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The Internet is a powerful and positive forum for free expression. It is the place where "any person can become a town crier with a voice that resonates farther than it could from any soapbox," as the U.S. Supreme Court recently observed. Internet users, online publishers, library and academic groups and free speech and journalistic organizations share a common interest in opposing the adoption of techniques and standards that could limit the vibrance and openness of the Internet as a communications medium. Indeed, content "filtering" techniques already have been implemented in ways inconsistent with free speech principles, impeding the ability of Internet users to publish and receive constitutionally protected expression.
The Latest News
Updated Report Published on "Filters and Freedom." The Electronic Privacy Information Center has published Filters and Freedom 2.0: Free Speech Perspectives on Internet Content Controls. The collection contains several articles by members of the Internet Free Expression Alliance. (Available for sale.) (May 25, 2001)
Supreme Court to Review Internet Free Speech Case. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear (PDF) the government's appeal of a federal appeals court decision finding the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) to be unconstitutional. Fee speech groups had filed a petition (PDF) opposing the review. For more background, visit the EPIC's COPA Litigation Page. (May 23, 2001)
Lawsuit Challenges Internet Filtering Mandate. In a complaint filed in federal court in Philadelphia on March 20, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups are challenging the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA). The new law mandates that all public schools and libraries that receive federal E-rate funds install Internet filtering technology on their computers. (March 20, 2001)
Study Finds Filters Don't Work as Advertised. As schools and libraries begin confronting the federally-mandated filtering requirements contained in the Children's Internet Protection Act, a new study by Consumer Reports finds that filtering products have significant flaws. The report notes that "filters block harmless sites merely because their software does not consider the context in which a word or phrase is used. Far more troubling is when a filter appears to block legitimate sites based on moral or political value judgments." (February 15, 2001)
Groups Announce Opposition to Filtering Mandate. A network of concerned organizations (including many IFEA members) and prominent individuals has released a joint statement opposing legislative requirements for school and library Internet blocking technologies. The statement came in response to legislation, signed into law as part of an omnibus appropriations bill on December 21, 2000, which requires all public schools and libraries participating in certain federal programs to install Internet blocking technologies (see below). (January 23, 2001).
Congress Mandates Use of Filtering in Schools and Libraries. On December 15, the U.S. Congress passed an appropriations containing the Children's Internet Protection Act (also available in PDF). The legislation would require schools and libraries receiving federal funds for Internet access to install filtering and blocking software. The measure is expected to be signed by the President. In related news, free speech group Peacefire recently completed a study that found that several popular Internet filters block websites of human rights organizations. The organization is also distributing a bypass program that can disable filters running on Windows. (December 19, 2000)
Internet Filtering Mandate Pending in Congress. Proponents of mandatory Internet filtering are once again trying to push legislation through Congress. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK) have attached a federal filtering mandate to the appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services (HHS). The "Children's Internet Protection Act" would require all public schools and libraries that receive federal funding for Internet access to install Internet blocking software on their computer terminals. More information is available from the ACLU, including an easy way to send free fax messages to members of Congress. (September 22, 2000)
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Updated June 2, 2001