Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Banned Books Week - Banned Websites Awareness Day

In yesterday's post about The Handmaid's Tale I mentioned that a government will have better control over electronic sources than it does over books. Banned Websites Awareness Day recognizes this truth. The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which has now been in place for ten years, is largely misunderstood and overused. While CIPA does require web-filtering technology for schools and libraries receiving e-rate discounts, it does not apply to any entity that does not receive these discounts. Furthermore for those libraries that do receive the funding, the rules only require the blocking of pictures that are "obscene; child pornography; or harmful to minors (for computers that are accessed by minors). Before adopting this Internet safety policy, schools and libraries must provide reasonable notice and hold at least one public hearing or meeting to address the proposal." Moreover, CIPA does not require blocking of any text-only content, including unorthodox or unpopular ideas (more information here). Nor does it require blocking any kind of religious content, as the Salem, Missouri library discovered when it censored web content on the Wiccan religion (yes, a town called Salem was blocking information about witches). Likewise, neither schools nor libraries can filter pro-lgbt content out, especially when they allow web content that provides information that condemns homosexuality, as the Mifflin, Pennsylvania school district discovered.

According to this article from eSchool news CIPA needs a serious overhaul - "even the best filter is only 83 percent effective for factors such as link analysis and IP addresses, and only 50 percent accurate for images or videos." Of course tech savvy children can easily get around a block that is only 20-50 percent effective. The guise of "protection" is part of the rhetoric of censorship, whether it is book banning, blocked web content, or any other limitation of free speech. These "protections" are almost always a veneer.

No comments:

Post a Comment