Study: Internet filters block sexual health, HIV/AIDS information

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com December 12 2002 1:00 AM ET

A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that Internet filters intended to block access to online pornography on school and library computers often also block access to sites containing information on sexual health, including HIV/AIDS, The New York Times reports. The study, titled "See No Evil: How Internet Filters Affect the Search for Online Health Information" and conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, tested six popular Internet filtering programs. Researchers found that the programs, when set at the least restrictive level, blocked nearly 9% of sexual health sites, and blocked about half when set at the most restrictive setting. Among the sites blocked were a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site on sexually transmitted diseases and a Food and Drug Administration site on birth control.
A 2001 Kaiser study found that 44% of people between the ages of 15 and 17 use the Internet to research such topics as pregnancy, birth control, and HIV prevention. In light of this, Vicky Rideout, Kaiser vice president, says the software settings libraries and schools use to filter pornography are the key in ensuring that youth are guaranteed access to sexual health data online. The Children's Internet Protection Act of 2000 requires that all schools and libraries use software to block access to online pornography or risk losing federal funds. But each facility is permitted to choose how restrictively they set Internet filtering parameters.