Unbeknown to the public, filtering programs block out much more than pornography
This column appeared in the September 1997 issue of The American Journalism Review.
By J.D. Lasica
When the Supreme Court struck down the pernicious Communications Decency Act this summer, the online community roundly celebrated the victory as a milestone for free speech in cyberspace.
Well, it’s time to put down the champagne glasses. Two new threats — nearly as insidious as the CDA — now loom over freedom of speech on the Net: censorware and Internet ratings.
“We’re seeing a move toward the privatizing of censorship,” warns David Sobel, legal counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C. “It’s likely to destroy the Internet as it’s existed until now.”
Overstated? Perhaps not.
Parental controls are an important goal, and we’ll get there someday, but the current filtering programs on the market are clunky solutions that come nowhere close to shielding children from pornography on the Internet. Worst of all, the tools don’t allow parents to decide what their kids can or can’t see — someone else is substituting their judgment.