The New York Times
Monday, January 19, 1998

A Tool That Filters the Web for Better or Worse

The World Wide Web Consortium has endorsed a technical standard for filtering electronic information on the Web, called PICS. The new standard is being cheered as a tool for concerned parents, but at the same time it is being attacked by civil libertarians as a means of censorship. Both descriptions may be accurate.

1. Children can find Web pages that parents might rather they did not locate.

2. But with a PICS filter, which can be built into the preferences of a browser, children would only have access to pages that the filter's creators tagged as being appropriate for kids.

3. Civil libertarians are concerned that filters might be used by Internet service providers or whole countries to censor what large groups of people can access on the Web.

Illustrations by Jody Emery / The New York Times

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