produces Internet blocking software, said Thursday that it has been granted a U.S. patent for software that allows companies to block websites, despite the ire of online activists against such restrictions, CNet News, May 10, 2001

FilterGate, or Knowing What We're Walling In or Walling Out
A humorous and insightful essay on the problems associated with Internet blocking, MultiMedia Schools, May 1, 2001

Down by Law: New Internet Laws Will Hurt the Poorest of the Poor
An opinion piece addressing the digital divide in the light of CHIPA and other government policies, A List Apart, April 6, 2001

Freedom Forum Event in NYC on First Amendment and the Net
Agenda of Freedom Forum event posted by Declan McCullagh, politechbot.com, March 21, 2001
Related media coverage: Declan McCullagh's photographs

Lawsuits Slam Net Filtering Efforts
The American Civil Liberties Union and American Library Association filed separate suits Tuesday in a federal district court in Philadelphia challenging a new law that requires federally funded schools and libraries to install software that blocks "objectionable" online materials, CNET News, March 20, 2001
Related media coverage:
Libraries Spearhead Attack on Cyber-Porn Law, Reuters
Librarians Contest Law Requiring Net Filters, Mercury News,
Libraries: Filter Out Filters, Wired,
Library Smut Snit Heats Up, Wired,
Diverse Coalition Sues To Overturn Web-Filtering Law, Newsbytes,
Daily E-Mail Alert, Tech Law Journal,
Censoring the Libraries, San Francisco Chronicle,
ALA Lawsuit Poll, Excite, March 19-23, 2001

Internet Filters Used to Shield Minors Censor Speech
In December, lawmakers passed a bill requiring federally financed schools and libraries to use a "technology protection measure" like blocking products to block Internet access to obscene material, child pornography and anything considered to be "harmful to minors", NY Times, March 19, 2001

napster logo
Napster to Voluntarily Block Songs
The music file-swapping service announced the blocking plans for specific song titles at a court hearing Friday, where attorneys for the company and record labels presented arguments regarding how to police alleged copyright violations on the service, ZDNet, March 2, 2001

Consumer Reports logo 1
Consumer Reports logo 2
Digital Chaperones for Kids
The federal government hasn't been effective at restricting children's access to sexually oriented content on-line, so does blocking software at home help?
Ratings for Filtering Software These ratings of current blocking software tell you how well the tested products blocked inappropriate content (typically preventing both words and images from appearing onscreen) and did not block legitimate content, and how easy the blocking products were to use,
Should the Government Require Filtering? The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have raised that question regarding the Children's Internet Protection Act (CHIPA), which became law in December 2000. The act is expected to face a court challenge,
Chaperoning or Censorship? Blocking software blocked such sites as: Lesbian.org, Southern Poverty Law Center, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Consumer Reports, March 2001
Related coverage on ratings:
Two Cheers for Consumer Reports Article on Internet Filtering Products PRNewswire, February 15, 2001

Tampa Tribune logo
Schools' Net Nanny Mines Student Data for Profit
Hillsborough County schools hired a company to keep students away from rough stuff on the Internet...[but the company] provides information about the students to those who can reach the kids on their own, The Tampa Tribune, January 14, 2001

Safeguarding the Wired Schoolhouse logo
Consortium Offers "Unfiltered" Advice on Blocking Technology
The Safeguarding the Wired Schoolhouse initiative, launched by the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), is intended to provide school leaders with general guidelines for evaluating Internet protections, New York Times (free registration required), December 6, 2000
OPG invites organizations to form truly "unfiltered" network with no commercial ties to Internet blocking technology.

US Copyright Office sealUS Copyright Office logo
Copyright Office Issues Unusual Rule
The US Copyright Office said that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, permits people in certain circumstances to break through the technological barriers that safeguard lists of blocked Web sites maintained by many types of blocking technology, New York Times (free registration required), November 3, 2000

Programmer Finds Filtering System Too Diligent
Coverage of a report released by a computer programmer, which found N2H2 software overblocks sites including those with useful information, CNET News, October 24, 2000

N2H2 logo
N2H2 Dismisses 70 More Employees
N2H2, a Seattle blocking technology company, has laid off 70 employees and a division head resigned amid restructuring plans, the company said yesterday, Seattle Times, October 14, 2000

N2H2 logo
Profit Short of Forecasts, N2H2 Warns
N2H2, a Seattle company that provides systems to block Internet content, warned yesterday that its profit would fall short of forecasts in the latest quarter due to slowing sales growth, Seattle Times, October 10, 2000

Library Journal logo
Study: Public Library Net Access Rises; Filtering Up
Summary article about the survey of public library Internet blocking technology use in a report based on research sponsored by the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, Library Journal, September 25, 2000

Library Journal logo
Internet Survey: 16.8% of Public Libraries Use Blocking Technology
Summary article about the survey of public library Internet blocking technology use in a report based on research sponsored by the American Library Association and conducted by the Library Research Center of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois, Library Journal, July 10, 2000

USA Today logo
Porn Makes Workplace Hostile, 7 Librarians Say
Seven Minneapolis librarians filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, saying that library patrons viewing pornography on the Net have helped create an ''intimidating, hostile and offensive working environment'', USA Today, May 8, 2000

Bowes photo
Filtering the Web
An Op-Ed piece written by University of Washington professor John E. Bowes on Internet blocking technology, San Jose Mercury News, April 16, 2000

