Filtering Gets an Epic Fail

There is a new post on Library Garden that sums up every reason why filters in our public schools (and often in public libraries) get an epic fail. Epic. Fail.

Most of the stories I have heard from school librarians involving filtering have absolutely nothing to do with protecting children against things obscene and everything to do with filtering things that are simply unknown. WordPress = unknown, bad. Search engines in general = unknown, bad. flickr – unknown, bad.

The best line from the post is from a survey:

Teaching students about internet safety in a highly filtered environment is like teaching kids to swim in a pool without water.

–Jane, is filtered

2 thoughts on “Filtering Gets an Epic Fail

  • September 30, 2009 at 10:53 am
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    Most of the stories I have heard from school librarians involving filtering have absolutely nothing to do with protecting children against things obscene and everything to do with filtering things that are simply unknown. WordPress = unknown, bad. Search engines in general = unknown, bad. flickr – unknown, bad.

    How do you back up this statement other than with “Stories I have heard.” I do quite a bit of research in this area and this runs counter to everything I know about filtering and even filtering in public libraries. Other than a cute quote there doesn’t seem to be anything to backup a fairly outrageous claim at all. What you are saying is that filtering to protect children is simply an excuse to censor legitimate parts of the internet. Also, no filters that I know of would be able to block all wordpress blogs without blocking every category that people use WordPress to write about.

  • September 30, 2009 at 7:32 pm
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    As I said, and as you point out, my experience with filtering is either personal or anecdotal from speaking with other librarians and teachers who work in schools and public libraries. Filtering in school is a little bit different than in public libraries, but the concept is similar.

    To answer your question about WordPress, it is very easy to filter all sites in a given domain. For instance, any domain that has “wordpress” in it would be filtered and that would eliminate the ability to look at any blog on the WordPress.com platform. Many school filters are the kind where everything but approved sites are filtered. This means that a website must be entered in a database by an actual person or come preloaded as approved in the software. For teachers and librarians, this means that to get a single website on the approved list and through the filter they have to send a written appeal to an IT person, who often has no education background and for whom this unblocking is a low priority. I worked with a group of librarians in New York who had to apply to the superintendent of their school district if they wanted a website blocked. The Superintendent!

    My opinion about filters is based on work in the actual trenches and not on quantitative research, I admit. I do not think that all filters are bad, just liberally applied to the detriment of students and teachers.

    Because you put forth the belief that only quantitative research has meaning, please share some hard facts to support your claim.

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