Vast Active Library and Information Science blog. From a recent library science graduate in Wellington, New Zealand. A focus on reference and current awareness tools and issues, especially free, web-based resources.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Censorship in schools in hands of private company  
New Zealand state schools have been allowing their internet policies to be determined by what Russell Brown calls a fringe Christian organisation. The Fundy Post broke the story, pointing out that students at Takapuna Grammar were unable to access an anarchist website, thanks to the filtering software installed by web filtering company Watchdog. On further investigation, Watchdog also bans parody sites such as Happy Clapping Homos, a site parodying the Destiny Church, claiming that Destiny is homophobic.

Watchdog offers to ban sites that users have reported as offensive, and analyses logs of accessed sites, in order to investigate what sites should be blocked in the future.

As the Fundy Post writes: "Students can use the internet for study, but can only visit sites approved by a company run by fundamentalist Christians, who comb the records of sites visited by students to find new ones to ban and who encourage denouncement of sites they have not found themselves.".

We have a secular schooling system here. Religious schools are welcome to implement whatever filtering arrangements they want, but I don't think an overtly religious group should be filtering sites based on its own criteria.

The NZ Herald also reports that Watchdog is preventing access to sites such as GayNZ. (Interesting to note that the Herald published this story several days after Brown's story, and didn't mention the extensive coverage given by the Fundy Post).