- 1st Amendment |
- Internet Freedom
- Children, Protection
- - COPA
- - CIPA
- - CPPA
- - Child Porn
- - Child Porn, Reporting
- - Protect Act
- - V Chip
- - Deceptive Content
- - Sex Offenders
- - Privacy
- - Notification
- SPAM Labels
- Good Samaritan Defense
Filters have found themselves in a wide variety of policy scenarios.
- The Children's Internet Protection Act amended the Erate program, conditioning the funds to schools and libraries on the development of an Internet safety plan and the implementation of filters.
- COPA and the Tax Moratorium Act require ISPs to provide notification to subscribers of the availability of filtering software.
- Copyright owners have advocated filtering the Internet for pirated music and videos.
- ISPs have agreed to work with state attorney generals in order to block child pornography.
- Countries have policies to filter the Internet the pornography and filter political dissent.
June 2008: The FCC has initiated an proceeding to consider licensing the Advanced Wireless Service for broadband Internet access with a requirement of Internet filters.
Filters function by filtering of blocking based on some criteria. That criteria can be
- The content itself
- Tags or labels of the content
- Source or origin of the content (such as ip number, domain name)
The filters can be built and maintained by private services, who then market the filtering service as blocking pursuant to the criteria of different communities. While some of these service's databases can be built as a result of human analysis and inspection, humans are not capable of reviewing all of the content that is on or will soon be on the Internet. As a result, filtering services rely upon automated criteria in order to develop the lists of what should and should not be blocked. The automated process of identifying inappropriate content results in false positives (blocking of otherwise appropriate content) and false negatives (failure to block inappropriate content). [NAS 10] [COPA II.B.3] [CIPA I.A., II.A , II.B (discussing blocking of educational material)]. There are consumer reviews of filtering products, rating the effectiveness of different products. In addition, the effectiveness of filters are limited by the ability of those filtered to get around or defeat the filters.
Filtering services are private companies that select what material to filter pursuant to their own criteria. Those companies generally consider that criteria and the database of filtered content proprietary. They have been criticized for not being forthcoming about what they are blocking or their selection process, resulting in censorship without accountability or due process. [COPA II.B.3] [CIPA III]
It has been found that groups that are critical of Internet filters have been blocked by Internet filters:
- Amnesty International
- American Family Association
- Banned Books On-line
- The Religious Society of Friends
- The Safer Sex Page
- The Web site of Rep. Dick Armey
- Dozens of Web sites of candidates in the last election
- Child Online Protection Act commissioners’ pages that had the word “cum” (as in “magna-cum-laude”) in the bio
- Information on China’s response to the spread of AIDS
- National Association of Women
- People of the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
- The American Association of University Women Maryland.
Peacefire conducted a review of the sites one Internet filter, SurfWatch, blocked of the first 1,000 working .coms. According to Peacefire, out of 1,000 sites tested, 147 were blocked. Of those 147 blocked sites, 96 sites were under construction and did not have content, 42 were non-pornographic and did not have sexually explicit content and nine were pornographic. According to Peacefire, this constitutes an error rate of 82 percent. A search of the Surfwatch (now SurfControl) Web site revealed press releases acknowledging - but not refuting - the Peacefire study. See also official government reports reviewing the effectiveness of filters.
Ashcroft v. ACLU, 542 U. S. ____ (2004) (COPA II)
"Blocking and filtering software is an alternative that is less restrictive than COPA, and, in addition, likely more effective as a means of restricting children’s access to materials harmful to them. The District Court, in granting the preliminary injunction, did so primarily because the plaintiffs had proposed that filters are a less restrictive alternative to COPA and the Government had not shown it would be likely to disprove the plaintiffs’ contention at trial. Ibid.
