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Worst Censorware Blocks Cannot Be Fixed

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the speak-the-truth dept.

420

Slashdot regular Bennett Haselton writes "The ACLU has targeted a group of Tennessee school districts for blocking websites categorized by a blocking company as 'LGBT.' I hope the ACLU wins, but it may create the mistaken impression that egregious overblocking of websites is easy to fix. On the contrary, the vast majority of errors are hard-coded into the products and cannot be fixed by unblocking a single category." Hit that tantalizingly entitled 'Read More' link to read his essay.

The ACLU is threatening to sue a group of Tennessee School Districts for using blocking software that blocks sites categorized as "LGBT" — that is, sites themed around lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender issues that would not be classified as pornographic. Some of the blocked sites include the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the Human Rights Campaign.

Legally, the school districts' decision to block these sites seems fairly indefensible. The content being censored is political speech, not illegal to distribute to minors, and as the ACLU points out, by blocking these sites the school districts are engaging in "viewpoint discrimination," since the schools allow access to anti-gay sites like Americans for Truth Against Homosexuality (which, ironically, features a disclaimer saying its content is not suitable for children). But, you never can tell with judges. A judge in Utah once ruled in favor of a school that suspended a student for wearing a t-shirt with the word "Vegan." (Do you think the judge would have made the same ruling if the student's t-shirt had said "Christian"?)

However, while the ACLU would be right to bring this case, there may be another unintended side effect. By focusing on the fact that the "LGBT" category is enabled to be blocked in these districts, this sets up a contrast with districts that do not have the "LGBT" category enabled, which could lead people to think that such districts are not blocking LGBT sites. This is not the case.

When a school district buys blocking software, the software comes with an encrypted list of websites listed in different categories; categories like Pornography and Nudity are typically blocked, while categories like LGBT would usually not be. If a site falls into one or more of the blocked categories, then attempts to access that site will be blocked (at least until some reprobates help you get around the filter.) However, it's the blocking company that decides what to put on the list under each category. And even if only categories like "Pornography" are enabled, there are likely to be many non-pornographic sites categorized as "Pornography," and hence blocked wherever that category is turned on.

When the ACLU of Washington sued the North County Regional Library system for enabling blocking software for all patrons (including adults), they asked me to test the Fortinet Web filter that the library was using. I used a random sample of 100,000 .com and 100,000 .org domains and ran them through an automated script to find 536 .com domains and 207 .org domains that were blocked by Fortinet. Of those, about one out of every eight .com sites categorized as "Pornography" or "Adult Materials," and one of out of every four .org sites blocked in those categories, was a site with content that could not possibly be considered "adult" — some of the sites blocked in these categories included the Dabar Worship Center, the immigrant-rights group Families for Freedom, and the Seattle Women's Jazz Orchestra. Extrapolating these ratios to the set of all .com and .org domains in existence, one could conclude that there were about 71,000 non-pornographic .com sites and 5,800 non-pornographic .org sites blocked by FortiNet as "Pornography" or "Adult Materials" — a number almost certain to grow into six figures when you add in all the sites outside of .com and .org. Years earlier, I had run similar tests for Cyber Patrol and SurfWatch (products which have since been discontinued) and found that an absolute majority of sites blocked by each program were actually non-pornographic, which translated into an estimate of hundreds of thousands of .com and .org sites wrongly classified as "porn."

Only the blocking companies know for sure how such stupid mistakes end up on their lists, but the most widely accepted explanation is that they use machines to crawl the Web and guess which sites are pornographic, and add those sites to their blacklists without any human intervention. In their early years, the makers of SurfWatch and Cyber Patrol claimed that employees actually did review sites before adding them to their lists, but that claim became increasingly untenable as more and more reports came out of sites being blocked with no adult content on them.

Nobody has yet done a similar study for the ENA blocking program, but every blocking program that has ever been tested has had a non-trivial error rate that extrapolates to at least hundreds of thousands of non-pornographic websites being blocked under "Pornography" and similar categories. There is no reason to think that the ENA blocker is different; at the very least, if they claim that it is, then the burden of proof should be on them.

So, the ACLU will probably succeed in persuading the Tennessee Schools Cooperative to stop blocking the "LGBT" category, but that doesn't mean that LGBT sites — or any other category of non-pornographic sites — will no longer be blocked. A student who encounters a blocked LGBT site could request an override, but what if they don't want to "out" themselves as someone who was browsing an LGBT site? Is Tennessee the best place to be known as the "queer who wanted to get around the porn filter"? And there may not be an option of getting an override anyway. Some of the correspondents on Peacefire's mailing list for new proxy sites to get around blockers are teachers who aren't given a password to bypass the blocker on their school's computers.

Then of course — you know what's coming — there is the other "larger sense" in which unblocking the LGBT category doesn't "fix the problem," which is that there would be no "problem" if we didn't think of teenagers as children instead of adults. You've probably already decided which side you're on in that debate, but consider it as a scientific question instead of a moral one. Do you think there is any objective evidence that teenagers, if they were given the opportunity to have the same rights and responsibilities as adults, would behave differently from adults to a large degree — more differently than, say, men and women behave from each other? The trouble with the "evidence" that we gather from personal interactions is that it's not truly objective — if someone believes that teenagers are immature and adults are not, they're likely to see and remember only the pieces of evidence that confirm that belief. A true double-blind experiment might involve talking to someone through a computer terminal and rating the other person's "maturity" just based on their responses. That's a start, but the trouble with that experiment is that adults tend to know a larger set of words, so a participant might rate the other person as more "mature" because of their large vocabulary, even though having a large vocabulary is completely different from having mature thoughts or logical reasoning skills. A fairer test might be to take a non-native-English-speaking adult and a native-English-speaking young teenager who scored about the same on a test of English vocabulary, and see if participants could tell the difference in maturity between those two test subjects while talking to them through a computer terminal. I am not aware of any experiment along these lines that has been done, but this is the sort of evidence of differences between adults and minors, that would be truly objective.

Most of the evidence in favor of the innate "adulthood" of teenagers is also anecdotal and not scientific, but it is compelling. As psychologist Robert Epstein has pointed out in The Case Against Adolescence, for thousands of years humans in their early teens were giving birth and raising children of their own. That obviously does not mean that that is a good idea in today's society, it just means that somewhere along the way, we must have lost sight of the level of responsibility that human teenagers are biologically capable of handling. If one of our Stone Age forebears could be brought back to life, he might eventually get used to the Web, but he'd probably always be amused by the idea of Web blockers for teenagers who are older than he was when he was raising his first child.

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Tantalising Read More? (3, Funny)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 5 years ago | (#27646903)

Read 8960 More Bytes?

Re:Tantalising Read More? (2, Funny)

InsertWittyNameHere (1438813) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647003)

would you prefer nibbles?

Re:Tantalising Read More? (2, Funny)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647789)

that's nybbles.

Re:Tantalising Read More? (3, Funny)

Kotoku (1531373) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647097)

I don't care how big the article is, I'm not reading it anyway. This is Slashdot!

