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Internet filters: More than annoying

Posted by on Sep 22, 2014 in Blog, Broadcast, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Visual Reporting, Yearbook | 0 comments


by John Bowen
sprclogoTo raise awareness of overly restrictive blocking in schools and school libraries of legitimate, educational websites and academically useful social networking tools, The American Association of School Librarians has designated Wednesday, Sept. 24 as Banned Websites Awareness Day.

AASL asked school librarians and other educators to promote an awareness of how overly restrictive filtering affects student learning as part of Banned Books Week.

As part of that recognition, JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights committee will conduct a national survey of the impact of Internet filters beginning that day and last a week. We invite you and your students to take part in the survey by going to and accessing the survey information there.

The commission asks students and advisers to test their Internet filters to see if their filtering goes beyond what filters are charged with blocking by the Children’s Internet Protection Act as numerous studies and groups have argued. BWAD-2014_webbadge

When information has been gathered, SPRC will report on the survey’s results and share that data.

Please check the committee’s website, its Facebook page or JEA’s Facebook page Sept. 24 for access to the survey.


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A ray of hope: Missouri school’s Internet filter use leads to viewpoint discrimination

Posted by on Feb 22, 2012 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments





by Megan Fromm

SPRC board members hear it time and time again.  The biggest threat to a responsible, educated, well-rounded student media these days just might not be the principal.

Instead, Internet filters make it next to impossible for student journalists to conduct research and adapt their products to an online world.

As educators, we know Internet filtering is unnecessary, detrimental and misserves our students who must learn to responsibly engage in and contribute to a digital world.

Last week, hope arrived in the form of a Missouri federal district court ruling. The verdict:  A state school district must stop censoring content related to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community via its Internet filtering software.

Viewpoint discrimination means blocking one side of a topic or issue. Thus a gay porn site is not the equivalent of an anti-gay church site. See the discussion in the court’s decision.

The SPRC is ready to take on the challenging of unlocking the Internet for our students, and we’ve gathered a team to begin doing just that.

While we are still in the planning stages, we hope you’ll consider how you can contribute to the cause in ways big or small.

Have an idea? Let us know.  Make a suggestion.  Give us feedback.  There is no time like the present to make our voices heard on such an important issue.

Internet filtering team plan of action:

  • Educate ourselves.
    –Find out the scope of the problem. How many schools have filters? Do student journalists get unrestricted access? What are the biggest flaws in the filtering software?
  • Document the problem.
    –Where are the success stories? Who is currently fighting this fight? How does it hurt our students, not just student journalists? What are the attitudes toward filtering?
  • Educate others.
    –Develop a plan to educate decision-makers that Internet filters don’t have to be at maximum restriction. Show that lifting filters has educational value.
    –Improve public awareness on how filters harm more than help.
    –Educate others that internet filters are an almost insurmountable obstacle to teaching the responsible use of social media and technology.
  • Identify partners.
    –Who can help get our message across?
  • Go big.
    –How can we take this to a national scale?

You can also help us identify schools where Internet filters create instances of viewpoint discrimination by blocking one side of a topic or issue. For example, school Internet filters have been know to block the pro side of sex education and contraception while allowing access to the other point of view.

If you or your students have experienced this viewpoint discrimination, please send the following information to :

Name of student media (or individual name if individual research)
School name (and city/state)
Name of site blocked
URL of site blocked
Name of site unblocked (for viewpoint comparison)

URL of topic site that was unblocked (for viewpoint comparison)
Filtering system your school uses

Next: Journalism lessons for this week and beyond

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#sjw11: Tear down this wall…

Posted by on Feb 19, 2011 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


Looming large in the news this past week has been the role the Internet played in Egyptian protests.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lauded the Internet’s role in the spread of democracy.

“For the United States, the choice is clear,” Clinton said. “On the spectrum of Internet freedom, we place ourselves on the side of openness. Now, we recognize that an open Internet comes with challenges. It calls for ground rules to protect against wrongdoing and harm. And Internet freedom raises tensions, like all freedoms do. But we believe the benefits far exceed the costs.”

Despite her comments Feb. 15 at George Washington University, perhaps the secretary does not examine the costs a group of U.S. citizens pay because many cannot exercise Internet use for educational revolution and growth, too.

Our high school students.

“Together, the freedoms of expression, assembly and association online comprise what I’ve called the freedom to connect,” Clinton said. “The United States supports this freedom for people everywhere, and we have called on other nations to do the same. Because we want people to have the chance to exercise this freedom. We also support expanding the number of people who have access to the internet.”

As we support protesters around the world as they fight for freedom, we should also help our students protest against overly restrictive Internet filters that arbitrarily wall out information that should be open to all.

Perhaps Ronald Reagan said it best when he said, “Tear down this wall” so others could experience the promise of democratic freedom.

It’s time to tear down another wall.

The Internet firewall.

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