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Tuesday, June 2, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Cybercops See Sex Everywhere Smut Screeners Block Innocuous Information

By Associated Press

Cybercops have their computerized hands full trying to find out who’s naughty and nice on the Internet.

Counties, for example, like to pitch their attractions on the Web. But if they’re named Essex, Middlesex or Sussex, hypersensitive smut censors see only the s-e-x and declare them forbidden zones.

The same fate awaits those who want to get information on the Net about almost any subject with a “uck” ending. At least one popular cybercensor won’t allow it.

Someone searching for the latest on “trucks” or “hockey pucks” is out of “luck.”

The screening programs that more parents may turn to now that the Supreme Court has struck down government controls of Internet indecency are known to be spotty at blocking explicit material, although a lot of people consider them better than nothing.

So does the government. In a report being released today, the administration takes a hands-off approach to the Internet, favoring industry self-regulation and technical aids such as these programs.

But aside from their shortcomings at stopping porn, the programs have another problem: The more they catch smut, the more they shrink the world of innocent knowledge.

Screeners typically work by searching cyberspace for pornographic or violent sites and adding them to a forbidden list. Some use fledgling ratings.

They can also block material summoned by using keywords: If a child types “sex” as a search term, access will be denied.

But the Internet changes fast. Cyber Patrol, one of the most popular cybercensors, adds 500 sites a week to its “CyberNOT” list of some 20,000 forbidden addresses.

“It’s a moving target,” said Susan Getgood, director of marketing for Microsystems Software Inc., developer of Cyber Patrol.

And sometimes innocents get caught in the cross hairs.

Here’s a tour using Cyber Patrol:

Nothing Personal: Cyber Patrol blocked access to most variations of the word “personal,” out of apparent concern a search with that word would lead to sexually explicit personal ads.

A troubled teen seeking information on “personality disorder” would come up empty.

Yuck: You can ask the Web for information on “plucking ducks” because “duck” is specifically allowed. But don’t try “good luck charms” or anything else ending in “uck.”

Toys: A minefield for parents, because graphic descriptions of adult sexual toys can be seen alongside child toy sites. For example, safety tips from the National Safe Kids Campaign were immediately followed by a listing for a hard-core site, which was accessed with a few clicks despite having the full screening capability turned on.

Sex: In a change from a few months ago, information now is provided on the late author Anne Sexton despite her name. Sextuplets are also kosher. Many other variations of “sex” are not. Parents can turn off the keyword search and rely on the list of forbidden sites, but doing so weakens the protection.

Sex Education: Parents can choose to allow information on sex education while blocking indecent material. But using that option, the Planned Parenthood Condom Guide, among many other safe sex sites, still was blocked.

Health: A lot of material is allowed on breast cancer and breast-feeding and some - not all - of the pornography that is mixed in with the health listings was blocked.

xxxx KEEPING IT CLEAN Leading screening programs, according to PC Magazine’s 1997 Utility Guide. Software generally costs $20 to $50. Some can be downloaded for free trials. Cyber Patrol: http://www.cyberpatrol.com Cybersitter: http://www.solidoak.com Cyber Snoop: http://www.pearlsw.com Net Nanny: http://www.netnanny.com Rated-PG: http://www.ratedpg.com SurfWatch: http://www.surfwatch.com X-Stop: http://www.xstop.com

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