MANDATING CENSORWARE IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS & LIBRARIES

by: Kenny Moore

On Tuesday, June 27, the U.S. Senate adopted a mandatory filtering amendment to be added huge appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, HHS and Education, which would require both schools and libraries to install "censor-ware" or be denied services provided under the federal “e-rate” plan. We at Rock Out Censorship see this as a form of political blackmail that forces local authorities to either endorse censorship, or lose the vital funding needed for computer and internet services.

Rock Out Censorship strongly believes that the online medium is a uniquely valuable forum, a forum which allows expression to flow freely to millions of Americans. The prospect of such blatently unconstitutional legislation gets even more disturbing when students using school computers for research projects on the issue of censorship have reported that they cannot even access the R.O.C. website, meaning the government is evidently now getting into the business of suppressing political thought such as our's. What was that we were told in fables as children--that people in the USA are free and that no opinions are suppressed as part of this wonderful concept of freedom? Yeah, right. This is not about protecting children--it never has been. This is about absolute control over the flow of information. Our rights in cyberspace, therefore, should be more than protected, they must be fought for.

Commenting on previous filtering legislation, senatorial sponsor, John McCain says that the legislation abides by constitutional free speech protections because it does not restrict what's on the Internet. "The prevention lies not in censoring what goes onto the Internet, but rather in filtering what comes out of it onto the computers our children use outside the home," McCain said. The bill would apply to schools and libraries that receive federal subsidies to help them gain Internet access.

Such justification is moving seriously into the realm of Orwellian doublespeak in our opinion. The idea that silencing content and opinions at the destination point rather than the source point is not censorship would be completely laughable if not for the seriousness of the attack on our rights. Applying this logic to the print medium, they are saying it would be perfectly fine for the government to confiscate all books, newspapers or magazines from library shelves that have anything "potentially" offensive within, thus blocking everyone from receiving that information. By their skewed logic it would not be censorship to do so since they didn't stop the publication of the material in question, but rather the distribution. Do we really think that such learned individuals as those in office are not intelligent enough to know their logic is seriously flawed? Of course they know they are trying to undermine our rights--they are just trying to come up with some pretty packaging to sell it to us, hoping the American public will fall for their soundbyte material hook-line-and-sinker. We urge all our readers to vehemently reject such con games with our rights. We feel that censors such as these masquerading as public leaders should "voluntarily" step down from office for simply making the attempt to insult our intelligence in this manner.

The Internet is uniquely valuable for lesbian and gay youth, among countless other groups, in breaking their isolation and giving them hope in a hostile world. However, legislation such as this bill and others like it are increasingly threatening their access to lesbian/gay support sites, AIDS information, and even the NOW site, whose content is entirely free of anything pornographic at all, but somehow still make it onto the "block lists" of many of the filtering software packages currently available. What is even more disturbing is the potential for web sites like ROC's to be labeled "Adult" and denied to students across this country. This is not only disturbing but harmful as well, and makes a complete mockery of what the First Amendment stands for. The backers of bills such as this continually hide behind the tired "save the children and family" rhetoric. Rather than protecting the children, they are controlling them by trying to dissuade them from standing up for their rights. We ask who will "protect the children" from authority bent on abusing it's power in such a manner?

Here at R.O.C., we simply believe that legislation such as this is anti-American; and, if implemented, stronger and stronger legislation will be passed until the Internet is a completely sterile environment where expression is squashed. Censorware companies are taking it upon themselves to block such topics as Paganism, Witchcraft and obviously political expression, since the R.O.C. site is evidently banned by some Censorware software based on reports sent to us by some students...so much for freedom of anything in this country. The idea that schools and libraries should be required to install this software is appalling. For more details on the flaws with censorware, the political motivations behind censorware, and details on a case where the manufacturers of a leading filtering software program called Cyber Patrol have sued individuals to prevent disclosure of their filtering criteria (meaning they don't want consumers to be informed of exactly what is being blocked) , please visit the http://www.peacefire.org and http://www.censorware.org websites.

We urge everyone reading this article to write to your elected officials and tell them that you disapprove of any and all legislation whose intent is to erase the First Amendment from the Bill of Rights.



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