Not Fit For Children?

To: all
From: Jenny
Date: 18 Feb 1998
Time: 11:06:37


As you no doubt know, many parents are concerned by the amount of adult material available on the Internet and want to prevent their children from accessing it. Numerous software companies have designed "screening" programs that will weed out sites that contain sexual graphics, adult language, or extreme violence.

What you may not be aware of is that some of these companies have decided that Paganism is not suitable for children.

Perhaps a year ago, problems surfaced with CyberPatrol. CyberPatrol bans all sites that promote "cults" or "Satanism". They have a set of reasonable guidelines on what constitutes a cult: coersive religions centered on one charismatic leader, religions that isolate their followers and cut them off from outside opinions, etc. Wicca clearly doesn't meet any of these criteria.

Yet Wiccan web-sites noticed that they somehow wound up on CyberPatrol's banned sites list. Further research showed that many sites were banned simply because they used the word "Witch". Sites on the history of the Burning Times were included in the prohibition. Initial questions/complaints did little. However as more and more complaints rolled in, CyberPatrol sat up and took notice. It corrected its guidelines, stopped equating Witchcraft and Satanism, and got the Wiccan sites off their banned list. The problem seems to have been simple misinformation, nothing more.

Unfortunately something much worse is going on with another software company, CyberSitter. CyberSitter is an openly discriminatory software program which bans any pro-gay sites and many feminist ones as well. So it's no surprise that it deems Paganism unfit for children.

However the company's behavior has been extremely unprofessional -- and potentially illegal. When a Wiccan wrote to complain about the discrimination, CyberSitter e-mail bombed her. She was deluged with several hundred letters telling her to stop sending "crap" like this to the company. She, and her service provider, are currently looking into the legal ramifications of CyberSitter's behavior, and whether or not this type of harassment is illegal.

Both Wired and CNet wrote articles on this incident. In the Wired one, the president of CyberSitter said that while he didn't condone e-mail bombing, he thought the Wiccan got what she deserved for complaining about his company. And, he said, since she was a Witch she wasn't the type of person who'd be a CyberSitter customer.

The Texas Pagan Awareness web-site has much more information on this incident and is organizing a letter-writing response. If you're interested, check out http://www.tpao.org/

This page also allows you to sign up for e-mail updates on breaking news -- a very nifty feature.