Back in August, I wrote (here and here) about Anderson County’s internet filtering of all computers within the courthouse.  At the time, my primary objection was that the filtering was (and still is) selective — not based on appropriate content, but more along the lines of political thought.

Today, I learned that it’s actually hindering job performance in some cases.  An employee whose primary responsibility deals with overseeing the status and progress of children who are involved with the legal system, was attempting to access the legislative website of our congressman, Zach Wamp.  The employee knew that there was a paper there with information needed to better perform the job at hand.

The legislative site was blocked by the County’s filtering software.

Later, the same employee keyed in another well-known URL inadvertently using the wrong suffix (you know — dot-com instead of dot-org or dot-gov), and a full-fledged porn site popped up on the screen.  Unfiltered.

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Content filters don’t work very well.  There are instances — in schools, for example — where it’s mandatory (i.e., required by the federal government as a condition of receiving e-rate funds) to have some filtering in place, but in the workplace, it’s just as likely to hinder productivity.  What would be far more useful is a tracking system so that it’s possible to see the sites where employees are spending their time.  If recreational web surfing is a problem, deal with the problem.

That just makes too much sense for government, though.

3 thoughts on “Counterproductivity

  1. Consider the sources that you are dealing with here. Instead of productivity it is more important to be spiteful. Sometimes it comes back to bite you.

  2. Schools are workplaces, and the filters hinder productivity there, too. They are a poor substitute for discernment and good judgment — information literacy skills that should be expected as part of a teacher’s professional practice and that should be developed by students through trial and, yes, error.

    The Children’s Internet Protection Act stipulates that schools provide a means to block obscene and pornographic content in order to qualify for e-rate funds. But anyone who has worked under the onus of an Internet filter will tell you it typically cuts access to a broad swath of content that isn’t harmful to minors.

    Why can’t your suggestion of tracking via user informatics be extended into the classroom? “Because that just makes too much sense.”

  3. Jennifer, I agree. Working with the Technology Students Association at one of our middle schools, I’ve encountered problems with the filter there firsthand.

    That’s one of the things I’m trying to change. Unlike the problem at the courthouse, I do actually have some hope of making improvements in the school system.

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