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Internet filtering in public schools

MEDIA RELEASE-RADICAL YOUTH-Thursday, May 12 2005


Auckland Anti-Capitalist Group Radical Youth is blowing the whistle on an internet filtering device in public schools that independent legal advice has declared is probably in breach of both the Human Rights Act, 1993 and the New Zealand Bill of Rights, 1990


Radical Youth, a coalition of Auckland secondary school students and young workers are saying no to discrimination in public schools. The illegal censorship was uncovered on Monday Afternoon when a 17 year old Auckland anarchist decided he would check the world anarchist news on www.infoshop.org from a school computer in his public high school.

Instead of the website being displayed as had happened in the past he was shocked to discover it had been blocked by a privately owned web filtering device called, WATCHDOG CORPORATION.

His school, Takapuna Grammar had installed the software allegedly unaware that it would filter out websites that were used by students for legitimate educational and intellectual activity.

Since Monday the student has had regular meetings with senior management in an attempt to resolve the issue. On Thursday management told the student they would seek a meeting with WATCHDOG CORPORATION in an attempt to re-establish the schools control over what exactly gets filtered out. Radical Youth will be closley monitoring the issue as it sets a precedent for internet censorship of anarchist ideas in New Zealand public schools.

On Friday morning infoshop.org articles, which are currently illegally censored at Takapuna Grammar, about censorship and the legality's concerning web filtering devices will be distributed to senior management at Takapuna Grammar in an attempt to raise awareness of the threat to democracy that they have been party too and in a symbolic gesture of defiance against privatisation of the control of information.

So why was infoshop.org targeted for restriction? Alongside Pornography, Hate groups(or Corporate Watchdog’s definition of them which does not include Destiny Church) and "obscene" material Radical Youth would have thought that schools would not have been interested in screening a political and economic system. Knowledge of political and economic systems is one of the key foundations of democracy.

WHO IS WATCHDOG CORPORATION AND WHY DO THEY CONTROL WEB FILTERING?

In 2004, Trevor Mallard, the Minister of Education approved Watchdog as a “supplier of a managed internet service for state and state-integrated schools.” Watchdog watches or re-routes the internet of hundreds of state schools. Internet, now the most used source of information for many high school students was now to be regulated by a private corporation. Funded by the Ministry of Education, Takapuna Grammar is now funnelling the web sites that students and teachers access through a private corporation's filtering device. A filtering device that contains thousands of web sites. This list of restricted sites has not been provided to the users of this censored internet, the teachers and students. It has not even been provided to the Management staff, Board of Trustees or as far as Radical Youth can gather, the Ministry of Education. What is obviously a serious challenge to democracy is being supported by the government and our education authorities.

Watchdog is a Christian principled corporation run by a man called Peter Mancer. Mancer told Christian bulletin Challenge Weekly that, “It is also good that we, as a Christian principle-based company, can use those principles in providing services to the school." Yet this Christian principled corporation was blocking web sites if they contained information “containing information regarding militias, weapons, anti-government groups, terrorism, overthrowing of the government, killing methods, etc.” This is a generic description that Mancer has acquired off American safe internet use web sites reacting to curb the spread of alternative viewpoints.

Yet according to Nancy E. Willard an American author on responsible internet use whose report is available on New Zealand Internet Safety web site netsafe.org, “If this description [of anarchy] were used to block access to information in the late 1700’s the United States Declaration of Independence and all other writings of the founding fathers would be blocked.” Willard goes on to stress that, “viewpoint discrimination is also apparent in the category descriptions provided by some [of] the companies.”

“Viewpoint Discrimination” not only sounds bad, it is bad. “Viewpoint discrimination” otherwise known as discrimination regarding political opinion is in clear breach of the Human Rights Act, 1993 and the New Zealand Bill of Rights, 1990. Effectively this opens public schools up to Human Rights complaints and possible court cases. Although responsibility is being quickly passed around in relation to what is essentially a Ministry of Education pilot scheme, schools clearly do have a responsibility under the Bill of Rights. Those performing a “Public function” must ensure that, “Everyone has the right to freedom from discrimination on the grounds of discrimination in the Human Rights Act 1993”.

Who should control what sites are deemed unsuitable in schools?

The answer is obvious. Us. Students and teachers at educational institutions and not ‘well meaning’ Christian Chief Executives. We should have the last say on which web sites are available to the students. Regulation of information to secular public schools controlled by private corporations guided by religious interests and a fiscal bottom line is not acceptable.

Radical Youth wishes to send a clear message to the Minister of Education that censorship of anarchist ideas will not be tolerated in what purports to be an open and fair democracy.

YA BASTA

ENDS

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