|Mar 22, 1999
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
Andy C Deck
As your constituent, I urge you to oppose HR 543, the "Safe School Internet Act." This bill would require public libraries and schools that receive federal funds for Internet access to use blocking software.
Filtering software is notoriously clumsy and inevitably restricts access to valuable, protected speech. Even web sites posted by religious groups such as the Society of Friends and the Glide United Methodist Church have been blocked by various filtering programs.
In addition, these bills would remove decision-making from parents, local school boards, local communities and teachers and replace it with a big government mandate on how to help children use the Internet safely. It is the responsibility of parents and teachers to provide young people with guidance about accessing the Internet -- not the federal government.
Finally, these bills would prevent individuals without home computers from realizing the full potential of information available on the Internet. Because filtering programs can be so restrictive and overreaching, they significantly reduce the amount and diversity of speech available to individuals. For example, filtering programs have blocked access to non-controversial web sites on "mars exploration" simply because the letters "s-e-x" appear consecutively in the document.
Software should not be used like a Kafkaesque bureaucracy to hide the trail of responsibility and decision making. As a programmer I know from personal experience just how far from "artificially intelligent" our contemporary software really is. Do not be duped by software industry profiteers who would love a fat government contract to push their inferior and injurious filtration software.
Oppose HR 543. Individuals and communities should remain free to choose their own responses to the speech problems occasioned by the internet.