Chapter 23. Pornography, Filtering Software, and Censorship

As the Web has grown from an academic experiment to a mass medium, parents, politicians, totalitarian rulers, and demagogues have all looked for ways of controlling the information that it contains. What’s behind these attempts at control?

  • Some people believe that explicit information on the Web about sex and sexuality, drugs, and similar themes is inappropriate for younger people—or for society at large.

  • Some politicians believe that writings advocating hate crimes should be banned.

  • Some leaders believe that information about free elections, democratic political systems, or successful liberal economies may be destabilizing to their regimes.

  • Some special interest groups have sought to limit discussion of religion, ethnic concerns, historical accounts (some of contested accuracy), gender-specific issues, medical procedures, economic material, and a host of other materials.

It is nearly impossible to impose worldwide controls on the creation of content, and on a global network such as the Internet, it will always be possible for those wishing to publish material to find a place to put it. As a consequence, people and organizations trying to suppress the dissemination of information have focused their efforts on programs that automatically detect objectionable content and block it from the end user. This technology is typically called filtering software , blocking software, or occasionally, censorware.

Pornography Filtering

The ...

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