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 The report notes that it’s unlikely that the law will be repealed any time soon (and, as we’ve noted some politicians are looking to expand it to cover social networks and instant messaging as well).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.

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Comments on “Surprise, Surprise: Web Filters Still Suck”

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Jim says:

Re: Web Filters

I agree with the parents being responsible. But let me ask a question that I do not have the answer to. Which as an IT person for a large school district troubles me.

What would you have the public schools do without filters?

And let me make sure you understand the problems with some of the responses you are going to make.

We should watch them when they are online. Fair enough, are the taxpayers ready to pay for the added staff? Of course not.

We should discipline them when they are caught. Fair enough, are you ready for virtually all the students to be suspended…and then the district to go bankrupt when all the parents then sue?

Should we just keep them off the internet? To be honest, that is about where my thinking is right now.

I see all these articles bashing filters, yet no one takes the time to offer a real soluton.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Web Filters

I see all these articles bashing filters, yet no one takes the time to offer a real soluton.

Did you read the entire post? At the end, it does have a bunch of suggestions…

However, the most important one, which you don’t mention, is TEACHING KIDS that the internet isn’t always a safe place, and teaching them how to watch out for themselves and recognize when they’re in danger.

Anonymous Coward says:

“At the end, it does have a bunch of suggestions… ”

Yes I did. And now I have re-read it three times. Please quote those suggestions. Because all I see is some vague suggestions on what kinds of filters not to use. And how to make sure they can get stuff unblocked as needed. We do that btw.

Now, as for teaching kids……do expain how you want a High School teacher to teach a 16 year old boy not to surf for porn.

Again, my question was, and is. What do you the public want the schools to do?

Right now, today. How do you want internet access for your children handled at the school level.

Andrew says:

Web Filters


I remember when I was 16 years old and looking for porn. um..I don’t see a problem with it.

And the best way to make a better society is to educate our children. Porn, okay fine I don’t care about porn, boys will be boys and if they don’t get it from the internet they’ll just find their fathers porn collection, or use the Walmart lingerie ads. I think whats more important though is pages about Nazi’s, the KKK and other extremist groups. I do believe in free speech and think that they should be allowed to express their beliefs, but there comes a critical time when raising children that they must learn to evaluate things for themselves. This goes back to the whole idea about santa, cartoons aren’t real, movies aren’t real, what do you believe and what don’t you believe?

the odds of a 10 year old stumbling upon a KKK page while looking for pokemon is quite small. But if the children are old enough to find the content, then they should be educated on how to handle it. After all, if they don’t find it on the internet, they’re going to find the racism in their community, on the TV, in movies, in newspapers and pretty much any other place. Eliminating their internet isn’t a solution to the problem, just the plugging of a hole in the side of the boat during “The perfect storm”.

Education is the key, not censorship.

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