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Hi Folks.

(Spelling modified to try to get through filters)

Well, yesterday was a bit of a turning point for me in this entire saga of
trying to deal with Internet filtering. There has not yet been a vote on the
Oregon bill that would have required filtering in public libraries, but the
representative who requested my appearance at the hearing told me that it
was now "dead without even a whimper."

This was a one-two punch. The state legislative counsel had been telling the
committee all along that the bill was unconstitutional. And he repeated this
position assertively at the hearing. But even with prior statements, last
week member of the committee was quoted in a news story saying, "I
understand the constitutional concerns, But how can you vote against
filtering. It would be like voting against motherhood and apple pie." This
was the perspective that I was focusing on changing.

In brief, I told the committee that this bill represented nothing more than
a false promise. I quoted Richard Thornburgh on this, from the preface of
the NRC report, Youth, P00rn00graphy and the Internet, and indicated that I
did not think Thornburgh was a card-carrying member of the ACLU. Thornburgh
made some nice statements about technological quick fixes that are being
used as surrogates for training and supervision. Really powerful statements.

Then I referred to the Kaiser Family Foundation study which revealed that
under conditions simulating intentional access, filtering fail 10% of the
time and under conditions simulating accidental access, they failed 38% of
the time. There were some middle school students in the hearing room on a
field trip to the capitol. I turned to them and asked, "How long would it
take you at an unsupervised computer to try 20 p00rn site links to find the
1 or 2 that were not blocked. Their answers were 5 to 15 minutes. Got the
committee's attention.

The author of the bill had presented amendments trying to address the
constitutional concerns. These amendments sought more specificity in the
definition of szually ezplict. Clearly, the language of the bill itself
would have been blocked by most filters. I told the committee that this
reflected a vast misunderstanding about filtering because they could fiddle
all they wanted with the language related to what should be blocked, but the
decisions were out of their hands and into the hands of private commercial
companies that had their own standards of what should be blocked --
standards and criteria that are retained as confidential trade secret

I only briefly touched on the concerns of overblocking based on viewpoint
discrimination in the context of the lack of disclosure and public

It is my perspective that folks trying to prevent filtering too often focus
on overblocking. The response to this by more conservative folks is that it
is OK that some stuff is blocked if the products are working to protect
kids. So my focus is on the fact that we are not protecting kids, we are
creating false security and complacency for parents, and there is no public
disclosure and accountability with the use of these products in public
institutions. I strongly emphasize the importance of encouraging engaged
parenting and transmitting to youth the values, knowledge, and skills so
that they can make safe and responsible choices.

It is hard for conservative folks to assail someone strongly emphasizing
engaged parenting and values. Then again, after I presented, a man wearing a
big, gaudy tie with the American Flag on it came up to me and, in the
presence of my 3 children (11, 9, and 7), said, "All you want to do is to
let kids access p00rn on the Internet." Well, OK I did not get through to
everyone. ;-) But I was extremely pleased to see the very worried looks on
the faces of the group of conservative religious folks who were in the
hearing championing the bill. This round went to me.

If anyone is interested in receiving a copy of my written testimony, please
do not hesitate to ask. If you are in a state that has a bill pending
requiring filtering, I would be very happy to work with local folks in
providing recommendations for how to defeat such legislation.


Nancy Willard, M.S., J.D.

Center for Advanced Technology in Education
University of Oregon, College of Education

Responsible Netizen Institute

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