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Georgia Internet Filter Bill Concerns AIDS Educators

March 13, 2002

The Georgia Senate late last month unanimously passed a measure that would mandate Internet software filters in schools, a move that some advocates fear could limit AIDS education. The "Internet Safety for Minors" bill, introduced by state Sen. Don Cheek (D-Augusta) would decrease Internet education options for students, said Larry Pellegrini, a lobbyist for Georgia Urban Rural Summit. "That technology protection measure would be software filters, and those filters are incredibly broad and imprecise," said Pellegrini. "By barring the word 'breast' you would bar pornography sites, but you would also bar breast cancer research." Filtering certain other words could mean stunting access to HIV/AIDS prevention and education, Pellegrini said.

The Internet is a powerful tool to educate people about safe sex practices and STDs, said Tony Braswell, executive director of AID Atlanta. "...We will be cheating our children out of the proper education they need to protect themselves," he said.

Despite its unanimous approval in the Senate, the bill has about a 50 percent chance of moving out of the House committee to a full House vote this session, said state Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates). "Anytime you see a unanimous vote, it means legislators haven't had time to read the bill and are just voting the way everyone else did," Drenner said.

"The impact to this bill is huge. It will obviously affect kids' ability to research important issues like HIV and AIDS, and will prevent education that would help them from getting sick," said Drenner. Kay Young, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union, said that even if the bill becomes law it will ultimately fail to pass legal muster. "It's a mirror of federal legislation that has already been ruled unconstitutional," Young said.

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Excerpted from:
Southern Voice (Atlanta)
03.08.02; Jennifer Smith

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