Lawmakers force schools to filter Internet

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congress passed a bill in December requiringmany elementary and secondary schools and public libraries receiving federaltechnology funds to install Internet filters on their computers.

The Children’s Internet Protection Act, introduced in the Senate bySens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rick Santorum, R-Pa., was included in amassive spending package that Congress passed before recessing for theyear. Reps. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., and Charles Pickering, R-Miss., arethe House sponsors.

President Clinton, though historically opposed to mandatory Internetfilters, signed the $450 billion federal spending bill Dec. 21.

The measure cleared the Senate in June after being attached to HR 4577,the spending bills for the Departments of Labor, Education, and Healthand Human Services.

The bill has provoked an interesting combination of opponents, fromthe American Civil Liberties Union to the Christian Coalition to companiesthat sell blocking software. All opponents say the bill is a bad way toteach children responsible Internet use.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., is on record opposing the bill, but few otherlegislators joined him. He opposes all mandatory filters, advocating insteadprovisions that would require Internet providers to distribute filteringsoftware free or at production cost.

The ACLU has vowed to fight the bill’s requirement that blocking softwarebe installed on public libraries in court. Another filtering opponent,Peacefire,has released a program it says “can disable all popular Windows censorwarewith the click of a button.”