Netsweeper, used in schools and libraries, filters out Web content related to Wicca or Native American faiths.
Anaka Hunter, a resident of Salem, Missouri, went to her local public library and attempted to do some Internet research about Native American spiritualities. She was astounded when she found that Web sites with that kind of content were blocked by the Internet-filtering software used by the library, Netsweeper.
When Hunter complained to the head librarian, she was told that the library had no control over what ideas were blocked by Netsweeper. She complained to the library’s board of directors, but they blew her off. So she took it to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is now suing the city of Salem, the city’s library system, and the library board.
All three are being charged with “unconstitutionally blocking access to websites discussing minority religions by improperly classifying them as ‘occult’ or ‘criminal,'” according to the ACLU.
As I’ve mentioned before, net-filtering software is notorious for trying to make minority faiths of all kinds invisible. Earlier this year, Gainesville students complained when they discovered they couldn’t look up information on Falun Dafa/Falun Gong. I figured it wouldn’t be long before the ACLU got involved.
Interestingly, Jason Pitzl-Waters at The Wild Hunt points out that ‘net-filtering software can trace its origins to the Christian market. This selfsame software was then sold to schools, libraries, and other publicly funded agencies — where such discrimination is much more of a sticky wicket.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. In the meantime, readers, how would you feel if your religious beliefs were blacked out by Internet-filtering software used in schools, libraries, etc.? Are there any such religions you think should be made invisible to the kids and adults using public terminals?