Internet Filter Blocks Anti-Gay Web Sites: American Family Association on Hit List

Article excerpt

With the advent of the World Wide Web, a host of "net nannies" have sprung up, most of which claim to protect children from pornographic images widely available on the Internet.

Some also block societal ills such as bigotry and racism.

Cyber Patrol, an Internet filtering system based in Cambridge, Mass., chose to oppose "intolerance" toward homosexuality. In February, it began by blocking the Web site belonging to the American Family Association, a Tupelo, Miss., pro-family Christian group.

The AFA was not amused.

"I think the red light goes on for me and the flags fly high when they move `intolerance' into the area of sexual orientation," says AFA executive assistant Buddy Smith. Under Cyber Patrol's system, AFA's Web site (www.afa.net) is placed in the same category as neo-Nazi groups.

The real issue, Cyber Patrol said, was not the AFA group's position on any issue, but its Web site's content and language.

The offending portion is a 24-page article called "Homosexuality in America: Exposing the Myths." The article says homosexuality is a choice, and that AFA opposes efforts to equate sexual orientation with race, ethnicity or religion for the purposes of civil rights laws.

The article also calls homosexuality a "deviant lifestyle" and says AFA "resists the effort of the homosexual community to establish their lifestyle as legitimate."

The Cyber Patrol committee that found this offensive included representatives from Morality in Media, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Cyber Patrol filters a dozen categories including violence and profanity, nudity, satanic or cult organizations, drug culture groups and sexually explicit Web sites. Its "intolerance" category blocks Web sites that include "any picture or text that elevates one group over another" because of race, color, national origin, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation."

Other Internet filtering software, including Cybersitter and Surfwatch, block Web sites tagged for "intolerance," along with the usual sexual or violent ones, but they do not block AFA's site.

Mr. Smith also notes that Cyber Patrol has not blocked other conservative religious sites. …