A study commissioned by the U.S government has found that more than 1% of the web pages indexed by Google and MSN contain sexually explicit material and content filtering software fail to block 8.8 % to 60% of these web pages, while blocking 0.4% to 23.6% of ‘clean’ web pages. The study was introduced by government lawyers in court this month, as the Justice Department sought to revive the Child Online Protection Act, 1998, which requires commercial websites to collect credit card details or proof of age before allowing its users to access ‘sexually explicit’ material.

The study was carried out by Professor Philip Stark, from the University of California, Berkeley, who submitted his findings on internet content filtering, earlier this year in court, on behalf of the federal government’s effort to enforce the Child Online Protection Act (COPA). This law was blocked by the U.S Supreme Court in 2004; vide a ruling, which stated that this law could deny the rights of adults to see and buy what they want on the internet. The court also added that new technologies like content filtering software could be more effective than such laws.

Stark’s analysis could help the government to argue that content filtering is not very effective and COPA should be enforced to protect minors online. American Civil Liberties Union, which challenge COPA on behalf of web publishers, said that Stark’s findings indeed support their argument that content filters work well, since effective filters like AOL’s ‘Mature Teen’ was found to block more than 91% of the sites with sexually explicit content.

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