June 26, 2003

MARK GLASER REPORTS ON SOFTWARE FILTERING:

Blocking legitimate Web sites for minors is bad, but blocking these same sites for adults is even worse, which led to the American Library Association’s suit in the first place. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Online Policy Group released a study that coincided with the Supreme Court decision, showing just how much gets blocked by the top two filters, N2H2′s Bess and SurfControl. The study focused on a broad number of subjects that a student might research online.

“We found that for every page blocked correctly, filters block one or more pages inappropriately,” said Will Doherty, EFF’s media relations director. “We thought a lot of pages would be blocked because of ideological views of the software companies — and they were — but what surprised us were the random pages that were blocked for seemingly no reason. There was a punctuation site blocked, and a theater arts site blocked. We don’t know why.”

I don’t trust filters very much, but I suppose that they will improve with time. I hope.