Web and general Internet filters have been always seen as a tool for censorship. There is much evidence of usage of Internet filters as a censorship tool by non-democratic governments (screen carefully the writings by Nart Villeneuve, and the opinions at Opennet, Electronic Privacy Information Center and Electronic Frontiers Foundation, among others). This a reality, and filter providers should know what their filters are being used for.
Still, I do believe that filters are a helpful tool in a variety of situations. Remarkable appropriate scenarios are schools and corporations, in which Internet is provided with one clear goal and a cost for the provider; efficiency in it usage is a must, and I consider that filters are well suited when supported with agreed Internet Usage Policies and the right educational initiatives.
A recent interview to Dr. Jerald J. Block at the Boston Globe has pointed me to a number of (mostly technical) resources about Internet addiction, or more properly, "pathological computer use", a disease described as "a compulsive-impulsive spectrum disorder that involves online and/or offline computer usage and consists of at least three subtypes: excessive gaming, sexual preoccupations, and e-mail/text messaging (..) sharing the following four components: 1) excessive use, often associated with a loss of sense of time or a neglect of basic drives, 2) withdrawal, including feelings of anger, tension, and/or depression when the computer is inaccessible, 3) tolerance, including the need for better computer equipment, more software, or more hours of use, and 4) negative repercussions, including arguments, lying, poor achievement, social isolation, and fatigue" (Block, 2008).
Two important issues are:
- Pathological computer games use is less easily recognized by patients than other addictions (including pornography addiction).
- Co-morbidity is surprisingly high: patients have also 1,5 additional addictions in average.
With an important stress on a proper diagnosis and treatment, I claim that Internet filters may play a key role with helping these patients, as when being reinserted, they must be monitored and supported with control tools. So, my point is that Internet filters may have other, valuable applications apart from those above.
(Block, 2008) Jerald J. Block, M.D., Editorial: Issues for DSM-V: Internet Addiction. Am J Psychiatry 165:306-307, March 2008 doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2007.07101556.