8960 May Refer to... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27647103)

  • ... unicode number for diameter.
  • ... an agilent wireless card.
  • ... A main belt asteroid. [wikipedia.org]
  • ... a model of john-deer tractor.
  • ... a quite badass looking lego set. [entertainmentearth.com]
  • ... a number that factors down to 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 5 7

What does this have to do with anything? I don't know. I'm just typing furiously away at the keyboard to make my boss think I am actually working (while alt-tabbing to wikipedia and google images).

Enjoy :D

Re:8960 May Refer to... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27647623)

My boyfriend would love that Lego.

/Stefan

Fight...for your right.... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27646921)

...to TRANNNNNNNNNNNNNY!

Re:Fight...for your right.... (2, Interesting)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647021)

I'm asking this in the full knowledge that someone will mod me down and call me names - but I'm ignorant on the topic:

Why do lesbians, gays, and bisexuals allow themselves to be lumped together with transgenders. To me, the layman, they seem like VERY different things. The first three are people who like to have relationships and sex in ways that aren't historically accepted. Fair enough, and I can get behind efforts to stop discriminating against these people.

The latter, at the extreme, cut off their genitalia. This is a group I have a little more trouble viewing as "normal". Or am I just too hung up on the extreme?

Re:Fight...for your right.... (5, Informative)

shellster_dude (1261444) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647143)

Transgender people feel that they are trapped in the wrong gender body. They face much of the same stigma as LBGQ people. They are often mislabeled as gay. Thus they often find themselves in the same category as the rest regardless of where they would like to be.

Re:Fight...for your right.... (5, Insightful)

merrickm (1192625) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647147)

Some gays and lesbians don't like transgendered people. Many others are okay with them. Some gays and lesbians don't like bisexuals either, but they keep the B in the acronym anyway. It's just a convenient acronym for identifying a set of people who are often discriminated against for sex/gender-related reasons.

Re:Fight...for your right.... (2, Interesting)

TheThiefMaster (992038) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647195)

I agree. There is a difference between just being attracted to others of the same sex and actively wanting to become a member of the opposite sex.

I'm not against the former, though I'd be repulsed if one tried to come on to me. The latter though, just seem wrong...

Re:Fight...for your right.... (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27647215)

The first three are people who like to have relationships and sex in ways that aren't historically accepted

Or to put it another way, religious oppression was widely 'accepted'.

Why do lesbians, gays, and bisexuals allow themselves to be lumped together with transgenders.

Discriminate much? Therein lies the answer.

 

Re:Fight...for your right.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27647247)

These are all forms of sexual deviations from the norm. Why should lesbians allow themselves to be lumped together with gays? Also, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

In this case the lumping together was done by somebody who likely objects to all of these.

Re:Fight...for your right.... (5, Informative)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647249)

"Transgender" doesn't necessarily mean people who "cut off their genitalia." From what I understand, it can refer to people who do not psychologically identify exactly with the bipolar genders of male/female.

It can also refer to intersexual people, i.e., people with sexual characteristics of both genders. This is more common than most people realize, but often newborns undergo "corrective" surgery to assign them to one gender category or another.

intersexed (3, Informative)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647903)

It can also refer to intersexual people, i.e., people with sexual characteristics of both genders. This is more common than most people realize, but often newborns undergo "corrective" surgery to assign them to one gender category or another.

Corrective surgery can only correct the physique.

If you are lucky, your brain is as "all male" or "all female" as your average guy or gal and the doctor guessed right when he did the "corrective surgery." At this point, you are no longer intersexual.

Although the term "intersexual" usually means having ambiguous genitalia and other obvious physical characteristics, it should really mean "between genders" whether in the genitals or in the mind/brain. By this definition, people who are "trapped in the wrong body" or who are psychologically neither "masculine-normal" nor "feminine-normal" would be described as intersexual, even if their body outside their brain was completely male or female.

Note I said "masculine/feminine-normal" not "completely male/female" - if you survey all the people who self-identify as "completely male" and give them thorough physical and psychological tests, the vast majority will have very few if any distinctly feminine female characteristics, but a sizable minority will have dominant psychological characteristics that are normally considered feminine. The opposite will be true for those that self-identify as completely female.

Re:Fight...for your right.... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27647347)

You're completely right. The "T" people are not entirely healthy as they reject and mutilate their own bodies. I have always thought it was a liability for gays to have to defend them.

Re:Fight...for your right.... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27647363)

Probably because 1: Many of the points of discrimination they want to fight apply to both equally, or at least bleed over between the categories, and 2: They recognize that a larger block is more powerful, and therefore more likely to get changes made. Since the people in the group have very little problem with having them in the group, it only strengthens their positions to have more numbers. (And, from some perspective, you can say that transgenders are just another class of people who have different-than-normal sexuality: They don't accept the physical sexuality they were born with as correct.)

And yes, you are too hung up on the extreme. A transgender is likely to consider a surgical procedure to correct what they consider to be a mistake in their biology: They were born the wrong gender. They go to a doctor, explain what the problem is, and have what amounts to a minor piece of plastic surgery performed. You are likely to have a more intensive operation, if you live long enough.

Re:Fight...for your right.... (5, Insightful)

Intron (870560) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647375)

While we're at it, why are Country and Western lumped together, but Folk is separate?

Re:Fight...for your right.... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27647493)

I'm your classic "woman trapped in a man's body." By all appearances, I'm a man, but from even before I started school, I've felt female. Nobody would know the difference between me and a normal guy if I didn't tell them. In fact, I've only ever told one person because there is so much stigma about transgendered people. Lots of people can't wrap their head around why someone would identify as the opposite sex. As you point out, it's even more unacceptable than being homosexual.

So, I'm attracted exclusively to women. That makes me straight because I have a penis. However, deep inside, I feel that I am a woman. Does that make me a lesbian with a penis? If I were to undergo gender reassignment, does that make me a lesbian or a straight man without a penis?

understand where the issues over sexual orientation based discrimination comes in now?

btw, I'll probably never go ahead with SRS or attempting to live as a female... I'd make a horrible looking woman thanks to the changes after 20 years of testosterone coursing through my veins. So, if I don't cut off my genitalia, does that make me "normal" as far as you're concerned? Am I just quirky if you notice my tertiary characteristics like multiply pierced ears, tramp stamp, and shaved legs? Will that make you assume I'm gay?

Re:Fight...for your right.... (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647745)

I'm very sorry if I made you uncomfortable and I didn't mean to insult anyone. But your description is reflective of what I was talking about. From your description, your situation is much more complicated than someone who simply is attracted to someone of the same sex. I'm not sure why lumping sexual preferences and sexual identity into one group of people is done, and I'm not sure why it is seen as politically advantageous.

Re:Fight...for your right.... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27648013)

I'm fine... my point being that "normal" people can't wrap their head around transgenderism. 50 years ago, "normal" people couldn't wrap their heads around homosexuality either. Both question gender issues, usually different issues, but gender issues nevertheless.

