CIPA - The Childrens Internet Protection Act

In the United States, schools and libraries receiving federal E-Rate funding are required to provide a basic level of content filtering for their organizational users accessing the Internet. E-Rate was established by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The Childrens Internet Protection Act (CIPA) took effect in 2000. Whether or not an organization is in the United States and is bound by E-Rate requirements and CIPA, content filtering is often used in schools to restrict user access to specific websites or entire categories of websites. Terminology here is interesting: "censorware" is used by some groups and advocates to describe software, hardware, and technology methods which block user access to entire categories or classes of websites. "Blacklist" is the term for the procedure of blocking access to a specific website. "Whitelisting" is a term for the procedure of unblocking or permitting access to specific website(s). In 2006 the "Deleting Online Predators" (DOPA) act was proposed (but defeated) in the U.S. Congress which would have extended CIPA to cover social networking websites.


How do some school administrators invoke CIPA to block web 2.0 sites?

Some school administrators cite CIPA as the reason websites like blogs, wikis, social networking sites, and other sites which permit online communication and collaboration must be blocked.


What Does CIPA Require?

Citing the text of the law, the English WikiPedia reveals:

CIPA requires schools and libraries using E-Rate discounts to operate "a technology protection measure with respect to any of its computers with Internet access that protects against access through such computers to visual depictions that are obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors..."


CIPA requires E-Rate participating schools and libraries to have a content filtering policy and enforce it.


CIPA does not:


What is the takeaway here?

If a school administrator invokes CIPA as the reason for a website to be blocked, and that site does not fall into the category of being "obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors" then their claim is not legitimate.


Additional Resources Relating to CIPA

  1. The EdJurist Blog
  2. Wesley Fryer's notes from Celynda L. Brasher's METC 2007 presentation “Technology in the Schools: Policy, Privacy and Practical Issues for Teachers, IT and Others”
  3. Text of CIPA (as a PDF file)


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