What exactly are Internet "filters" and when is their use appropriate?
Filters are software that can be installed along with a Web browser to block access to certain Web sites that include inappropriate or offensive material. For example, parents may choose to install filters on their children's computers in order to prevent them from viewing sites that contain pornography or other problematic material. ADL has developed the HateFilter?, a filter that blocks access to Web sites that advocate hatred, bigotry, or violence towards Jews or other groups on the basis of their religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or other immutable characteristics. HateFilter?, which can be downloaded from ADL's Web site, contains a "redirect" feature that offers users who try to access a blocked site the chance to link directly to related ADL educational material. The voluntary use of filtering software in private institutions or by parents in the home does not violate the First Amendment because such use involves no government action. There are also some commercially marketed filters that focus on offensive words and phrases. Such filters, which are not site-based, are designed primarily to screen out obscene and pornographic material.
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