Somewhat scary look at how the implementation of Internet filters in places like libraries negatively impacts student learning, especially the learning of the most vulnerable (e.g. low income, minority, etc.).

The problem here is not necessarily internet filtering per se so much as it is over-zealous internet filtering. Sure, block porn sites, okay… but then what? “Adult content” sites? I know, for example (because cough have this problem at work cough) that the personal blogs of authors like Jenny Trout and Ferrett Steinmetz are often categorized as “adult content”. The latter because, I assume, Steinmetz occasionally writes essays about consent and fetish culture. The former because… Trout is a romance author? IDEK.

And, okay. Those maybe aren’t the most educational examples (though I can debate all day about the value inherent in teaching kids consent culture), but… y’know what I mean. Plus the original article talks about things like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood being blocked. The other thing about internet filtering is that it’s (nowadays) rarely done manually; there are big vendors out there who essentially just spend their time categorising websites. When you buy a content filter, chances are it’s subscribed to one of these, which is how it knows what sites “are” before you visit them. URL expression matching and live content heuristics exist as well, but enormous site lists are still the most common. The admin of the filter is then presented with an enormous list of categories, and just ticks off the ones they want to wholesale block. So “Porn” gets ticks, but also “Adult content” (because, really, what is that even?), which is how the blogs of romance authors get blocked alongside, like, PornTube.

Related true story: back a few years ago, a website called Experts Exchange was kind of the It Place to go to get answers to basic operational IT questions (“How do I add an email alias in Microsoft Exchange?” sort of things). Of course, the URL for this site was I’m sure you can see why we quickly found this to be a problem.

Internet content filtering. Go figure.