Saint John the Baptist as a Child by Caravaggio

When Senator John McCain introduced the Children's Internet Protection Act to the 106th Congress, he probably didn't say "let's censor!" He and supporters of the bill are only trying to prevent the following scenario:

Let's say a child is browsing the Web at his local library looking for sites about Harry Potter- no, let's not go there; that's another story for another time.

Let's say a child is at the library dutifully preparing for a civics class project and wants to check up on the president. So he types in the browser. Well, low and behold, he's found information about interns- hot, sexy interns. Instantly, the child is viewing bodily parts he hasn't seen since he was a thirsty baby, and lots of them, and other things, too.

The studious child realizes he must have made a wrong turn, so without delay, he closes the window (and his mouth) and types in the browser.

"Aha," he says, "this must be the right place." It looks very official. He reads the news headlines. One says, "Decree: Taliban to be Replaced By Congressional Democrats."

"Hm, that doesn't sound quite right," he thinks, so he reads some other headlines like "Learn How God is Going to Defeat Allah" and realizes there's something fishy about this site.

He finally arrives at his destination when he types in, but in a matter of minutes, he's already been schooled in some subjects that his teacher didn't have in mind when she assigned the project.

The Internet is full of sites that aren't considered to be appropriate viewing for youth, and most people agree that children should not view them; whether the child intentionally was looking for hot interns or just stumbled upon them is incidental. Enter McCain and the Children's Internet Protection Act.

In a press release, McCain said, "parents can protect their children from Internet smut at home, but have no control over the computers at school. This legislation allows local communities to decide what technology they want to use and what to filter out so that our children's minds aren't polluted. Parents have the right to know that their children are safe from computer smut when they are at school, or the public library."

Essentially, the act, S. 97, says that libraries and schools who receive E-rate funding have to install Internet filters on their computers by July 1, 2002 or else they don't get the money. Internet filters are designed to prevent the above scenario from happening by blocking out certain sites. This in itself is a form of censorship, but the biggest problem that most critics have with the act is that the Internet filtering technology doesn't seem to be very effective.

Internet Filters

Author Bibliography Awareness Precedent Internet Filters Censorship