Stevens: Tie the tubes

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who thinks the Internet is a “series of tubes,” wants the feds to require schools and libraries to ban access to interactive sites, such as MySpace — and possibly Wikipedia and blogs. Computerworld reports:

Early in January, Stevens introduced Senate bill 49, which among other things, would require that any school or library that gets federal Internet subsidies would have to block access to interactive Web sites, including social networking sites, and possibly blogs as well. It appears that the definition of those sites is so vague that it could include sites such as Wikipedia, according to commentators.

You’d think school officials and librarians could make this call without federal direction.

In Connecticut, a substitute teacher faces a maximum 40-year prison sentence because students saw pornographic pop-ups on the classroom computer, which had no firewall or spyware protection. Although the sub, who’d been told not to turn off the computer, ran to the teachers’ lounge to seek help in closing the windows and tried to keep students away from the screen, she was convicted of four counts of “risking injury to a child.”

If this miscarriage of justice isn’t reversed, teachers and librarians will be turning off computers without a federal law.

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  1. wayne martin says:

    Folks interested in sharing with the good senator their views on this proposal can drop him at line at:

  2. I suppose Senator Stevens doesn’t know about the rapid proliferation of municipal wireless broadband projects. I wonder how he proposes to tie off that pipe when access becomes ubiquitous?

  3. Miller Smith says:

    In PG County, MD, we were told back in the 2001-2002 school year that the teacher was respondsible for any illicit content that showed up on a screen. We have a good firewall but he kids know how to use proxy servers to get around it. They are good at that.

    When I caught kids doing this I cut them off for the rest of the year from the internet. I boot the computers for the day and then pull the router’s power supply and ethernet cables so we can use them for programs on the computer…and nothing else.

    Now no one wants to have the computer.

  4. wayne martin says:

    > Amero now faces up to 40 years of jail time for pornographic
    > pop-ups that appeared on a computer she was using in a
    > classroom—pop-ups that she and her lawyers argue were
    > a result of spy and adware on the computer, out-of-date
    > virus software, and an expired firewall license—the perfect
    > storm for pornographic pop-ups, all on a Windows 98
    > machine running Internet Explorer 5.

    And there are those who wonder why intelligent, rational, capable people don’t want to teach in the public school system. To make this even more maddening is that there are many libraries which will not install filters, claiming that the libraries support free speech—including pornography.

    It would be very interesting to learn how this incident came to the attention of the District Attorney’s Office and why the DA chose to prosecute this substitute teacher.

  5. In my (university) department, we closed the computer lab for several days when students were caught downloading pornographic content on it.

    We have a “use policy” that I understand all the students are issued, and there are certain things (like using the Internet to threaten people, downloading porn or malicious software onto campus computers, etc.,) that are grounds for the students being banned from the computers.

    But when people still violate those rules, we found that cutting EVERYONE off for a few days seemed to help…positive peer pressure can be a good thing.

    I dunno. I don’t think it’s too much to ban a student from using computers if they’ve been shown to be abusing the privelige. If it means they have to find a typewriter to work up their essays, so be it. (Or campuses could have some old grotty computers with word processing software but no Internet capability.)

  6. Indigo Warrior says:

    In a case such as this, there is little that schools or teachers can do to make sure only the “good side”, as defined by someone, of the Web gets through onto school computers. Perhaps the idea of cutting off all students’ internet access for any violation is the best one. It sure beats making the teacher into a scapegoat over something which she has no power.

    (Though in the Connecticut case, if the student happened to be a skinny 16 year old white male in a black trenchcoat downloading material on guns and bombs – the outcome would have been very different.)

    The parents are to blame. Not all parents, but a hysterical minority so paranoid about porn, or drugs, or violence and “hate”, or Satan or other forms of religious unorthodoxy, or whatever bete du jour comes into their little minds. I’m not saying any of this stuff is good, but its badness must be taken into perspective. Are modern children so sexually hung-up that a glimpse of a woman’s bare breasts on a web site would make them into the next John Wayne Gacy? These types of parents are usually the ones who snuck a copy of Playboy or the Bhagavad-Gita in their lockers during their school time. And they also overestimate the harm done by bad-things-on-media (books, games, internet, movies, music) and understimate bad-things-done-in-person.

  7. Miller Smith writes:
    > Now no one wants to have the computer.

    not so certain that this is a good measure of success. For instance replace “illicit content” with “illicit book” and “computer” with “library” just to calibrate.

  8. I would really like to know how the police technical guy determined that it was the substitute teacher who clicked the mouse to get onto the porn site. Fingerprints?

    A competent defense attorney should have been able to tear that one apart.

  9. Twilloo: I have to assume that the DA managed to exclude everyone who knew anything at all about computers from the jury. And lots of defense attorneys don’t know how to conduct a trial…


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