Filters are less restrictive than COPA. They impose selective restrictions on speech at the receiving end, not universal restrictions at the source. Under a filtering regime, adults without children may gain access to speech they have a right to see without having to identify them-selves or provide their credit card information. Even adults with children may obtain access to the same speech on the same terms simply by turning off the filter on their home computers. Above all, promoting the use of filters does not condemn as criminal any category of speech, and so the potential chilling effect is eliminated, or at least much diminished. All of these things are true, moreover, regardless of how broadly or narrowly the definitions in COPA are construed.
. . . . . " Continued
Ashcroft v. ACLU, 542 U. S. ____, slip op. 7-11 (2004). See also Ashcroft v. ACLU, Sec. II.A.3. Least Restrictive Means (Third Cir. Mar. 2003) (discussing filtering as an alternative)
USG Research to Defeat Filters
CRS Report to Congress, Internet Development and Information Control in the People's Republic in China, Feb. 2006
"U.S. government efforts to defeat Internet "jamming" include funding through the Broadcasting Board of Governors to provide counter-censorship software to Chinese Internet users to access Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA) in China." . . . . .
International Broadcasting Bureau. The U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), has promoted Internet freedom in China by focusing on its Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA) websites, which are regularly blocked by Chinese authorities. In 2001, the BBG provided $100,000 to Safeweb Inc., a government contracted company that also had been briefly funded by the CIA, to set up proxy servers to help Chinese Internet users access prohibited information.53 However, within a year, Safeweb's technology was reportedly unsuccessful in protecting user identities.
Since 2003, the BBG has funded Dynamic Internet Technology (DynaWeb) and UltraReach, which have each developed software to enable Chinese Internet users to access VOA and RFA websites (see Table 1). Funding for these Chinese programs constitutes about three-fourths of the BBG's global anti-jamming expenditures, which are expected to grow by about 28% in 2006 from the previous year. DynaWeb's website is difficult to block because of "anonymizing" technology that regularly changes its numerical Internet Protocol (IP) address. Dynaweb president, Bill Xia, disclosed that earlier efforts to provide Chinese Internet users with unblocked IP addresses through an e-mail subscription service had failed because censors had also subscribed to the service, and quickly blocked those sites as well.
According to Xia, DynaWeb must evolve according to how China censors the Internet, and that "both parties can always implement new technologies to stay ahead and sustain the advantage." However, in testimony before the Congressional- Executive Commission on China, Xia stated that censors have a "brighter future," because China purchases the most advanced censorship technology from Western companies and has more resources than counter-censorship efforts in the United States.
Table 1. Broadcasting Board of Governors Funding for Counter-Censorship Technology in China
FY2003 FY2004 FY2005 Dynaweb $497,700 $806,326 $685,000 UltraReach $3,000 $21,000 $42,003 Total $500,700 $827,326 $727,003
Source: Broadcasting Board of Governors.
As of April 2005, Dynamic's homepage was viewed about 90,000 times per day, while UltraReach allows approximately 4,000 visits and 30,000 page views for VOA and 2,600 visits and 28,000 page views for RFA daily.57 Visits to these sites reportedly rise when PRC censorship tightens, such as during the SARS outbreak of 2003. The BBG disseminates Chinese-language news summaries, some of which contain critical opinions or stories about China, to recipients in China via e-mail. These e-mails employ techniques that circumvent censorship and include IP addresses of proxy servers through which users may view VOA and RFA reports.58 Some U.S. companies are developing software for Chinese Internet users to circumvent the PRC government censorship firewall entirely. In February 2006, Anonymizer Inc., a company that specializes in identity protection technology, announced that it was developing anti-censorship software for Internet users in the PRC. Anonymizer's China program would provide a regularly changing URL which Chinese Internet users could access for unfettered links to the World Wide Web. According to the company, users' identities would also be protected from online tracking and monitoring by the PRC government. Peacefire, a free speech advocacy organization and website, has developed protocols for circumventing Internet blocking programs that can be used by Chinese Web users.
Internet Tax Freedom Act Sec. 1101(e)(2)(C) Screening software.-The term 'screening software' means software that is designed to permit a person to limit access to material on the Internet that is harmful to minors.
