Censorship Online
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by Brian Mos

By now, you have probably figured out that we have computers with access to the Internet in the library. If you know anything at all about the Internet, then you also know that there are plenty of "objectionable" sites. To prevent us from using the Brevard County server to look at Hustler-style pornography, the Brevard County School Board has set up a proxy to block certain sites. You have probably come across an error message stating that the Brevard County Acceptable Use Policy blocked access to the page you wanted to see. Unfortunately, this policy can mean nearly anything. It can deem "unacceptable" many widely accepted works of art, such as the Venus de Milo.

My problem is with some of the other types of censorship enacted by the School Board. For example, when I recently did research for a "Model Student Senate" project, the server denied me access to the CNN site AllPolitics. The censors had decided that a sports advertisement on that page violated their policy. I loaded the page later that day on a different server and found no such "unacceptable" advertisement. Meanwhile, the server failed to block pictures of obscene sexual acts.

I could not access a site containing information on upcoming legislation dealing with encryption, the process of putting information into a complicated code. Major businesses and individuals legally use encryption to ensure privacy in their communications, yet the system denied me access because the page contained information useful in "criminal activities." The system did not censor the following files, so I must "assume" that they are not useful in "criminal activities":

Yummy Marijuana Recipes
How To Grow Marijuana
How to Make LSD
How to Pick Locks
How to Crack Master Locks
How to Make Explosives from Fuel and Fertilizer
How to Make Pipe Bombs
Three Different Napalm Recipes
and anything else you want from the Anarchist's Cookbook.

The system censored the People for the American Way web site, apparently for the very ambiguous word lifestyle. I can, however, reach the American Family Association home page, which contains graphic descriptions of sexual acts. Showing any one of these acts is enough to make a movie NC-17.

I understand that the school board does not want its resources used to view the latest issue of Playboy, but the system currently used does not work. By blocking anything that is even slightly disagreeable, the school board has censored sites that could be extremely useful to any research involving present-day issues. The "blocking" fails to satisfy its stated purpose: to keep pornography and bomb recipes out of access by school students.

It is time to use a totally different method. Someone in the county government building in Viera can never effectively control the Internet. If they only understood the nature of the Internet, they would agree.

A librarian who simply glances at a monitor can get a pretty good idea as to the content of what a person is viewing. I trust that the librarian can tell the difference between the Anarchist's Cookbook and information of a Senate bill dealing with cryptography.


This page was last updated 07/02/00 01:50 PM