Business & Finance
04:10 PM
John Soat
John Soat

IT Confidential: A Mixed Message On Web Filtering

It's no surprise that the Supreme Court's decision last week that the Child Online Protection Act was probably unconstitutional created a firestorm on both sides of the political fence. The Supreme Court upheld an injunction against the 1998 law, which attempted to protect children from encountering online porn by, among other things, mandating an electronic confirmation of age, such as a credit card, for adults accessing X-rated Web sites. The court said that not only did the law potentially curtail free speech but that there are less-restrictive ways of achieving the same goal, namely Web-filtering technology. So how did Web-filtering vendors take the vote of confidence? Not surprisingly, divided. "I think they're exactly right," says David Burt, VP of public relations for Secure Computing. "Technology is a better way to address the problem." Web-filtering technology has advanced considerably since the law was passed six years ago, Burt says. "Technology moves quickly; laws move slowly." However, Michael Newman, VP and general counsel for Websense, says the law "was a layer of protection, and it's unfortunate that layer of protection was removed." Newman says the Supreme Court ruling "makes the layer of protection provided by [Web] filtering more important." But it also places a burden on the consumer, one that, unfortunately, may be honored in the breach. "The reality is, there will always be many publicly accessible unfiltered PCs," he says. "This [ruling] will result in children seeing more online porno."

Progressive Insurance is hiring! The hard-charging insurance broker, known for its cutting-edge use of IT, is looking to recruit and train 250 IT workers during the next three to four years in the Colorado Springs area. But wait--isn't Progressive headquartered in Cleveland? Yes, but it seems Colorado is a better place to look for IT talent, according to a spokeswoman. It's not that Progressive doesn't have IT openings in the Cleveland area--it does, about 200 of them. But the company is having a hard time filling those. And it needs to cultivate greener pastures, IT talent-wise. "Our primary objective is to tap into a fresh labor market," the spokeswoman says. A secondary objective is to create some business-continuity redundancy--but not to move IT out of Cleveland, she says.

About 56% of all spam messages originate in the United States, an Israeli anti-spam software vendor, Commtouch Software, said last week. The next in line, South Korea, accounts for a puny 10% of all E-mail solicitations, according to the company's monitoring of the E-mail flow. Drugs are the top product pitched by mass mailers, and the erectile-dysfunction drug Viagra accounts for about one in six spams. Some categories actually have declined, including porn and online gambling, which now represent just 3.1% and 0.45%, respectively, of all junk E-mail.

What's the theme here: Less heartthrob, more heartache? From porn to lovelorn? Stop gambling with your love life? OK, maybe I'm reaching, but you can reach me with an industry tip at or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about Web filtering and free speech, or where the tech jobs are, meet me at's Listening Post.

To discuss this column with other readers, please visit John Soat's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about John Soat, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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