Searching in the Dark

Net Filtering Software Censors Much More Than Porn

"Almost all of these products have a political agenda," says Wallace. "With some of them, it's more balanced, but still it's de facto censorship: letting one point of view through and blocking another."

So far, legal judgments have favored Censorware's position that enforced use of these products, at least in libraries, is unconstitutional. In Loudoun, Virginia, where the library board had mandated the use of filters on terminals in the adult section, a federal judge ruled that this violated the First Amendment. "We were beaten like a rented mule on this lawsuit," a town trustee told the Washington Times. In Livermore, California, a mother sued the library for providing unfiltered Net access, which her son used to download porn. She lost too, though she has appealed.

Despite this unfavorable legal atmosphere, Congress is still attempting to mandate filtering in schools and libraries as a prerequisite for receiving funding in the bill pushed by Senator McCain.

In the early days of the Net, cybergurus were fond of claiming that the Internet sees censorship as damage and routes around it. So far, this holds true—but many powerful forces are working against it. How free information remains—particularly information that contradicts government perspectives on drug policy—is an open question.

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