How many times are gay males portrayed as Betty Crocker effeminate or lesbians as butch guy wannabes? There's lots of stigma over sexual orientation, gender roles, etc. That's where the transgenders fit in with the LBG community. I'm sure some gays would be happy if they didn't have to defend us (in fact, there are a number that loathe and hate us), but it all comes down to a difference between what society says gender should be and how individuals actually feel.

Re:Fight...for your right.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27647525)

Why is it that sci-fi, fantasy, and historial alternative universe fans allow themselves to be lumped in with role-playing-gamers? To me, the layman, they seem like VERY different things. RPGs aren't even a fiction!

Why is it that Chinese-, Korean-, and Japanese-Americans allow themselves to be lumped together with Native Americans? To me, the layman, they seem like VERY different things. Native Americans don't even come from another country!

They're minority groups that deal with similar sorts of issues and therefore have common ground and can provide each other with personal and professional support.

That's weird (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27646949)

Why would they want to block Mac sites?

tl;dr (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27646999)

rock and hard place. if school districts don't filter it, they get sued. if they do...they get sued. i challenge any software company to develop a filtering solution that blocks 100% of what you don't want kids to see that doesn't piss someone else off. can't be done. lgbt wont be happy till they get "equal time" to indoctrinate kids.

Re:tl;dr (4, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647173)

lgbt wont be happy till they get "equal time" to indoctrinate kids.

But why isn't that fair? Wanna bet that these assholes [narth.com] aren't on the block list? These nutballs [evergreeni...tional.org] even keep a list, making the blocking very easy. If "indoctrinating kids" is your objection, you'd expect them all to be blocked, right?

Re:tl;dr (3, Insightful)

Amouth (879122) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647433)

you said the problem

"oftware company to develop a filtering solution that blocks 100% of what you don't want kids to see"

translate

"[someone else] filters reality for your child how you feel it should be filtered with no action from you"

what it should be is "parents take the time to teach their child about the world and what is appropriate when and where"

i'm just getting sick and fucking tired of parents that want to shove all the problems onto someone else and when that someone else doesn't get it right they sue them.. i'm sorry but that someone else never agreed to raising your child..

personaly .. i feel if a child fucks up the parents should be punished along with the child. lets get some accountability in parenting for a fucking change

Re:tl;dr (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27647961)

Yeah well, people think it's cool to have their 7 year old ripping around the internet because "They are smarter than those other kids." Then they get mad when their kids are looking at porn and want porn to go away. Maybe they should learn how to parent? I keep my kids off the computer, (except for the OLPC I got for them) and they still know what to do. If they are on a computer it is with me at their side. They have their whole life to be online. Right now I would prefer them to enjoy their childhood. Outside with other kids. Socialization is very important and they'll never get that on IRC. Well they might but then they would be like me......

anon: for the mod!

Re:tl;dr (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27647667)

Why modded troll? I thought it was very interesting?

So, basically the parents are screwed? (5, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647077)

Because while little Timmy can have his internet activities monitored by his parents at home when he gets to school his parents wishes are cast into the ditch because other people have decided they know what is best.

People love to demonize parents for not getting involved in the lives of the children but when those children are outside of their control for eight hours a day what are they to do?

Frankly I do not believe they need internet access outside of what is required to finish a class assignment. I figure most of this comes down from haters who look for any chance to embarrass or otherwise annoy religious oriented Americans who send their kids to public school. The parents are legally responsible for most of the actions of their kids and legally prevented from knowing about many of them.

Public education should have standards on EDUCATION. What a locality wants to do beyond that should be off limits to the Feds. As long as they don't try to indoctrinate based religion/race it should be fine. The problem with education is that the system is keeping parents out and then blaming them for it.

Let them be more involved, but realize freedoms you claim the students don't have should not be granted by the system over the wishes of their parents. If you do that then you absolve the parents of any liability for their children thus making them wards/products of the state. Then again maybe that is what these people want.

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (5, Interesting)

lorenlal (164133) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647297)

The argument you bring forth makes me feel the true pain it is to grant any sort of internet access to a population that isn't held responsible for what they do. Which is covered by the latter part of the rant above. If the sites are blocked, then free expression is squelched. If the sites are allowed, it could be considered offensive by the parents that you are arguing for.

Maybe, the school systems are going about it all wrong. Instead of having "blockers," poke "holes." I would assume that the access to the internet is not intended to be for the entertainment of the student. It likely has a purpose, namely assisting with research, email, or whatever else. The simple solution is to tell the student users, "This is for [purpose] only." And allow sites that assist with that purpose. If a student really wants to read about some other subject, they can research it at home, or at a local library, or a freaking coffee shop if they really want to. I'm sure that even Tennessee has a Starbucks or something to provide that in the towns.

If the school is feeling really frisky, they can even allow that instant messaging thing. Also, give the staff a way to access the broader content, so if there's something that they feel is worthwhile, they can get it added. I think that this addresses the biggest concern, "What should they be doing at school" against "What shouldn't they."

I don't think a school is a place where kids should be hanging out streaming the NCAA tourney either... Cause I'll bet that's not part of the curriculum.

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (0, Troll)

InsaneProcessor (869563) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647649)

I want to know "on behalf of what parent with a kid in that school are the suing?" Nobody has a right to sue unless they are directly effected by this. The ACLU is on very questionable ground here. This is typical for these nut jobs.

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (3, Insightful)

Main Gauche (881147) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647661)

Maybe, the school systems are going about it all wrong. Instead of having "blockers," poke "holes."

This is an interesting idea, and I'm sure some must do it that way already. The problem with this approach is that the students are then spoon-fed their sources. Giving them an assignment with a pre-approved list of sites takes away the part where they have to actually dig for information.

I think as a practical matter, the "blockers" approach provides the best cost/benefit ratio. That doesn't mean it's perfect. But as GP put it (in one of the best posts I've ever seen on slashdot), the students are in school to work on their learning, not to watch sports, investigate alternative lifestyles, or do anything else like that.

When my daughter reaches that age, I'll be happy to explain the diverse nature of people in the world. In the meantime, I don't want to hear that this is what constitutes school work.

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (1)

delirium of disorder (701392) | more than 5 years ago | (#27648161)

I see many posts basically saying that censorship is OK because schools are for learning, not about entertainment. What kind of learning do you want these kids to experience? Do you want high schoolers to have some Sesame Street notion of reality? Understanding sex and sexuality is essential for understanding what it means to be human. You can probably learn math or physics in a censored environment, but what about any subject that actually looks at human beings? Biology? Anthropology? Sociology? History? Humans have gender. Humans have sex. Ignoring this means ignoring reality. Understanding art, music, and drama beyond the technical aspects of paint, notes, and movement means learning about the often sexual passions that drove the greatest creators. Real learning means unrestricted access to knowledge. Research is meaningless if it's just assigning one book for the student to read and regurgitate.

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (4, Insightful)

MasterOfMagic (151058) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647309)

People love to demonize parents for not getting involved in the lives of the children but when those children are outside of their control for eight hours a day what are they to do?

