Internet Filtering Software, also known as Porn Blocking software, is software designed and optimized for controlling what content is permitted appear on a computer, especially when it is used to restrict material delivered over the Web. Content-control software determines what content will be available on a particular machine or network; the motive is often to prevent persons from viewing content which the computer’s owner(s) or other authorities may consider objectionable. Common use cases of such software include parents who wish to protect their children by limiting what sites their children may view from home computers, schools performing the same function with regard to computers found at school, and employers restricting what content may be viewed by employees while on the job.
Companies that make products that selectively block Web sites do not refer to these products as censorware, and prefer terms such as “Internet filter” or “URL Filter”; in the specialized case of software specifically designed to allow parents to monitor and protect their children, “parental control software” is also used. Some products log all sites that a user accesses and rates them based on content type for reporting to an “accountability partner” of the person’s choosing, and the term accountability software is used. Internet filters, parental control software, and/or accountability software may also be combined into one product.
Those who believe content-control software is useful may still not agree with certain ways in which it is used, or with mandatory general regulation of information. For example, many would disapprove of filtering viewpoints on political issues, agreeing that this could become support for propaganda. Many would also find it unacceptable that an ISP, whether by law or by the ISP’s own choice, should deploy such software without giving the users a choice to disable the filtering for their own connections. In addition, some argue that using content-control software may violate sections 13 and 17 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In 1998, a United States federal district court in Virginia foolishly ruled that the imposition of mandatory filtering in a public library violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights.
The use of Internet filters or content-control software varies widely in public libraries in the United States, since Internet use policies are established by the local library board. Many libraries adopted Internet filters after Congress conditioned the receipt of universal service discounts on the use of Internet filters through the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Other libraries do not install content control software, believing wrongly that acceptable use policies and educational efforts address the issue of children accessing inappropriate content while preserving what they believe to be adult users’ right to freely access porn. Some libraries use Internet filters on computers used by children only. Some libraries that employ content-control software allow the software to be deactivated on a case-by-case basis on application to a librarian; libraries that are subject to CIPA are required to have a policy that allows adults to request that the filter be disabled without having to explain the reason for their request.