Friday, January 25, 2008

Web Filtering/Censoring

Photo by Billy Abbott

Recently my school district started blocking most blogs as social networks. This got me to thinking about the usefulness of filtering software.
From what I can see the WebSense filter blocks sites according to broad definitions of the content of the sites. So if a site is associated with other sites by name only then that site is also blocked.
Now image if books in the library were "filtered" in the same way. The other day a book from our library was brought to the administrations attention "My Mom's Having a Baby" innocuous enough right? Well when one of the students brought this home and showed it to her parents they looked through the book and found the following passage "The man puts his penis between the woman's legs and inside her vagina". Now if books were filtered by words or author then this book may have been filtered along with all other books by Dori Hillestad Butler. If books were filtered by the publisher which would be similar to the network a web site is associated with then many more books would be blocked.
Am I proposing that kids be given open access to everything at school, no of course not. What I am saying is that web filters are a very blunt tool and do not do a very good job. They give the illusion of safety with out teaching kids how to be safe on the web.
If you teach swimming, kids have to jump into the pool.
Photo by Glennharper

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Is this a trend in FL? (see It seems our districts are like minded in their efforts to placate, what I have been told, is a conservative community. Although one south Fl. IT director told me "We know that there are many cool things we're missing out on by going this route, but part of my job is to make sure that risk is managed for my superiors here at the district." I'm sure this is not an isolated idea.


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