Let the children learn that there are other viewpoints out there. That's what school is supposed to be for.

I figure most of this comes down from haters who look for any chance to embarrass or otherwise annoy religious oriented Americans who send their kids to public school.

When they stop trying to embarrass or otherwise annoy me by trying to ram through "academic freedom" bills that force teachers to teach a fairytale as science and act as a wedge to break down the church/state separation, then they'll earn my sympathy and respect. When they stop putting their fingers in their ears and shouting out that "abstinence is the only way, sex is sinful and dirty, and condoms will give you AIDS", then I'll be concerned about what they think. When they stop telling people that the genitals of the person they like are more important than the love that they have for them, then I'll entertain their cries of oppression.

Let them be more involved, but realize freedoms you claim the students don't have should not be granted by the system over the wishes of their parents.

If they feel that their children are being exposed to viewpoints that they don't agree with, let them home school their kids or send them to a private school.

While I agree that there should be local control of schools, the reason this lawsuit was filed was to challenge what the locality thinks should be acceptable and if those standards are reasonable. Community standards, the basis of most obscenity claims, were never meant to be static and unchanging - they were meant to be influenced by society as a whole. What works for one community may not work for another, but reasonable community standards are important.

I'm sure that you'll find some towns in the south that feel showing a black man and a white woman kissing is obscene. Luckily, society as a whole as advanced passed that racist and backward world view, and any obscenity trial involving that community will take that into account.

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (5, Insightful)

PhxBlue (562201) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647409)

People love to demonize parents for not getting involved in the lives of the children but when those children are outside of their control for eight hours a day what are they to do?

They have a couple of options -- either (A) hold the schools to account for what they're doing and not doing; or (B) homeschool.

Public education should have standards on EDUCATION. What a locality wants to do beyond that should be off limits to the Feds. As long as they don't try to indoctrinate based religion/race it should be fine. The problem with education is that the system is keeping parents out and then blaming them for it.

No, the problem is that parents don't want to expose their children to any ideas contrary to the parents' beliefs. Problem is, the real world doesn't work that way, and neither do the public schools that are a reflection of the real world. It's all well and good to teach your child that homosexuality is sinful or whatever -- hey, it's your belief, and the U.S. thrives upon a wide variety of beliefs.

But what does it teach your child when you tell him that he's not allowed to even explore other beliefs and ways of looking at the world? In my view, it teaches him that you're not confident your beliefs will stand up to scrutiny, and it's going to encourage him to find out what you're trying to hide.

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (2, Insightful)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647611)

They have a couple of options -- either (A) hold the schools to account for what they're doing and not doing

the biggest issue here is that school are allowing kids access to the freaking internet. I'm sure none of the kids there give a damn about any gay/lesbian website - they're too busy talking crap with their mates on facebook. Instead of learning stuff.

So yeah, sure we should be outraged at some faceless company deciding what's allowable or not on the internet, but we should be equally outraged that kids have access to all the rest of the internet whilst at school.

now, I'm going to go back to surfing those sites my employer deems acceptable for me to waste... sorry, "profitably leverage my skills in a proactive self-learning manner" on.

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (1)

BlackSnake112 (912158) | more than 5 years ago | (#27648053)

As many others have pointed out. A public school's best move should be to cut the internet off except for a few rooms. Those machines have an approved list of websites that they can visit. This sound moronic with the number of websites, but it is safer for a public school to do this. Those machines can be monitored easier. Not just with software. Have a school employee there to keep an eye on what is going on. Also this forces even the teachers to use those same internet allowed computers.

The rest of the computers should be on what ever intranet the school uses. And maybe the school systems has a intranet for all the schools (HS, middle, K-6, K-8, K-12, what ever the break down is) to use. They could even have approved research materials on this intranet.

The kids (and some teachers) will complain since they can not read their email and visit facebook websites. Then again, those reasons are not what they are in school for.

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (3, Interesting)

shoemilk (1008173) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647425)

Frankly I do not believe they need internet access outside of what is required to finish a class assignment. I figure most of this comes down from haters who look for any chance to embarrass or otherwise annoy religious oriented Americans who send their kids to public school.

Let's play make-believe. I was once married to a female and had kid(s). My wife and I get a divorce and I win custody of my kid(s). Post-divorce, I realize that one of the reasons for my poor marriage was the fact that I'm gay.

Now I live with my life partner (not husband because those poor tread-upon religious oriented Americans say we can't be married) and my kid(s). We have a wonderful, healthy relationships (parent-child, etc). One of my kids decides to write a paper on child development in gay households, goes to school to research and ACCESS DENIED!

So now, my child can't do the report and who's being hated on, me or the poor religious oriented American (why do LGBT and religion have to be exclusive?)?

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 5 years ago | (#27648091)

Your fairy tale missed his point entirely.

There are a number of pretty good research websites on-line that would be made available via a "poke holes" system instead of a "block bad stuff" system. In these research sites there are quite a few studies on child developement in gay households (relative to how many studies there actually are).

That's because these are *gasp!* academic websites! I'm not even talking Wikipedia here, though that would almost certainly be allowed as well.

Your fairy tale assumes that LGBT sites would still be blocked, and technically they would, but since ALL research is channeled through avenues that would have the information on the topic, and since nobody else gets to browse whatever the heck they want, it's fair. It also focuses the child on the task at hand, which is research, or whatever other web tool the school may be using, instead of looking up sports scores or googling their friends of facebooking or whatever other new nonsense comes out.

If a school impliments this poorly, it's something that should be taken up with the school board and should be fairly easilly redressed, as opposed to blocking software which is fairly arbitrary and inaccurate, as the OP points out.

BTW, the flip side of your fairy tale would be those anti-LGBT websites that are allowed through the blocking software, those websites, and the child who wants to do research on the subject, would be blocked with a "poke holes" system as well. However, information ABOUT the position and those groups would not be blocked, and chances are it would be more objective and removed from the fanatical (and sometimes completely irrational) positions and arguments those websites tend to preach. That's on both sides, btw. The only groups I can think of that would be worse than the pro/anti LGBT groups are the pro/anti abortion groups.

The lot of them should be blocked, but information ABOUT them should not. Especially not good, objective information, which you are more apt to find on a research website than a foaming-at-the-mouth support website.

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647429)

Public education should have standards on EDUCATION. What a locality wants to do beyond that should be off limits to the Feds. As long as they don't try to indoctrinate based religion/race it should be fine. The problem with education is that the system is keeping parents out and then blaming them for it.

1. Federal Laws protect much more than religion & race. If you don't like that, please ask your state to opt out of the US of A.
2. Parents can be as involved as they want to in their child's education.
3. Twice you've said something to the effect that parents are "kept out". [Citation Needed] because I have no clue WTF you're talking about.

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (0, Troll)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647465)

other people have decided they know what is best.

It's not quite that simple. Not all parents are supportive and nurturing. Kids should have access to certain types of information no matter how their parents feel about it. For instance, would you block access to a rape support web site? Of course not - despite the fact that there are probably parents out there who would disapprove of such access. How about information about birth control? Well... that's tougher, isn't it? And now we talk about gay support sites and the opposition becomes very stiff.