- Bradburn v. North Central Regional Library District, Supreme Court of Washington, En Banc, May 6, 2010
- "The question in this case has been certified to us from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington: Whether a public library, consistent with Article I, § 5 of the Washington Constitution, may filter Internet access for all patrons without disabling Web sites containing constitutionally-protected speech upon the request of an adult library patron. We conclude that a library can, subject to the limitations set forth in this opinion, filter Internet access for all patrons, including adults, without violating article I, section 5 of the Washington State Constitution."
- Ashcroft v. ACLU, 542 U. S. ____ (2004) (COPA Litigation)
- Ashcroft v. ACLU, Sec. II.A.3. Least Restrictive Means (Third Cir. Mar. 2003)
- US v. American Library Association, No. 02-361, __ US __ (Decided June 23, 2003) (upholding Child Internet Protection Act)
- The Censorware Project: Blacklisted by Cyber Patrol: From Ada to Yoyo - A report from The Censorware Project
- Censored Internet Access in Utah Schools and Libraries (PDF format) (finding that the following had been blocked by filtering software: The Bible, the US Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, anti-drug info, Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, and the Koran)
- Internet Free Expression Alliance:
- CPSR's Filtering FAQ
- CPSR Press Release Computer Professionals Question Internet Filtering Agreement July 18, 1997
- Global Internet Campaign's website on rating systems and filters
- GILC Member Statement on "Impact of Self-Regulation and Filtering on Human Rights to Freedom of Expression" March 1998
- Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) Report, ‘Who Watches the Watchmen: Internet Content Rating Systems, and Privatized Censorship’ Nov 1997
- Electronic Frontier Foundation
- EFF: Internet Blocking & Censorware
- Public Interest Principles for Online Filtration, Ratings and Labeling Systems, Feb 28, 1997.
- "Blacklisting Bytes", by Seth Finkelstein and Lee Tien
- People For the American Way Foundation Written Testimony of People For the American Way Foundation to the U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science on "Kids and the Internet: The Promise and the Perils" December 10, 1998
- Seth Finkelstein's Anticensorware Investigations
- TODAY'S INTERNET BLOCKING AND FILTERING TECHNOLOGY CAPABLE OF MEETING NEEDS OF MOST EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS, NTIA REPORT SAYS, NTIA 8/20/0
Beginning in 2001, the FRSS surveys on Internet access asked whether public schools used any technologies or procedures to prevent student access to inappropriate material on the Internet, the types of technologies or procedures used, and whether such technologies were used on all computers with Internet access used by students. The 2002 and 2003 surveys also asked about the methods used to disseminate information about the technologies or procedures to students and parents.
- In 2003, almost all public schools with Internet access (97 percent) used various technologies or procedures to control student access to inappropriate material on the Internet (table 17). Across all school characteristics, between 96 and 100 percent 20 of schools reported using these technologies or procedures. In addition, 99 percent of these schools used at least one of these technologies or procedures on all Internet-connected computers used by students.
- Among schools using technologies or procedures to prevent student access to inappropriate material on the Internet in 2003, 96 percent used blocking or filtering software (table 18). Ninety-three percent of schools reported that teachers or other staff members monitored student Internet access, 83 percent had a written contract that parents have to sign, 76 percent had a contract that students have to sign, 57 percent used monitoring software, 45 percent had honor codes, and 39 percent allowed access only to their intranet. 21 Most of the schools (97 percent) used more than one procedure or technology as part of their Internet use policy (not shown in tables).
- Ninety-five percent of public schools using technologies or procedures to prevent student access to inappropriate material on the Internet indicated that they disseminated the information about these technologies or other procedures via their school policies or rules distributed to students and parents (table 19). Sixty-six percent did so with a special notice to parents, 58 percent used their newsletters to disseminate this information, 31 percent posted a message on the school website or web page, 25 percent had a notice on a bulletin board at the school, 17 percent had a pop-up message at computer or Internet log on, and 5 percent used a method other than the ones listed above.
