PFAW's Carole Shields Sees Government Censorship In
McCain Plan to Screen Schools* Internet Access

February 10, 1998

Contact: Delisa Saunders, Will Heyniger (202) 467-4999


Carole Shields, president of People for the American Way, today criticized a reported congressional proposal that would require schools and other public institutions to "filter" students* Internet access in order to qualify for federal discounts for Internet service.

"The Internet is becoming a vital tool for educating our children," Shields said, "and the universal service discounts are meant to extend that opportunity to every child. These discounts should not come with federal strings of censorship attached."

People For the American Way Foundation is serving as co-counsel in a lawsuit seeking to overturn a similarly restrictive Internet filtering policy in Loudoun County, Va., public libraries. That lawsuit was filed in federal court in December.

At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on "Internet Indecency" today, Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) is expected to announce legislation that would impose a heavy burden on schools receiving discounts for Internet access mandated by the 1996 Telecommunications Act. According to a committee statement, the bill would require schools to "limit students* access to indecent material" in order to be eligible for the discount. An Internet filtering requirement would essentially take away from parents and teachers the decision about what information children have access to, and put that decision in the hands of the federal government.

"While the vast majority of Internet content is appropriate for children, it should be up to parents working with their local school districts, and not the federal government, to decide how to limit their children's exposure to inappropriate content," Shields said.

Internet filters have often proved problematic and ineffective, screening out a large amount of educationally valuable material -- making their forced installation in schools particularly onerous, Shields said. Schools now have a variety of less intrusive means of controlling inappropriate material, such as supervising the students or teaching them about the possible dangers they may face on the Internet. But under the McCain proposal, schools would be forced to adopt much more restrictive filtering policies.

For the text of the federal lawsuit against the Loudoun County Library Board, follow this link on People For the American Way Foundation's website:


People For the American Way is a 300,000-member organization dedicated to defending civil rights; promoting the democratic values of religious freedom, free speech and respect for diversity; and developing a culture of opportunity and tolerance for individual difference. PFAW served as co-counsel and co-plaintiff in the lawsuit against the Communications Decency Act, which was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1997.