NetAction Notes

Published by NetAction Issue No. 27 October 3, 1997
Repost where appropriate. See copyright information at end of message.

IN THIS ISSUE:

Technology Tools for Empowerment
Career Goals for Girls
Students Speak Up

About NetAction Notes

 


Technology Tools for Empowerment

Although the Internet is primarily a tool for communication, cyberspace activists are making creative use of technology as a tool for empowering individuals who have historically been ignored or disadvantaged within our society. In this issue of NetAction Notes, we discuss two projects -- existing exclusively in cyberspace -- which use technology in creative ways to empower young people. In the next issue, we'll discuss two technology-based projects in the physical world which also serve as tools of empowerment.

Career Goals for Girls

If you ask a nine-year-old girl what she wants to be when she grows up, chances are she won't have an answer. According to Judi Clark, that's because most girls have very few role models to help them think about career choices. Clark hopes to remedy this situation through the Role Model Project for Girls.

The project is intended to provide girls ages 9-16 with detailed information on a wide range of careers -- including real-life examples of women who work in a variety of non-traditional careers. This is accomplished through the Role Model Registry, a Web site feature that enables women to serve as one-time virtual role models to girls who visit the site.

Women can register as virtual role models by completing a simple form that asks for their first name, job title, a brief explanation of how they wound up with the career they now have, and any advice they would like to share with young girls interested in that career. The registration form is located on the Web at: http://www.womenswork.org/girls/role-models.html.

Girls who visit the virtual role models on the Web site can learn more about the careers they find there by visiting the project's online bookstore. Operated in association with Amazon.com, the store features books on science and math, careers in general, and autobiographies, all written by women for girls and women.

The bookstore is at: http://www.womenswork.org/girls/books/, and a portion of the proceeds from book sales goes to support the project.

So far, the Role Model Project for Girls has been an all-volunteer effort by Clark, but with sponsorship from the Association for Computing Machinery's Committee on Women in Computing (ACM-W), Clark is seeking a grant to create an interactive CD-ROM featuring brief video interviews with women in a wide range of careers. Her goal is to distribute the CD-ROM to schools and libraries, where computers equipped with CD-ROM players are increasingly available.

In conjunction with the CD-ROM interviews, the Web site will be expanded to include information on schools and universities, scholarships, internships, and other resources available to girls who want to prepare for the careers they've learned about from the virtual role models on the Web site, or from the CD-ROM interviews. Women who are interested in being interviewed for the CD-ROM are encouraged to contact .

Students Speak Up

Late last year, a teenage cyber-rights activist ignited what subsequently became an ongoing controversy over filtering software marketed to parents, libraries, and schools as a way to block children's access to sexually explicit sites. The controversy erupted when Bennett Haselton, an 18-year-old Vanderbilt College student, revealed that CYBERsitter filtering software banned a number of socially valuable resources on the Web, such as information on feminism, gay/lesbian rights, and progressive political causes. Blocked Web sites included the Institute for Global Communication (IGC), and the National Organization for Women (NOW).

Haselton posted his findings about the filter software on Peacefire, an Internet-based organization founded in August 1996 to represent students' and minors' interests in the debate over freedom of speech on the Internet. Haselton's revelations prompted Solid Oak Software, which markets the CYBERsitter filter, to threaten Haselton with a lawsuit, and to block the Peacefire site even though it contains no sexually explicit information. Solid Oak's threat generated an outpouring of support for Peacefire from Internet activists concerned about free speech. Additional information is on the CYBERsitter Web site.

Most of the organization's approximately 1,700 members are between ages 13 and 17. Adults can join as associate members. (When I joined last year, I had the somewhat dubious distinction of being Peacefire's oldest associate member!) Members receive Peacefire's electronic newsletter, which includes updates on the organization's activities and pointers to articles about filtering software and/or Peacefire.

The Peacefire site features the Cyber Rights And Digital Liberties Encyclopedia (CRADLE), an interactive dictionary of censorship-related terms developed to help young people understand the sometimes complex legal and legislative issues related to free speech in cyberspace.

It also features an innovative Internet-based fund raising project, the Page Authors' Benefit Against Censorship (PABAC), pronounced "payback," at http://peacefire.org/PABAC/ (NOTE: This URL is no longer valid as of 05/23/2001.) PABAC, was initiated to raise money for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit against the New York Communications Decency Act. Peacefire is a plaintiff in the lawsuit on behalf of minors whose rights may be violated by the law.

To help raise funds in support of the lawsuit, Peacefire's members put their technical skills to work writing HTML, Java, or CGI scripts, or creating Web site graphics, in exchange for a donation of $10 per hour to the legal fund.


About NetAction Notes

NetAction Notes is a free electronic newsletter, published by NetAction. NetAction is a California-based non-profit organization dedicated to promoting use of the Internet for grassroots citizen action, and to educating the public, policy makers, and the media about technology policy issues.

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