My point is that it's not a firm line in the sand, it is a discussion that has to go back and forth. Just because one parent thinks that mere access to gay support sites will harm his child doesn't necessarily mean that every child should be subjected to this same nonsense.

Personally, I see no scientific evidence that these sites "turn" a kid gay... if he/she was Googling for gay information, well they are probably on the other side of the line already.

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27647787)

And now we talk about gay support sites and the opposition becomes very stiff.

More evidence that homophobes are often self-loathing, closet homosexuals...

- T

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (4, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#27648017)

It's not quite that simple. Not all parents are supportive and nurturing. Kids should have access to certain types of information no matter how their parents feel about it.

I disagree. Parents should be able to raise their kids as they see fit, provided they aren't abusing them. Why is it any business of the state if I want to shield my kids from a lifestyle that I may not approve of?

(Disclaimer before I get modded down by the PC police: I don't have any objections to homosexuality, but I do have objections to the state telling me how to raise my kids and the above paragraph is intended to play devil's advocate)

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27647479)

"when he gets to school his parents wishes are cast into the ditch because other people have decided they know what is best"

Any school will have parents with a range of beliefs. No single policy is going to agree with all of them.

"What a locality wants to do beyond that should be off limits to the Feds. As long as they don't try to indoctrinate based religion/race it should be fine".

What does this have to do with "the Feds"? A private, public-interest organization has identified what they believe to be a violation of constitutional rights, and is pursuing remedies through the appropriate legal channels. Certainly you are not disputing the right of the ACLU to raise this issue? Or by "the Feds", do you mean that the U.S. Constitution should not overrule the actions of a local school board? Also, I would argue that censoring sites with a particular political viewpoint is no more defensible than censoring on the basis of race or religion.

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (3, Insightful)

droopycom (470921) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647497)

Frankly I do not believe they need internet access outside of what is required to finish a class assignment.

Yeah, and they dont need books outside of the one required for their classes. Nor should they being able to watch any videos programs unless they are some kind of homework... Good lord, I dont want my kids to ever develop any kind of independent thoughts that might reflect bad on me. They dont need to hear the thoughts from other people than their parents. Those are MY children after all, they should think like me and act like me...

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#27648057)

they dont need books outside of the one required for their classes

There's a strong argument to be made that most books will contribute to a child's education, which of course is the point you're making. However, the vast majority of the internet won't contribute to a child's education more than they could get by just reading a decent book. In addition, websites tend to promote extreme views which is exactly what you don't want to present to children in an educational setting.

Nor should they being able to watch any videos programs unless they are some kind of homework

In school they shouldn't be allowed to watch any videos that aren't related to their education.

They dont need to hear the thoughts from other people than their parents. Those are MY children after all, they should think like me and act like me

You mock it, but that's the real crux of the matter. Children are sponges ready to be taught what society expects of them. If you were a parent, would you leave that to the schools or would you try to teach your children as best you can without interference from the schools? The author implies that there's a double standard in Utah schools when it comes to religion, and there may well be, but you'd be surprised at how much religion is kept out of classes. I went to a school that was literally over 90% mormon, and we weren't allowed to discuss religion in class, pray at any official functions or even unofficial functions with even a whiff of a connection to the school, etc. The same thing that keeps religion out of the classroom is what keeps open discussion of LGBT issues out of the school as well.

So, basically, the problem wasn't that the LGBT website was blocked, but that the anti-homosexual site wasn't blocked as well. These issues should be kept out of public schools as much as possible.

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 5 years ago | (#27648133)

They do not need internet access *in school* *provided by the school* outside what they need for classwork

They do not need books *in school* or *provide by the school* outside of what they need for classwork

What they do at home is up to their parents, and under the control of their parents

The school should either, not block anything - unlikely, or whitelist websites that the child needs to access and block everything else

Blocking a list provided by an outside company, does not work and cannot work ... it will block legitimate sites as per the article, and will also allow site the school and the parents would not like the child to see ...

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (4, Insightful)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647513)

Frankly I do not believe they need internet access outside of what is required to finish a class assignment.

Ok, now create a system that A: Knows all student's current class and extra-credit assignments, at all times; B: Knows what student is accessing which computer wherever they are on the campus; C: Knows what websites are relevant to each assignment and student at all times; D: Can then enforce that on a case-by-case basis.

B is difficult, but could probably be dealt with. If you solved all the rest, D is not a major problem. A and C are nearly impossible: They actually require the system to know more than the teachers (A) (remember: many assignments are along the line of 'pick a topic and write a report on it') and Google (C) simultaneously.

Good luck with that. In the meantime, I can see why schools would put in blocks on 'known non-relevant' sites, for sites that should never be needed for any class assignment. (And, since it's not on adults, I can even see decent arguments for doing so.)

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647677)

realize freedoms you claim the students don't have should not be granted by the system over the wishes of their parents

The system doesn't grant them those freedoms, they're supposed to be self-evident and innate. The only thing "the system" did is take away some of them. You can argue for censorship and the removal of freedoms, sure, but don't misrepresent the nature of the argument.

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (1)

DarkVader (121278) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647839)

That has to be one of the most ridiculous and offensive things I've ever read on Slashdot.

Students are individuals, not property of their parents. Parents should not get to filter everything.

And yes, school is about education - and should not be about doing busywork class assignments, but about real education. And real education requires access to information, one of the best sources of which today is the internet. Having it available only in a creampuff filtered version is doing a serious disservice to education.

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (3, Informative)

BungaDunga (801391) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647853)

I had to do research on (illegal) drugs for a school project in middle school. Guess what? Very legit sites about the deleterious effects of various drugs were blocked at school.

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (1)

jcorgan (30025) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647889)

People love to demonize parents for not getting involved in the lives of the children but when those children are outside of their control for eight hours a day what are they to do?

It is under parents control to choose whether to enroll their children in government schools, with their government agenda, private schools, which offer a variety of agendas, or to home school them, and teach them exactly what they wish.

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647979)

People love to demonize parents for not getting involved in the lives of the children but when those children are outside of their control for eight hours a day what are they to do?

They are to grow up themselves and realize that their children can never prepare for a live out from under their skirts if they are continually kept under their thumb.

If you cannot give your children the grounding at home to go out in the world and still function as an independent unit, perhaps parenting is "not your bag".

If the message you are delivering at home is so uncompelling that your children immediately go out and decide you're an idiot, perhaps your message is inadequate.

Children are tiny humans. Treat them like idiots, and they'll grow up to be idiots.

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (1)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647991)

As long as they don't try to indoctrinate based religion/race it should be fine.

So you seem to agree that it wouldn't be OK for a school to censor/filter in a way that favors or disfavors a particular religion or race.

But then why is it OK to censor/filter in a way that favors or disfavors a particular subculture? A particular social class? A particular lifestyle? A particular gender? A particular viewpoint? A particular genetic predisposition?

