Surprise, Surprise: Web Filters Still Suck
from the not-so-helpful dept
For years, we've been hearing stories about how schools and libraries need to install web filters (usually "to protect the children"). When the government first tried to require such filters in places like libraries, the courts struck it down, noting that the filters sucked, and not only would ban way too much legitimate content, but would also fail to stop an awful lot of the content it was supposed to stop. This decision was later overturned by the Supreme Court, though the dissenting decision pointed out that (like so many of these "for the sake of the children" policies), since the filters are so bad, it would lead to a false sense of security. In other words, such laws don't protect the children, they make things worse, by not teaching them how to be responsible surfers and makes parents think they don't need to be as vigilant over what their children do online. Of course, supporters of the law said that at least the filters did "something" and they would get better over time. Still, if that "something" is only a false sense of security, that doesn't seem very useful. As for the filter improvements, a new study has found that the filters still are dreadful, blocking all sorts of information that should never be blocked (much of it, based on ideological viewpoints, rather than what's required by the law). The report notes that it's unlikely that the law will be repealed any time soon (and, as we've noted some politicians are looking to expand it to cover social networks and instant messaging as well). However, it does suggest no longer using filters that include blocks based on ideology as well as making sure blocked sites are clearly explained, along with instructions on how to remove the block, if it's determined to be in error. In the meantime, parents go on thinking their kids are somehow "safe" while those kids are probably getting around the filters anyway.