Censorware is a term used pejoratively to describe software that filters out undesirable Web sites or content. Examples include Cybersitter, N2H2, Netnanny, Surfwatch, and Wisechoice. This kind of software is designed to restrict an individual's ability to send or receive certain types of information, and for that reason its use (in public libraries, for example) is a contentious issue. Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) argue that the use of censorware conflicts with individual rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association, as mandated by the United States constitution.
There are a number of problems with censorware, quite apart from the question of whether or not it infringes upon individual rights to access to information. Censorware blocks certain Web site categories and also uses language-based criteria to define undesirable content. Given the ambiguous nature of isolated parts of speech, words and phrases that are deemed unacceptable in one context may be completely innocuous in another. Such ambiguity can lead to innocent material being blocked , or conversely, offensive material passing through the program's filters. In 2000, the Digital Freedom Network (DFN), an Internet rights organization, hosted a contest for the most ludicrous example of censorware at work. The contest winner was a student who was denied access to his high school's web site from within the school's library because his search term included the word "high."
Bobson Wong, DFN's executive director, maintains that parents should supervise their children rather than counting on censorware to do it for them. According to Wong, "The bottom line is that filtering software is no substitute for human judgment."
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In addition to this blog, Netiquette IQ has a website with great assets which are being added to on a regular basis. I have authored the premiere book on Netiquette, “Netiquette IQ - A Comprehensive Guide to Improve, Enhance and Add Power to Your Email". My new book, “You’re Hired! Super Charge Your Email Skills in 60 Minutes. . . And Get That Job!” has just been published and will be followed by a trilogy of books on Netiquette for young people. You can view my profile, reviews of the book and content excerpts at:
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I am the president of Tabula Rosa Systems, a “best of breed” reseller of products for communications, email, network management software, security products and professional services. Also, I am the president of Netiquette IQ. We are currently developing an email IQ rating system, Netiquette IQ, which promotes the fundamentals outlined in my book.
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