|Chapter 2:||Framing the question: A review of the relevant literature|
The earlier NTIA reports (1995, 1998, 1999, 2000) indicate the role that libraries play in bridging the digital divide is of primary importance. The public library may be the only access that the poorest of the poor have to information that is published electronically. Implications of the digital divide come into play in this study of Internet filters in high school media centers. Poor, non-white children are much more likely to rely on libraries, especially school libraries, for Internet access. When that access is filtered to a less than comprehensive version of the Internet, the question becomes, what is being left out? Filtering companies offer blocking for many categories of subject material other than the illegal categories of obscenity, child pornography, and “materials harmful to minors.” Moral and political viewpoints are often commonly blocked such as information on homosexuality, sex education in general, gun control, smoking, hate speech, abortion, and contraception. Thus, poor children who have no other recourse than library computers are blocked from accessing information that they need and have every legal right to obtain, because someone thought they were “safer” without it. In my study, one research question will consider to what extent students are affected by the limitations imposed by a mandatory filtering system that provides less than comprehensive access to Internet resources.
How Filters Work
For the purposes of this study, filtering technology is defined as commercial computer software that limits, blocks, or restricts access to Internet content. Filters block access to Internet content that has been pre-determined to be objectionable or inappropriate.