Some Things Just Won't Die: ACLU Recruits Help Fighting Internet Filters

Well, the Senate and House of Representatives are at it again, trying to resuscitate legislation that was supposed to have died in the 105th Congress. Two bills were introduced in the current congressional session which require schools and libraries, which receive E-Rate government subsidies, to install Internet filters on their computers. The responsibility for setting an appropriate filtering standard would be placed on the targeted schools and libraries.

The bills are titled: Children's Internet Protection Act (S.97 in the Senate) and Safe Schools Internet Act (H.R. 368 in the House of Representatives). Creation of the two bills is an attempt by Congress to protect children from viewing pornographic material while surfing the Net. But the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) says 'no way' stating, "Filtering software is notoriously clumsy and inevitably restricts access to valuable, protected speech, significantly reducing the amount and diversity of information available to individuals . . .. Even Web sites posted by religious groups such as the Society of Friends and the Glide United Methodist Church have been blocked by various filtering programs."

The ACLU has recently assisted in two separate court cases which have sought to force library systems to install Internet filters on their computers. One case was in Loudoun County, Virginia, and the other in Livermore, California. Both lawsuits resulted in preventing either library system from being required to use Internet filtering.

In the ACLU's efforts toward igniting a grassroots effort to block the two bills, they are asking Internet users to write, call or fax their members of Congress. For people who want to help but don't know what to say, the ACLU is offering a sample letter to use as an aid.

An excerpt from the sample letter explains, ". . . these bills would remove decision-making from parents, local school boards, local communities and teachers, and replace it with a big government mandate on how to help children use the Internet safely.

It is the responsibility of parents and teachers to provide young people with guidance about accessing the Internet ? not the federal government."