For Immediate Release:
February 9, 1998
Contact: David Greene, 202-393-2787

National Campaign for Freedom of Expression Says Funding Stipulations Would Unfairly Hinder Schools' Access to Arts, Other Materials

The National Campaign for Freedom of Expression objects to Senator John McCain's proposed legislation that would require schools that receive federal Internet subsidies to adopt policies restricting access to materials otherwise available on the Internet. Such legislation directly opposes the spirit of open and universal access that underlies the subsidy program.

"It is easy for Senator McCain to decry access to 'indecency' and 'porn' on the Internet. But what we have seen without exception is that the quest to block out 'porn' overreaches into materials that have significant educational and artistic value," said NCFE program director David Greene. "The arts has been hit especially hard in this area. Access to works by Picasso, Shakespeare, Mozart, Henry James, and other artists is commonly blocked by restrictive policies and filtering software." In its December 1997 report, "Faulty Filters," the Electronic Privacy Information Center, indicated that a filtered search for "Museum of Modern Art" retrieved only 0.2 % of the hits obtained by a non-filtered search. Numbers for searches of other museums and artists yielded similar results. Rather than "protecting" youth from "porn," McCain's proposal, if instituted by school boards, will deny our nation's youth the freedom to explore various diverse educational opportunities, and deny teachers the opportunity to assign research in a number of traditional areas.

Perhaps the most disturbing result of Sen. McCain's legislation is that schools receiving the Internet subsidy will be at a disadvantage to wealthier schools that are not required to adopt restriction policies. "Other school systems are permitted, within the bounds of the First Amendment, to decide individually whether or not to place limits on Internet use," said Greene. "But apparently the subsidized schools are not trusted to make these decisions for themselves. This is precisely the type of access inequality that the federal subsidy was designed to cure, not foster."

NCFE continues to suggest that policies restricting Internet access in schools be made by school administrators, teachers, parents and students based on academic criteria, rather than on the moralistic policing of local schools by Washington.

The National Campaign for Freedom of Expression is an educational and advocacy network of artists, arts organizations and concerned citizens founded to fight censorship and to protect and extend the First Amendment right to freedom of artistic expression. NCFE is the only national organization exclusively dedicated to challenging the erosion of the First Amendment as applied to the support, presentation, and creation of the arts in our culture.

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