Philippines Mulls Internet Filters for Schools

MANILA (04/10/2000) - A bill filed last month in the Philippine Senate seeks to require private and public school libraries that provide Internet access to students to install software filters on computers to block Web sites that have pornographic and violent content.

Senate Bill No. 1936, also known as the Student's Internet Protection Act of 2000, was introduced by Senator Vicente Sotto III to "regulate the access to inappropriate Web sites in all libraries of educational institutions in the country whose existence is intended solely for the student's academic research use."

Sotto claimed that at least 70 percent of Internet users in the country are students. While access to the Internet has significantly supplemented traditional educational tools, it has also exposed young users to smut and violent materials, he said.

The bill proposes to create a Student Internet Protection Task Force that will enforce the act. The task force will be represented by two members each from the Department of Education, Culture, and Sports and Commission on Higher Education.

They will also be tasked to conduct quarterly on-site inspection of school libraries, recommend the filter software that should be used and impose disciplinary actions against those that violate the law.

Heads of educational institutions that fail to comply with the act will be charged administratively and will be fined a maximum of 100,000 pesos (US$2,430) for the first offense and an additional 100,000 pesos for every succeeding offense.

The bill proposes the installation of Internet filtering software on computers used to access the Internet in school libraries. The software should be updated regularly and should meet the following requirements:

-- should be able to block Web sites containing obscene and adult materials using contemporary Filipino cultural values as standard; -- should be capable of blocking search requests from search engines containing words and phrases leading to Web sites containing obscene and adult materials; -- should support major Internet standards that rate Web sites such as but not limited to the following content coding mechanisms: SafeSurf, RSAC, IVSR, and KidCode; -- should be capable of updating its database list of Web sites containing obscene and adult materials; and -- should be highly protected from end-user tampering and should be software upgradeable.

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