Internet hide and seek

Public schools and libraries must install Internet filtering software to protect children from viewing pornography or risk losing federal money, according to a new law Congress passed before breaking for Christmas, but the change will have minimal impact here.

Orange County Public Schools already use a server that filters content for the district's 144 schools. For its 250 computers, the Orange County Library System uses Websense software capable of blocking 60 kinds of sites, from gambling to shopping. Orange County uses Websense to filter sites that advocate illegal activity.

Library information systems manager Eric Atkinson says Websense allows the library to block only objectionable sites, although that distinction is up for debate; in the past, critics have said Websense also blocked such legitimate sites as those for that Southern Poverty Law Center and the Michigan State Laboratory of Molecular Medicine.

"People can still get to sites that have information about Middlesex, England, or pertain to breast cancer," he says.

The American Civil Liberties Union has announced it will file a lawsuit to block the new law, saying it was similar to language in the Telecommunications Act of 1998, which was eventually found to be unconstitutional.
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