Internet content filters are implemented for the control of what can be seen by the viewer. Some schools use these filters to prohibit their students from accessing undesirable Web sites during school hours. Similarly, libraries will filter the Internet to restrict material that is considered by some to be censorship.
Restrictions that come from the filtering of content can be implemented at all levels, ranging from parents controlling what their children are exposed to, all the way up to an entire country controlling what its people can view on the Internet. The country with the most restrictive filter is Iran. Iran’s Internet content filters are “among the most extensive in the world. A centralized system for Internet filtering has been implemented that augments the filtering conducted at the Internet service provider (ISP) level. Iran now employs domestically produced technology for identifying and blocking objectionable Web sites, reducing its reliance on Western filtering technologies”.
The OpenNet Initiative, is a combined partnership of three institutions: the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto; the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University; and the SecDev Group based in Ottawa. Its goal is to investigate, analyze and expose Internet filtering on a global scale. OpenNet’s intention is to uncover the possible consequences of Internet filtering and inform the public, with emphasis on creating public policy. OpenNet’s monitoring of Australia determined that it has one of the most restrictive Internet policies of any Western country and the Commonwealth has taken steps toward nationwide mandatory Internet filtering. Australia has a system of many levels of restricted categories with censorship of video games, along with Australian-hosted Internet sites subjected to the strictest censorship of open-minded, western-thinking countries.
Since I was raised in the greatest country in the world that believes in free speech, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, my opinion may be skewed towards a non-censorship way of life. This writer believes that censorship should be left in the hands of the individual. The preservation of self-censorship is a must. The responsibility to censor objectionable material should be left to parents of children. A school is acting as guardian of our children when it restricts content to protect its students and has every right to do so. A company, in essence, is the parent of its employees and has every right to censor its children, the employees. A company will put policies in place to be successful. If those policies include censorship in the way of Internet content filtering, the employee must adhere to those policies or find employment elsewhere. An employee circumventing those policies should be subject to whatever the company feels is an appropriate punishment, whether immediate termination or a “three-strikes and you’re out” policy. Public places such as libraries should not force filtering upon its visitors. These types of organizations should set up areas with designated open, unfiltered, Internet access that users sign up for and reserve time which is logged, along with filtered sections for students and visitors that do not want to be exposed to objectionable Internet material.
Protection AND Hindrance
The protection that Internet content filtering provides to an organization is to the security of its intellectual property, protection against the liability of inappropriate content and protection of loss of productivity from employees’ abuse of Internet browsing.
The hindrance to all this Internet filtering comes “when access to educational sites is blocked because they contain some objectionable material. One of the primary goals of Internet filtering in schools is to provide a safe learning environment for students. School districts implement content filters to limit liability to the school district and to individual employees. With content filters in place, a district can at least demonstrate that it is taking positive action toward protecting students from objectionable information” (Atom, 2012). Unfortunately, filtering will often block access to materials it is not designed to filter out and does not adjust to the various age levels of individual students, visitors to a library or the employees of an organization. Internet content filters can and have blocked material protected by the First Amendment of our Constitution.
“Internet content filters monitor Internet traffic and block access to preselected Web sites and files. A requested Web page is only displayed if it complies with the specified filters” (Ciampa, 2009, p. 174). While filtering can protect users from objectionable material, it can also shield the same user from all the facts or history on a subject. The result is that legal and useful material will inevitably be blocked, which goes against what the founders of this country fought so hard for. To block the First Amendment, which among other things guarantees the freedoms of speech, writing and publishing, would be unconstitutional.