Would it be OK to censor/filter out any reference to autism (let's say, for the sake of argument, that a community felt that autism was an abomination)? Is that fair to autistic people?

These are honest questions. A line must be drawn somewhere, and I'm curious to see what consistent cases can be made about where to draw it. It seems to me that for much the same reasons we must be careful about race and religion, we must be careful about a wide variety of discrimination. Whether or not it is legally required, I believe that our society, should encourage open access to information, tolerance, fairness, and equality.

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (1)

m0s3m8n (1335861) | more than 5 years ago | (#27648015)

Amen bro. Could not have said it better.

Re:So, basically the parents are screwed? (1)

delirium of disorder (701392) | more than 5 years ago | (#27648189)

Why should young people be the property of their parents until they turn 18?

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. "

Pointing out greater problems (4, Interesting)

mc1138 (718275) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647129)

There has been a rush to really start cracking down on what people can do at work or school via the internet. Most often these implementations are reactionary measures to a discovery that people are doing all sorts of things that admin types deem as unacceptable, although in many cases people were never actually informed of this... Anyway, the root here is really a lack of understanding and communication on what is actually expected of people, and how this goal should be gone about.

Re:Pointing out greater problems (3, Funny)

jlb0057 (1143241) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647205)

Sorry, I could not get to the site in your sig, as the filter here blocked your junk.

Re:Pointing out greater problems (1, Offtopic)

mc1138 (718275) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647301)

Hahaha, that totally made me laugh. Well played!

A free service (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27647145)

OpenDNS FTW.
/thread

Bias goes both ways. (0, Troll)

dov_0 (1438253) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647187)

A judge in Utah once ruled in favor of a school that suspended a student for wearing a t-shirt with the word 'Vegan'. (Do you think the judge would have made the same ruling if the student's t-shirt had said 'Christian'?

Yes. Sure they would, but only if the t-shirt included dangerous words such as, "Dear Lord", "please" and "Amen". Allowing students to silently ask grace for their school lunches is downright un-American! Dangerous!

Re:Bias goes both ways. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27647731)

Yes. Sure they would, but only if the t-shirt included dangerous words such as, "Dear Lord", "please" and "Amen". Allowing students to silently ask grace for their school lunches is downright un-American! Dangerous!

Not real familiar with Utah, are you?

Re:Bias goes both ways. (2, Insightful)

gnick (1211984) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647919)

Apologies in advance to all for feeding the troll.

I've yet to see a case anywhere in the US barring prayer in school. If it's happened (as so many people seem to complain about), please cite a reference. All that I've seen is action taken against school officials leading prayer services - Good. I don't want my kids' Christian/Muslim/Satanist/Pagan/What-freaking-ever-ist teacher trying to install their religion into my kids' heads. That's a job for me/the-church-we-attend/"holy"-books/themselves - And selecting from that list is up to me and my kids, not the schools.

Please show me one case where a student has been stopped from "silently ask[ing] grace for their school lunches" without being overturned.

On a semi-related note (and more on-topic with TFA), does a site really need to be pornographic to be on a filtered list? I'd be much more disturbed to find my child watching videos of people beheading their enemies or reading rhetoric encouraging them toward white supremacy than watching consenting adults have sex. I'm not implying that all of the banned/allowed sites are appropriate, but porn/non-porn is not an end-all metric.

Of course it's easy to fix. (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647231)

Just remove the censorware entirely.

One topic at a time please (1)

immakiku (777365) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647259)

Why does the article go on to talk about designing a double-blind study for judging the "maturity" of teenagers?

Re:One topic at a time please (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647519)

Bennett is a comedian.

Re:One topic at a time please (4, Informative)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647653)

Yes, Bennett Haselton is famous for being verbose and embedding extraneous arguments within a larger debate (sometimes diluting his original point).

In this case, his point about scientifically judging the maturity of teenagers is that it would entirely obviate, using rigorous evidence, the need for these web-blockers at all (at least for people above a certain age). That would certainly be progress (rather than debating about how much to block, wouldn't be nice if we had a good metric by which to say "we don't need to worry about censoring at all for this class of people").

We have arbitrary social rules about when someone is "old enough" to do certain things (drive a car, drink alcohol, buy porn). These standards vary wildly from culture to culture (in some cultures, even adults are not allowed those things), and are never based on evidence. Just "gut feelings" about maturity. So he proposes that some standard be established, and that standard tested against average adults, teenagers, children, etc. If it can be shown that a 15-year old is statistically indistinguishable from a 28-year old in terms of how they are able to reason logically, and how they react to, say, pornography; then it doesn't make sense to block the 15-year old from porn sites.

I agree with Haselton on this point. It's ridiculous that in this day and age we are still basing most of our legal rulings on untested "gut feelings" about how people behave, and how they are affected by external events/forces. We can do better.

Sorry, but Schools DO have Totalitarian control... (4, Insightful)

A. B3ttik (1344591) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647271)

Exactly what laws is the school breaking by not allowing them to access certain sites?

It may be wrong and hardheaded and backwards... but I'm sorry... it _is_ the schoolboard's right to do it. If they really wanted to, they could block Mac Sites and keep IBM sites or block Evolution Sites and keep Creationist ones. They're not bound by the US Constitution since they're not the Federal Government and I highly doubt that you can classify a local school board as the State Government, so they're probably not bound by the State's Constitution, either. The schoolboard is subject to state _laws_ and local ordinances, neither of which say anything about this, I am guessing.

This sort of thing is determined at PTO meetings by elected school board officials, and therefore, the appropriate action is to take it before the schoolboard, before a PTO meeting, and to parents and teachers who make the decisions, not some judge who is likely to uphold whatever the aforemetioned committee happens to decide, even if it's something as stupid as the right to ban a kid for wearing a t-shirt.

This may sound weird and backwards and stupid but I actually think that's how it should be: the local community decides what they want, specifically, so long as it meets certain state standards. Some may want 5th Grade Sex Education, others may want to wait until high school. Some may want to "shield" their kids from the influences of the world and keep out anything related to sexuality, others may think it's important to teach tolerance. Certainly, if this were a predominantly Quaker Community, nobody would even raise an eyebrow. And if you don't like the community, there are several million others in the US to choose from.

Re:Sorry, but Schools DO have Totalitarian control (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27647403)

They're not bound by the US Constitution since they're not the Federal Government

umm.. Perhaps the 14th amendment applies here?

Constitutional scholars need not fear for their jobs any time soon.

Keep your day job.

Re:Sorry, but Schools DO have Totalitarian control (3, Insightful)

Obyron (615547) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647567)

To save anyone from having to look it up, parent is referring to the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment, which has been interpreted as giving the several states the same responsibility for upholding the Bill of Rights as the federal government. The fact that school boards are not the federal government in no way diminishes their responsibilities under the First Amendment.

Re:Sorry, but Schools DO have Totalitarian control (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27647639)

Heh... Pwned him, you did.

Re:Sorry, but Schools DO have Totalitarian control (1)

A. B3ttik (1344591) | more than 5 years ago | (#27648075)

Care to explain why?

