Abstract: This paper deals with the ethical and social implications inherent in filtering content online. As exposure to the Internet penetrates deeper into mainstream lives across all demographic groups, there has been increased concern about the ability of children to obtain access to printed and graphic material believed to be detrimental to their development and/or well-being. Not only could this material be argued to be damaging, it could possibly lead children to act violently or maliciously towards others. Proponents of filtering objectionable content argue that through such means society will be able to utilize the power of the Internet to acquire information, while still adhering to certain community values regarding the
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Previous means of mass communication and access, such as television and radio, were quickly regulated by a government agency, the Federal Communications Commission, to protect the "decency" of content that could be broadcast to the public. Challenges to certain restrictions this agency has imposed have occurred during the lifespan of the technology; however the high startup and maintenance costs involved with radio and television have resulted in a mainstream media that generally complies with the governmental decrees. The Internet, however, is a new medium which gives individuals with modest to little means the ability to broadcast their message on a global scale. Previous rules regarding content on radio and television do not apply online, and, as a consequence, efforts by some to extend traditional regulations to the Internet have been lauded by some and challenged by others. This paper addresses the controversy over Internet content filtering, especially as it relates to children.
Let us focus on this controversy as it applies to children, and consider the needs of parents to restrict their children's access to objectionable content online. Most people agree that children should be protected from exposure to overt sexuality, or messages of hate by extremist groups. Recently there has also been concern about children's access to web