NTIA Says Filters Work Well Enough

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) says currently available Internet blocking or filtering technology protection measures have the capacity to meet the needs of schools and libraries to comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and to assuage the fears of free speech advocates.

In a new report issued Friday, the NTIA recommends technology vendors should offer training services to educational institutions on specific features of their products and that Congress should expand CIPA’s definition of “technology protection measures” to include additional technologies in order to encompass a wider array of measures to protect children from inappropriate content.

The report is based on comments received by the NTIA and its own evaluation and testing.

According to the NTIA, people commenting on the effectiveness of the filters expressed a “great deal of satisfaction” regarding the development and of Internet safety policies. Specifically, they praised the ability to customize these policies to address the concerns of individual communities.

In June, the Supreme Court overturned a federal appeals decision that rejected CIPA as a violation of the First Amendment. The lower court ruled that the use of filtering software in public libraries blocked access to Web sites that contained substantial amounts of protected speech.

Although CIPA specifically stipulates adults can request a librarian to turn off the anti-porn filters, the lower court said library patrons might be too embarrassed or lose their right to be anonymous. The Supreme Court, though, ultimately ruled the government’s interest in protecting children from exposure to sexually inappropriate material outweighed the rights of adult library patrons.

“Existing technology protection measures have met many of the needs of educational institutions,” the NTIA report states. “While the education community has had success with technology measures, however, the education community also recognizes that comprehensive child protection solutions do not rest solely with technology.”

More than 90 percent of the public libraries in the U.S. offer Internet access. Last year, public libraries received almost $60 million in federal funding to buy Internet access and nearly $150 million in technology grants. With many states facing budget deficits, it is not likely many libraries will choose not to receive federal funds in order to avoid filters.

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