The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would force schools and libraries to block chat and social networking sites as a condition of receiving federal E-rate funding.
This bill goes far beyond the already broad mandate that requires schools and libraries to filter out obscenity and â€œharmful-to-minorsâ€? content and would block access to many legal and valuable web sites and Internet tools. Because chat and social networking are woven into the fabric of Internet communication, a huge range of sites may be declared off limits in libraries and schools.
The bill appoints the Federal Communications Commission as the arbiter of what can and cannot be accessed in libraries around the country, meaning that for the first time, the federal government would be getting into the business of evaluating and screening wholly lawful Internet content.
While I’m all for filters to screen out the porn and gambling and other garbage from public internet sources, it does not seem fair or in the best interest of free speech and communication to restrict libraries and schools from social networking and chat and the many, many sites which have these features. When I go to the library, I see a lot of people typing away on blogs or in other social networking sites. A lot of these people appear to be teenagers who may not have internet access at home, or simply people without the money to afford internet access. These restrictions do indeed seem overly broad.