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Media Release: Study Released on Internet Blocking in Schools, Filtering Software Overblocks and Miscategorizes Websites

For Immediate Release: Monday, June 23, 2003


Will Doherty
Executive Director
Online Policy Group

Study Released on Internet Blocking in Schools

Filtering Software Overblocks and Miscategorizes Websites

San Francisco - The Online Policy Group (OPG) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today released a study documenting the effects of Internet blocking, also known as filtering, in U.S. schools. The study found that blocking software overblocked state-mandated curriculum topics extensively -- for every web page correctly blocked as advertised, one or more was blocked incorrectly.

The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires all schools and libraries receiving certain federal funds or discounts to install and use a technology for blocking visual depictions that are obscene, child pornography, or in the case of minors, "harmful to minors."

"Restrictions on viewing constitutionally protected speech contradicts the primary educational mission of schools," said OPG Executive Director Will Doherty. "CIPA holds students and teachers hostage to Internet blocking software that does not and cannot fulfill legal requirements and likely prevents students from obtaining a well-balanced, globally competitive education."

Researchers analyzed the extent to which blocking software blocks information related to state-mandated curriculum topics.

The report drew the following conclusions:

  • The use of Internet blocking software in schools cannot help schools comply with the law because schools do not and cannot set the software to block only the categories required by the law, and because the software is incapable of blocking only the visual depictions required by CIPA.

  • Blocking software does not protect children from exposure to a large volume of material that is harmful to minors within the legal definitions. Blocking software cannot adapt adequately to local community standards. Most schools already have in place alternatives to Internet blocking software, such as adoption and enforcement of Internet use policies, media literacy education, directed use, and supervised use.

  • Blocking software in schools damages educational opportunities for students, both by blocking access to web pages that are directly related to the state-mandated curriculums and by restricting broader inquiries of both students and teachers. Teachers and students 17 years or older (most high school juniors and seniors) should be exempt, yet suffer the consequences of CIPA implementation.

    After testing nearly a million web pages related to state-mandated curriculums, the researchers found that of the web pages blocked, 97 - 99% of a statistically significant sample were blocked using non-standard, discretionary, and potentially illegal criteria beyond what CIPA requires.

    For this release:

    OPG and EFF "Internet Blocking in Schools" study:

    EFF media release on study:

    OPG media release on ALA v. US decision:

    Why Blocking Technology Can't Work:

    Flash animation of students facing Internet blocking in schools:

    About OPG:

    The Online Policy Group (OPG) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to online policy research, outreach, and action on issues such as access, privacy, and digital defamation. The organization fulfills its motto of "One Internet With Equal Access to All" through projects such as donation-based email list hosting, web hosting, domain registrations, and colocation services. OPG focuses on Internet participants' civil liberties and human rights, like access, privacy, safety, and serving schools, libraries, disabled, elderly, youth, women, and sexual, gender, and ethnic minorities. Find out more at

    About EFF:

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading civil liberties organization working to protect rights in the digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF actively encourages and challenges industry and government to support free expression and privacy online. EFF is a member-supported organization and maintains one of the most linked-to websites in the world at

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