Going by another response...

To save anyone from having to look it up, parent is referring to the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment, which has been interpreted as giving the several states the same responsibility for upholding the Bill of Rights as the federal government. The fact that school boards are not the federal government in no way diminishes their responsibilities under the First Amendment.

Alright. I'll bite. So are schools breaking the First Amendment when they give a kid detention for talking in class? How about by enforcing a dress code? How about forcing the kid to sit still and listen in class for 8 hours?

To me, those are all clear examples of the School _actually_ infringing on someone's rights. On ther hand, how, exactly, are they breaking ANY amendments or infringing on anyone's rights by installing Blocker software on computers which they are providing to the students?

You're going to have to flesh out an actual argument instead of just making an offhand comment if you want to make any sense.

Re:Sorry, but Schools DO have Totalitarian control (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647481)

They're not bound by the US Constitution since they're not the Federal Government and I highly doubt that you can classify a local school board as the State Government, so they're probably not bound by the State's Constitution, either. The schoolboard is subject to state _laws_ and local ordinances, neither of which say anything about this, I am guessing.

<img src="facepalm.jpg">

Re:Sorry, but Schools DO have Totalitarian control (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647561)

They're not bound by the US Constitution since they're not the Federal Government and I highly doubt that you can classify a local school board as the State Government, so they're probably not bound by the State's Constitution, either. The schoolboard is subject to state _laws_ and local ordinances, neither of which say anything about this, I am guessing.

A. If they're taking Federal Funds (which almost everyone is) then they're stuck with whatever rules the Feds tie the money to. If they're taking State Funds (which almost everyone is) then they're stuck with whatever rules the State ties the money to.

B. How the fuck do you get to the conclusion that there is anything in the USA not bound by the US Constitution. Further, how the fuck do you get to the conclusion that there is anything in [State] not bound by [State]'s Constitution? Even Bush had to go to Cuba to try and dodge the US Constitution.

This sort of thing is determined at PTO meetings by elected school board officials. ..., not some judge

Whoever modded you up is as ignorant as you are.

Re:Sorry, but Schools DO have Totalitarian control (1)

Late Adopter (1492849) | more than 5 years ago | (#27648005)

B. How the fuck do you get to the conclusion that there is anything in the USA not bound by the US Constitution. Further, how the fuck do you get to the conclusion that there is anything in [State] not bound by [State]'s Constitution? Even Bush had to go to Cuba to try and dodge the US Constitution.

I am fairly sure you don't actually mean this. The Constitution has never regulated private parties. See parochial schools, for example.

Re:Sorry, but Schools DO have Totalitarian control (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27647763)

They're not bound by the US Constitution since they're not the Federal Government and I highly doubt that you can classify a local school board as the State Government, so they're probably not bound by the State's Constitution, either.

Excuse me but they ARE bound by the U.S. Constitution. Every entity organization, corporation, individual is bound by it. For example, I do not have the right to suppress your freedom of speech. I am not a member of the federal government, I have no specific ties to it yet I am still not permitted to by the Constitution.

Re:Sorry, but Schools DO have Totalitarian control (1)

deraj123 (1225722) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647989)

While the GP was wrong, so are you. If you are on my property, I have every right to ban you for what you say. Not that I should, but I have that right. You'll notice that the first amendment says "Congress shall make no law restricting...". The fourteenth amendment applies the bill of rights to the states. School districts, in general, exist by virtue of state law, as an extension of the state government. Therefore, school districts are bound by the bill of rights. You, however, are not.

Re:Sorry, but Schools DO have Totalitarian control (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 5 years ago | (#27648111)

The Constitution, for example, prohibits the federal government from abridging the freedom of speech. It says nothing about what individuals may do. There may be laws addressing what individuals may or may not do with regard to abridging freedom of speech, but IT'S NOT IN THE CONSTITUTION. The words are right there, you should read them before posting ignorantly.

Re:Sorry, but Schools DO have Totalitarian control (1)

DarkVader (121278) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647895)

You have a serious misunderstanding of constitutional law.

Local school boards, cities, and states most certainly ARE bound by the US Constitution.

Even if they receive federal funding? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27647945)

I believe that if a school receives federal funding they're bound to federal regulations regarding non-discrimination.

Re:Sorry, but Schools DO have Totalitarian control (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 5 years ago | (#27648077)

Schools do have control, but the amount of control is tempered by the rights of students and parents, especially in a public school. For instance, a PTA in a small town might say that all information be filtered through the local church website(and I know towns where 90% of the people in control go a single church). This might be construed as a violation of the civil rights. Community standards simply do not apply to this extent. To use you Quaker analogy, no matter how much the PTO believes that violence is wrong, federal law requires the Military recruiters are allowed the same access as other recruiters. We want to shield, but this is why home school and private school exists, to account for the fear that other views will damage a child. A parent has that right.

In this case, the LGBT issue is important. Let's say that the school is very conservative, and the child might have two mommies, so to speak. The conservative community might tell the child that he or she is a bad person, the mommy is going to hell(I certainly had kids and adult tell me this when I was a kid), and that he or she had to convert to save themselves for enteral damnation. Now, a well adjusted educated kid would know that the bible says that only god can judge, that god is the ultimate good, and that pharasis are supposed to be pitied and ignored. But the child has no access to such information, and only hears the side that preaches faith through fear, what damage will be done?

Then there is the case of well meaning people making questionable position. This is a site promoted to the k-12 geek crowd by officials who should now better. I have no problem promoted legal speed to teenagers, but promoting such products to young children. I don't know, what is next, college recruitment sponsored by beer companies?

In a school there are constitutional issues to think about. Then there are legal matters. Then there are statutory rules and regulations. There there is just common sense. Finally, there is a desire to provide a legitimate education. I know this last one gets lost on most people. If the kid knows how to read and write and do maths that is all that matters. That they leave as ignorant as the enter, to some people, is a good thing.

Re:Sorry, but Schools DO have Totalitarian control (1)

ChinaLumberjack (1443691) | more than 5 years ago | (#27648105)

Exactly what laws is the school breaking by not allowing them to access certain sites?

The one universal rule shared by all human beings THOU SHALL NOT BE A HYPOCRITE.

The schools are a direct obligation of the government which supposedly preaches and guarantees freedom speech.

The schools censor conduits of free speech.

One of these has got to be wrong.

Re:Sorry, but Schools DO have Totalitarian control (1)

AtomicDevice (926814) | more than 5 years ago | (#27648117)

This just in, the constitution is in fact the "supreme law of the land" and everyone and every law in the US is bound by it (unless of course they contribute enough to someone's campaign yacht).

Are you suggesting that a public school could bar black or gay students from attending, because that sort of thing is only in the federal (and not state) constitution?

I'd be interested to see how far you get with that argument

Not pornographic?! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27647325)

The Seattle Women's Jizz Orchestra isn't pornographic?! How could you possibly come to that conclu--

Wait, what's that? Jazz, you say?

Oh. Ohhhhhhhhhh....

