New Internet policy blocks images

Installation of new Sno-Isle Internet filters July 1 are aimed to protect Island and Snohomish County’s children from images of sexuality, nudity, adult content and pornography.

All parents of children in the Sno-Isle Libraries received a letter explaining the new filters in June, according to Joanne Harmon, branch manager of the Freeland Library. The change was required in order to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June 2003 that libraries that do not use software to filter out pornographic Web sites when the computers are used by those 17 or younger will not receive federal funding.

Parents who have noticed the new changes in the last week and a half, Harman said, are pleased with the new filter.

“We haven’t had any complaints,” she said.

Previously Harmon said a child doing research on breast cancer or looking up a recipe with chicken breast was restricted from those Web sites because they contained the word “breast.”

With the new filter those Web sites will be allowed, but any image of a breast will not be shown.

The age of children who are restricted also dropped from 18 to 17. Parents who wish to give permission for their children to be able to have unrestricted access will not be able to do so. Previously children could have a parent sign a waiver to allow them unrestricted use.

Both the previous and current filters are made by Bess, a company that specializes in filtering Web sites for schools.

The previous filter kept children from viewing a long list of restricted items when on the Internet, including sites with references to drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography and Web-based e-mail.

Harmon hopes the new filter will be more efficient at blocking inappropriate Web images from children. Only images — instead of an entire Web site — will be blocked if they contain human sexuality, nudity, adult content and pornography.

The new system is not compatible with the popular search engine Google. Children using Google will be prohibited from accessing Web sites containing the four restricted types of images.

All computers will be installed with a basic filtering system, Harmon said. Only an adult can request access to unfiltered Internet. The computers in or near the children’s areas will have a permanent enhanced filtering, which will also block Web-based e-mail and sites featuring hate, discrimination, weapons, violence and games.

“Up to this point we don’t even notice a difference,” Harmon said about the public’s usage of the computers. “I don’t anticipate it’s going to be that big or a problem.”

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