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Feds can’t make up their mind regarding Internet filtering

[cross-posted at The Gate]

In case you haven’t been following the issue, the federal government

can’t make up its mind regarding Internet filtering. On the one hand,

government attorneys vigorously argued for Internet filtering

mechanisms as

part of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2004:

A library’s use of

filtering software to block material covered by CIPA is constitutional.

The district court itself found that filtering software is a reasonably

effective way to block pornographic material, and that such material falls

outside of a public library’s traditional collection boundaries.

The district court’s finding that filtering software erroneously blocks

some constitutionally protected speech does not undermine the reasonableness

of their use.


In contrast, federal attorneys have attacked software filters as burdensome and ineffective in their attempts to defend the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), which keeps getting blocked by federal courts:

The court of appeals also erred in holding that filtering software

is a sufficient alternative to COPA’s mandatory screening requirement. Filtering

software is not nearly as effective as COPA’s screening requirement in shielding

minors from commercial domestic pornography on the Web. Filtering software

is voluntary, while COPA’s screening requirement is mandatory. Filtering

software also blocks some sites that are not harmful; it fails to block

some sites that are harmful; it can be expensive for parents to purchase;

and it quickly becomes outdated. Congress also did not view mandatory screening

and blocking software as an either or choice. It mandated screening and

encouraged the use of blocking software as well. That combined approach

is far more effective than the use of voluntary blocking software alone.




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