Never mind.

But they say it's for our own good! (1)

its_schwim (1247278) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647341)

The question of whether they are children or adults, IMHO is moot. If it's true that they're blocking gay sites while allowing anti-gay sites, then we are dealing with discrimination, not the appropriateness of content. The post above discusses whether we can trust the government to do the right thing and make it illegal to block these sites. IMO, if you wait for the government to handle this, you've already lost the battle.

The people that feel outrage at this are the ones that have to do something. A simple proxy shared with the students, gatherings, protests and boycotts would make changes on the local level initially and gaining in size, a global level.

The legal system however, would not.

What did you expect? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27647499)

Tennessee is, after all, not exactly known as a center of tolerance and enlightenment.

There's misspelling on Vegan... (1)

kolcon (1516891) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647517)

I'm sure the T-Shirt said 'Vogon' and the judge was their captain...

Can be fixed! (1)

ACMENEWSLLC (940904) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647537)

I recently replaced my Surfcontrol product. I reviewed around 20 different products and had live demos of several.

Every single product had a way to re-categorize sites. Each provided a way to "allow" access to a site, regardless of the category.

I don't understand how this "cannot be fixed."

I'm currently running on a very restrictive network which has the iPrism, 8e6, and Websense filters all in place at the same time. Each of the article's listed websites are not blocked. ATAH, HRC, GLAAD, none of them.

Re:Can be fixed! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27647695)

Same is true with Bluecoat Content filter, there is a GLBT category that we allow for our users to access, so agree that it can be fixed, if I recall Tennessee uses WebSense.

Court cases aren't enough (1)

delirium of disorder (701392) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647557)

The Internet is the greatest tool for free speech and learning in all of human history. It has the power to put everyone on equal footing in terms of knowledge-power. Some of us see the this extremely powerful technology for what it is, a liberator with the ability to challenge existing hierarchical structures. Organized religion, corporate advertising, government deception, and restrictive social norms all crumble when the people can learn the truth.

The established leaders and their conservative allies fear us. If we want to see the Internet revolution, we can't just let it become a tool for corporate advertising, state approved and restricted learning, and social networking within closed cliques. We must have unrestricted access for everyone, starting at a young age. This necessitates a battle for civil rights on par with the struggles of workers, women, racial minorities, etc. It can't be won by court cases alone. We need to create a new culture of info-freedom, new forms of subverting attempts to control, throttle, and censor us. We need to fight in the streets, on-line, and in our hearts.

Personally... (4, Funny)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647583)

...I'd be fine with a filter that stops the GBT, but letting L through would be fine. :)

(And yes, I understand the idiomatic usage, but aren't L's actually just a subset of G? Why do they get their own category like that?)

Re:Personally... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27647859)

The same way as women are a subset of men.

Schools have very wide latitude (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647593)

Schools have wide latitude to control computer access for students and employees.

Unless the school is running a public-access program like in a library* they are pretty much immune to "denying free speech" arguments.

*Some American school systems run public libraries or other public-computer-access programs. Restricting adult patron use on these computers is asking for a challenge.

Open source blocking (1)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647753)

A blocking program should consist of two parts: a very simple blocking algorithm, and a plain-text list of sites to block. That should be trivial to implement, and easy to freely distribute. That way libraries and schools could easily say "Yes, we are running blocking software" even if the list of sites to block is empty.

It would also allow parents to demand to see the list of blocked sites, and to argue among themselves about whether a particular site should be added to (or deleted from) the list - in other words, it would bring the argument about free speech out into the open. In an ideal world, the list of banned sites would be posted on the school board's web site.

school privitization (3, Insightful)

uigrad_2000 (398500) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647799)

The ACLU has happened on yet one more issue that would be completely a non-issue if schools were not an extension of government.

Schools should be able to do whatever they want, or whatever the parents want.

When the Bill of Rights was written, it's intention was to restrict what laws congress writes, not the sites should be in whitelists and blacklists in a web filter.

Are you nuts? Schools Must Censor out this content (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27647843)

None of you have children? There is a cadence to growing up. There is a an appropriate age for gaining such knowledge. Unless you are trying to indoctrinate young minds full of mush, what is the purpose in providing this content?

SCHOOLS! Stop censoring. (1)

ChinaLumberjack (1443691) | more than 5 years ago | (#27647951)

Regardless of whatever bullshit definition of "questionable" used, schools should not block "questionable" websites. Students who use school resources for purposes other than education or stimulating the growth thereof, the judgment of which should be determined on a case by case basis, should be subject to disciplinary action including but not limited to: notification or legal guardian, suspension of computer privileges, detention, suspension, and/or community service.

Does it matter? (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 5 years ago | (#27648081)

Half the kids can't read anyway. Or solve the equation "x = 5" for x. The content of the school's Internet filter seems a bit far down the list of real concerns.

This is why I registered "bushtitsandboobies.com" (1)

thomasdz (178114) | more than 5 years ago | (#27648089)

Bush Tits are small sparrow-like birds. Boobies are (fairly large) seabirds.
My web site will feature both and I'll make some noise when I get censored.

(yeah, yeah...right now, I've got the default "under construction" page up... I gotta find some material to put up on the website)

Plane crashes: Oh, sorry. I didn't mean it! (4, Interesting)

Theovon (109752) | more than 5 years ago | (#27648125)

I'm iffy on the whole concept of blocking content. People just need to learn to surf responsibly, and teach their children right and wrong. And no matter what, children are going to be exposed to smut, mostly by their peers.

That being said, there are clear cases where the sensorship is wrong, and technical explanations are not adequate excuses.

Professionally, I worked as a chip designer and software developer for air traffic control systems. I've made my share of mistakes. I've coded bugs and had to fix them. But when that happens, I take it VERY seriously. Yes, the ATC systems have sophisticated fail-over systems, but the last thing I want is to have ANY chance of increasing the probability of putting airline passengers in danger. "Oops, sorry." doesn't cut it, and once a bug is discovered, I certainly can't dismiss it. I have to fix it right away!

If you know anything about this history of the USA and plenty of other free countries, you know that people are willing to trade their lives for freedom from oppression. And I generally think of censorship as oppression. Of course, I'd prefer that there were no blocking software. But with it being there, all I can say is that there's no excuse for leaving discovered blocking errors unfixed for any length of time. People's rights are being infringed, and the people who develop these blockers need to take those rights seriously.

As long as there is censorship, there's going to be a slippery slope. The law must protect people against abuses of censorship laws. There needs to be checks and balances. There are laws that let the police search your home. The check against that is that they have to have a warrant issued by a judge, which means they need to show significant probably cause. A balance against that is called "exigent circumstances", where if they believe someone's life is in danger, they can enter a home even without a warrant. The balance against THAT is that even WITH exigent circumstances, things they find in your home are likely to be inadmissable in court. Likewise, with censorship laws, there needs to be other laws that come with penalties for abuse of the censorship laws. If you censor, you're taking on a huge responsibility, because false positives and false negatives are not something you can just brush off.

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