Kaiser Family Foundation Study Examines How School Filters Impact on Access to Health Information
In a review of the Internet filtering products most commonly used by
schools, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation said December 10 that the
products did not significantly impede access to online health
information, but only when not set at their most restrictive levels.
The study, conducted by Dr. Caroline Richardson of the University of
Michigan Medical School and Dr. Paul Resnick of the university's School
of Information, involved online searches of 24 health topics and six
pornographic terms using six different search engines. The 3,000 health
sites and 500 pornography sites that were retrieved through the searches
were then tested against six common filters: 8e6, CyberPatrol, N2H2,
SmartFilter, Symantec and Websense.
At the least restrictive level, the study found that the filters
incorrectly blocked an average of just 1.4 percent of health sites.
However, when filters were configured at their most restrictive level,
they blocked 24 percent of health sites. The study found that the amount
of pornographic content that was blocked was found to increase only
marginally, from 87 percent when set at the least restrictive
configuration to 91 percent when set at the most restrictive. The
study's authors consulted with 20 school districts and libraries around
the country to discuss how they were configuring their filters.
The study, "See No Evil: How Internet Filters Affect the Search for
Online Health Information," will be published in the December 11, 2002
issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. A copy of the
study is available here.
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