Source: Internet Access to US Public Schools and Classrooms, National Center for Education Statistics, p. 12
News & Blogs
- A New Way Around Internet Censorship?, NPR 8/1/2011
- OpenNet Initiative: The Use of Western Technologies by Middle East Censors, 2010-2011, Berkman Center 4/8/2011
- Censorship: Made in the USA, Save the Internet 3/30/2011
- U.S. Products Help Block Mideast Web, Huff 3/30/2011
- Filtering the Mideast Web, VOA 3/30/2011
- Report: 'Net filtering won't stop online extremism, Ars Technica 3/12/2009
- Australia's Internet Censorship Plan Collapsing - Political support starting to waver for $125 million filter system..., dslreports 2/26/2009
- Fooling filters , BBC 12/5/2008
- Australia's Internet filtering too ambitious, doomed to fail , Ars Technica 12/5/2008
- Australian ISP Agrees To Filter... Just To Show How Stupid It Is, Techdirt 11/20/2008
- Belgian ISP Tries, Fails To Filter Piracy - Court ruling overturned; Audible Magic did not work., dslreports 10/28/2008
- What Kind Of Filtering System Thinks W3C Is A Porn Site?, Techdirt 10/2/2008
- That Didn't Take Long At All: $89 Million Australian Internet Filters Called A Failure, Techdirt 2/21/2008
- OV council to decide on filters at library that would limit Internet access to porn, Arizona Daily Star 11/17/2006
- ACLU sues rural libraries over Internet filtering policies, Seattle Post 11/17/2006
- 'Access denied': Popular Web sites running afoul of content filters, IHT 3/9/2006
- Hot market for censorship tools, IHT 10/18/2005
- Censorware software fails to cut it, Register 8/30/2005
- Protecting Teens Online, Pew 3/18/2005
- More Parents Use Filters to Control Teen Web Use, clickz 3/18/2005
- Sharp split on library filters, Mlive 3/1/2004
- Zittrain and The OpenNet Initiative Take on Internet Filtering, Berkman 3/1/2004
- Technology can block porn but costs high, fix temporary, USA Today 1/8/2004
- Empirical Analysis of Google SafeSearch, Harvard 4/17/03
- Google filter blocks innocuous sites, MSNBC 4/11/03
- EFA Comments on Mandatory and Blocking by ISPs, EFA 3/24/03
- Curious teenagers need to be informed about sex, not controlled, Sydney 3/5/03
- Sex, the Constitution and the Net, CNET 3/5/03
- Aussies chew over enforced Net filters, Register 3/5/03
- Net porn controls useless: study, CNN 3/5/03
- Library Porn Filter Law Hits, Internet News 3/5/03
- What Would Dewey Do? Libraries Grapple With Internet, NYT 12/2/02
- Most Parents Don't Use Web Filters, Electronicnews 9/26/02
- Report cites possible religious bias in school web filters, eschool news 3/4/02
- USA - Net filter use jumps in libraries, CNET 1/11/02
- Filtering company SurfControl gets patent, CNET 5/11/01
- Army deploys porn-blocking software, USAToday 5/1/01
- Court won't force library to filter Net content, CNET 3/12/01
- Internet Content Filtering Comes Of Age, Techweb 3/9/01
- Web filters far from perfect, Consumer Reports says, Nando 2/15/01
- Net filters strain to block sites, CNET 2/15/01
- Consumer Reports on Internet Filters, CR 2/15/01
- Report: Net filters don't work, USAToday 2/15/01
- Filtering Software Is Not Up to Snuff, IN 2/15/01
- Civil Liberties Groups Urge FCC To Stay Out Of Net Filtering, Washtech 2/16/01
- Pr. William Libraries To Keep Web Filters, Wash Post 6/10/02