Schools using Internet filtering software may have inadvertently kept their students from checking out congressional campaign Web sites, according to a Seattle-based anti-filtering advocacy group.
The group, Peacefire, conducted an Election Day test of N2H2 Bess and CyberPatrol, two popular brands of filtering software.
Computers outfitted with the filtering programs checked about 650 Web sites of candidates for the House and the Senate from a list provided by NetElection.org, which is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
At least 36 candidates’ sites were blocked, said Bennett Haselton, Peacefire’s webmaster. The blocked sites included those of Republican, Democratic, and Libertarian candidates.
In conducting its tests, Peacefire used a “minimal filtering” setting on N2H2 and the setting that only blocked depictions of nudity and sexual acts on the CyberPatrol software, Mr. Haselton said. He questioned whether the blocking companies adequately review the sites that their software blocks.
Susan Getgood, a spokeswoman for SurfControl, the Scotts Valley, Calif.-based maker of CyberPatrol, said her company is looking into the allegations.
Most of the campaign sites blocked by N2H2 Bess were on free Web-hosting services, which raise a red flag for filters because such services often host amateur sites that are not considered educational, said Allan Goldblatt, a spokesman at N2H2 Inc., based in Seattle.
For instance, the campaign Internet site of Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., was blocked because it turned out that—unknown to the 12-term congressman—it originated from the same “Internet protocol” address as a pornography site.
After being contacted by Education Week, Mr. Goldblatt suggested that people who set up Web sites should inquire about what other sites share their “IP address.” He added that Mr. Markey’s site would be unblocked right away.
—Andrew Trotter firstname.lastname@example.org
A version of this article appeared in the November 15, 2000 edition of Education Week