A discussion of the Children's Internet Protection Act ("CIPA"). Educators armed with accurate information about CIPA can use this information to fight over-broad filtering policies in their districts.
Understanding CIPA to Fight the Filter Mark E. Moran CEO, Dulcinea Media Updated March 5, 2012
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Children’s Internet Protection Act A federal law adopted and administered by the FCC Applicable only to schools and libraries that get Internet funding from the E-rate program Only penalty for non-compliance – school loses E-Rate funding.FCC’s Summary Page:http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/cipa.htmlFCC’s Release Adopting the Rules for CIPAwww.e-ratecentral.com/CIPA/fcc_01_120.pdf
CIPA Requirements Schools must certify they have an Internet safety policy that includes technology protection measures. The protection measures must block or filter Internet access to pictures that are: (a) obscene, (b) child pornography, or (c) harmful to minors (for computers that are accessed by minors). Schools may disable the blocking or filtering measure during any use by an adult to enable access for bona fide research. Example: a teacher wants to read Alex Haley’s historic interviews on Playboy.com
Requirements (cont’d)Schools must adopt & enforce a policy to monitor minors online.Must adopt and implement an Internet safety policy addressing:(e)access by minors to inappropriate matter;(f)safety and security of minors when using e-mail & chat rooms(g)unauthorized access;(h)unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of personalinformation; and(i)measures restricting minors’ access to harmful materialsCIPA contemplated that “harmful to minors” would be determinedby each district, but FCC rules do not mandate this. Proposedrevisions to rules would require it.
Requirements (cont’d)Statutory definitions of harmful to minors: any picture, image,graphic image file, or other visual depiction that(A) taken as a whole and with respect to minors, appeals to aprurient interest in nudity, sex, or excretion;(B) depicts, describes, or represents, in a patently offensive waywith respect to what is suitable for minors, an actual or simulatedsexual act or sexual contact, actual or simulated normal orperverted sexual acts, or a lewd exhibition of the genitals; and(C) taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, orscientific value as to minors.
No Certification of Effectiveness of FilterFCC specifically refused to require certification of filtereffectiveness, saying that such imposing a requirement; “does notcomport with our goal of minimizing the burden we place onschools and libraries.”“We presume Congress did not intend to penalize recipients thatact in good faith & in a reasonable manner to implementavailable technology protection measures.” (Emphasis added)
FCC Does Not Police Filtering Practices FCC noted that an ineffective filter could “engender concern of parents of students.” FCC presumed "we will rarely, if ever, be called upon to look beyond th(e) certification.” We have found no evidence that the FCC has ever brought an action against a school alleging that the school’s filter was ineffective. However, note that, aside from CIPA, if an educator were to display material on a computer that was patently inappropriate for minors, then other criminal or disciplinary laws could apply.
FCC: Social Media Need Not Be Blocked FTC, August 2011: “Although it is possible that certain individual Facebook or MySpace pages could potentially contain material harmful to minors, we do not find that these websites are per se ‘harmful to minors’ or fall into one of the categories that schools and libraries must block.” Declaring such sites categorically harmful to minors would be inconsistent with the Protecting Children in the Twenty-First Century Act’s focus on “educating minors about appropriate on- line behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms, and cyberbullying awareness and response.” http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-11-125A1.doc
FCC Implements Protecting Children ActUnder The Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, a schoolreceiving e-Rate funding must certify to the FCC that it iseducating minors about appropriate online behavior, includinginteracting with other individuals on social networking websites andin chat rooms, and cyberbullying awareness and response.As the FCC alludes in its comments on the prior slide - how can aschool educate students about appropriate use of socialnetworking websites if those sites are entirely blocked in school?
Over-Filtering May Be UnconstitutionalLawyer Nancy Willard notes that the implementation of CIPA wasreviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court. In her view, districts thatimplement the use of filtering in a manner that places a substantialburden on student access to constitutionally protected materialmay be violating a students constitutional rights.In February 2012, a federal judge issued an injunction barring aMissouri school district from allowing its Internet filters to blockwebsites that offer positive viewpoints on gay people.Nancy E. Willard, Safe and Responsible Use of the Internet: A Guide for Educators, citingUnited States v. American Library Association, No. 02-361 In the Supreme Court of the UnitedStates. (June 23, 2003)http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/02pdf/02-361.pdfhttp://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/school_law/2012/02/injunction_bars_school_filteri.html
How to Avoid Over-FilteringWillard recommend that districts should, among other things:Have administrators determine what material should be blocked,not technology personnel or the filtering companyBlock only the categories necessary to be blocked under CIPAEstablish effective procedures for teachers to rapidly override thefilter when it is blocking access to educational materialEstablish procedures to allow students to anonymously request asite be overridden to allow for access to sensitive material
Teachers Overriding Filters In many school districts, the filter enables teachers to have passwords that permit them to override the filter to access certain blocked Websites. For example, while many school districts block YouTube because a small portion of its content may be considered harmful to minors, many school districts also have a policy that permits teachers to override the filter to access and display educational videos on YouTube, and similar sites. We have not uncovered any persuasive argument that such a policy violates CIPA, and find no evidence that the FCC has any interest in bringing an action alleging that it does.
CIPA ResourcesUnquiet Library’s outstanding collection of resources on CIPA:http://www.theunquietlibrary.libguides.com/fight-the-filterDoug Johnson on 7 Steps to Take to Fight Filters:http://doug-johnson.squarespace.com/blue-skunk-blog/2009/7/24/censorshipMindShift: Straight from DOE Dispelling Myths About Blocked Siteshttp://mindshift.kqed.org/tag/cipa/Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Usehttp://www.cyberbully.org