Library Journal logo
California Internet Survey: 28 Percent of Sample Use Filters
A survey of public libraries in California, conducted to determine compliance with a state law requiring them to have a policy regarding minors' Internet use, suggests that 28 percent are using Internet blocking technology, Library Journal, April 3, 2000

Organizations and Related Publications

Cyber Liberties Threatened by Congress, Say Civil Rights Activists
As a special report to the Online Policy Group, Sara Nordin discusses the various sides of CHIPA, Online Policy Group, June 9, 2001

ACLU and ALA File Challenges to Library Internet Censorship In Case Fast-Tracked for Supreme Court Review
Acting on behalf of public libraries, library patrons and website authors nationwide, the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Library Association filed separate legal challenges to a federal law that forces libraries to censor constitutionally protected speech online, ACLU and ALA, March 20, 2001
Related media releases:
Family Research Council defends CHIPA.

Libraryland logo
General Library Issues: Censorship/Intellectual Freedom
LibraryLand's page of links to library-related censorship and intellectual freedom web pages.

Censorware Site Resurrected
Rising phoenix-like from the ashen carcass of Censorware.org, the new slashdot-style Censorware.net has a lot to offer on blocking technology topics, March 14, 2001

Livermore, CA Lawsuit
A California Court of Appeal upheld this anti-Internet blocking decision: "In this case we hold that a city is not subject to suit for damages or an injunction for offering unrestricted access to the Internet through computers at a public library", Censorware.net, March 6, 2001
The entire opinion of the court

Joint Statement Opposing Legislative Requirements for School and Library Internet Blocking Technologies
Join this growing constituency of organizations and individuals who have published a joint statement in response to the US Congress' passage of legislation requiring blocking technology in all public schools and libraries participating in federal programs in order to galvanize opposition to mandatory blocking technology and to promote educational methods for youth to use the Internet safely and effectively, January 17, 2001

Peacefire logo
Peacefire Issues Software to Block the Blocking Technology
In response to Congressional legislation requiring blocking technology in public schools and libraries, Peacefire has released a bypass program which can disable all popular Windows blocking software with the click of a button, Peacefire, December 18, 2000

Guidelines and Considerations for Developing a Public Library Internet Use Policy
Includes information on intellectual freedom, the First Amendment to the US Constitution, pornography, obscenity, Internet blocking technology, Internet use policies, and related court rulings, American Library Association, updated November 2000

ITAA logo
ITAA Announces New Committee on Internet Management and Safety
Some of the leading companies in the Internet safety and filtering industries had formed a new Committee on Internet Management and Safety, Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), October 23, 2000

ACLU logo
Oppose Internet Censorship
Fax the US Congress regarding Sen. John McCain and Rep. Ernest Istook's amendment to a spending bill that would require public schools and libraries that receive federal funding for Internet access to install Internet blocking software, ACLU, September 19, 2000

Schlessinger photo
My Experience with Dr. Laura Schlessinger and the Dr. Laura Show
Robert S. Willard, Executive Director of the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, recounts his experiences in appearing on the television talk show hosted by Laura Schlessinger, September 15, 2000. Laura Schlessinger web site, Site protesting Schlessinger tv and radio shows, and GLAAD on Schlessinger.

NCLIS logo
Public Libraries and the Internet 2000
The 2000 national survey of public library outlet Internet connectivity (in Adobe PDF format); a report based on research sponsored by the U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science and conducted by John Carlo Bertot and Charles R. McClure, September 7, 2000

Survey of Internet Access Management in Public Libraries
A report surveying public library filter use (in Adobe PDF format); based on research sponsored by the American Library Association and conducted by the Library Research Center of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois, July 2000

Doherty photo
Filtering and Internet Access
A comprehensive introductory presentation about Internet blocking technology presented by Will Doherty to the Free Expression Network - West event entitled "Internet Access: Broadband and Filtering Issues" in San Francisco on May 25, 2000.

EPIC filtering book cover
Filters & Freedom: Free Speech Perspectives on Internet Content Controls
A collection of important essays on Internet blocking technology from the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Doherty photo
Out on the Internet
Remarks about Internet blocking technology, online access, online privacy, and digital defamation prepared by Will Doherty for a Stanford University panel discussion at Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Awareness Week, April 3, 2000

Access Denied report cover image
Access Denied, Version 2.0: The Continuing Threat Against Internet Access and Privacy and Its Impact on the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community
GLAAD's updated analysis and testimonial from December 1999.

A Practical Guide to Internet Filters
An excellent introduction to Internet blocking technology by Karen Schneider, MSLIS.

NCLIS logo
Moving toward More Effective Public Internet Access
The 1998 national survey of public library outlet Internet connectivity (in Adobe PDF format); a report based on research sponsored by the U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science and the American Library Association and conducted by John Carlo Bertot and Charles R. McClure, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1999

Access Denied report cover image
Access Denied, Version 1.0: The Impact of Internet Filtering Software on the Lesbian and Gay Community
GLAAD's first analysis and testimonial from December 1997.

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Barriers to the Internet: Race, Class and Society
GLAAD Executive Director Joan M. Garry's remarks to the Harvard Internet Conference on May 28, 1998.

Harvard shield
Internet Filtration Panel Discussion
An excellent early examination of Internet blocking technology issues in a RealAudio recording of a Harvard Internet Conference in 1998.

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