ACLU Says Filtering Legislation Represents Little More Than Sugar Pill for Parents

May 20, 1999 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


WASHINGTON — As the Senate convened hearings today on Internet blocking legislation, the American Civil Liberties Union called on lawmakers to avoid turning to censorship to solve societal ills.

The bill under consideration by the Senate Commerce Committee (S-253) would require Internet blocking schemes in public schools and libraries.

“This bill would impose a one-size-fits-all federal solution on communities throughout the country,” said Barry Steinhardt, Associate Director of the ACLU.

Steinhardt said that parents and local libraries should remain free to consider other approaches to Internet safety, including parental supervision of Internet use by minors.

The ACLU warned that Internet blocking programs have been found to restrict access to constitutionally protected political and health-related speech on such topics as women’s rights, safe sex, AIDS and homosexuality — even religious groups such as the Quakers and the Glide United Methodist Church have had their Web sites blocked by these imperfect censorship tools.

“Filtering software would have unintended negative effects on the educational environment of schools and libraries,” Steinhardt said. “Use of existing Internet blocking software is similar to performing surgery with a blunt instrument.”

At the same time that blocking software removes too much valuable information from Internet users, it often fails to block access to sites that may be considered inappropriate for children, the ACLU said.

“This legislation amounts to nothing more than lawmakers forcing sugar pills on parents and teachers who are anxious about children’s access to the Internet,” Steinhardt said. “Blocking programs create a false sense of security that leads parents and teachers to relinquish their responsibility to participate in Internet use by younger children.”

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release