Excessive Internet Filtering

Causing More Harm than Good

“Over-filtering blocks access to legitimate educational resources, and consequently reduces access to information and learning opportunities for students,”

- Barbara Stripling, ALA president

In an attempt to prevent access to potentially inappropriate online materials, schools often block more than is required by law. A recent report released by the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) and the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), (written by OITP consultant Kristen Batch), "Fencing out Knowledge: Impacts of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) 10 Years Later” finds that the over-implementation of CIPA ("over-filtering") in schools may impact learning and teaching, may create digital divides and threatens the intellectual freedom of students and teachers.

Motivations for filters may include:
  • security and safety concerns
  • pressures from parents
  • fear of litigation
  • lack of awareness of educational value of online resources
  • concerns over potentially distracting materials

Other factors contributing to the (intentional or unintentional) over-implementation of CIPA include:

  • misinterpretation of the law
  • different perceptions of filtering
  • various limitations of filtering software

Impact on Learning

Excessive filtering may hamper the ability of students to develop critical thinking skills, creative ideas and products, and to collaborate and share. Restricted internet access may also prevent students from learning real-world technology skills that will be useful, if not necessary, for success in future careers.

Digital Divide
Students of low-socioeconomic status may be affected the most by internet filtering. Students who do not have internet access or access to participatory Web 2.0 tools at home may be missing out on learning fundamental 21st century technology skills that more privileged students have the ability to learn with the use of unfiltered home computers. It is important for schools (school libraries especially) to provide safe access to online resources to prevent a digital divide.

Advocating for Access

Educators have the responsibility of advocating for access to appropriate internet resources that are necessary for 21st century teaching and learning. State and district administrators must be educated as to the value of these tools for supporting national and state educational technology standards and developing information literacy. Professionals, such as school media specialists, will play a critical role in protecting intellectual freedom by promoting the educational potential of online resources and Web 2.0 technologies, improving acceptable use policies and raising awareness of the detriments of over-filtering.


Access Denied: How Internet Filters Impact Student Learning in High Schools

A Google E-Book that provides information to be considered by policy makers when making difficult decisions regarding internet filtering.

Fencing out Knowledge: Impacts of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) 10 Years Later”

A report released by the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) and the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), and written by OITP consultant Kristen Batch,

Internet Filtering 2.0: Checking Intellectual Freedom and Participative Practices at the Schoolhouse Door


The article focuses on the use of Web 2.0 participatory tools and sites in schools in the U.S. The landscape of Web 2.0 allows youth to exercise their First Amendment rights as it serves as a means to express ideas. Social media sites are considered as the only source containing information that informs a decision about various issues assigned by a student's teacher. It is also considered that the Web 2.0 tools prepare children for the world beyond the classroom.

Technology in Schools Still Subject to Digital, Income Divides
This article discusses the impact of unequal technology access.

Big image
Image retrieved from PBS.org
The YouTube video below is an introduction and overview of Revisiting the Children’s Internet Protection Act: 10 Years Later, an interactive session that was held during the 2014 American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia.
Introduction and Overview of CIPA 10 Years Later

Quotes on the Issue...

“Today’s over-implementation of internet filtering requirements have not evolved in the past decade to account for the proliferation of online collaborative tools and social networks that allow online students to both consume and produce content,”
-Courtney Young, ALA president-elect.

From the ALA report, “Fencing out Knowledge: Impacts of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) 10 Years Later...

“Given increased demand and the mission to provide free and open access to information for all, libraries find that Internet filtering poses fundamental challenges to intellectual freedom."

"Internet filtering in schools and libraries is excessive and limits student learning, hurting low-income kids the most."

“Filtering beyond CIPA’s requirements results in critical missed opportunities to prepare students to be responsible users, consumers, and producers of online content and resources.”

“Limits on access to the wide range of internet-based resources during students’ formative years are closing doors to future opportunity.”

“Filtering also conflicts directly with core professional values of librarians as articulated in ALA’s Library Bill of Rights."