ACLU Questions Internet Filters

Mar 12, 2013

The Rhode Island Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has released a report deeply critical of internet filtering software used in many public schools, saying it is tantamount to censorship. The report found that software blocks a wide variety of web sites including the Smithsonian Institutes and sites with information about anti-government groups.

“The excessive use of Internet filters by schools has seriously infringed on the First Amendment rights of students and teachers on a daily basis,” said the report’s author, Hillary Davis, in a written statement.

According to the ACLU, a few school districts use a filtering category called “Lifestyle & Culture,” which has been known to block gay rights web sites. The report, "Access Denied: How Internet Filtering in Schools Harms Public Education," urges school leaders to adopt more meaningful policies on internet use, including transparency about what categories of information are blocked.

School districts use the filtering software to prevent students and staff from accessing pornographic web sites, among other content that might be disturbing or inappropriate during school hours.

According to the ACLU, State Representative Art Handy has introduced legislation that would give teachers the freedom to quickly unblock sites. It would also require school districts to adopt clear policies governing their use of internet blocking software.