Originally created 05/08/99

Filter service aims to clean 'Net'



For many parents, like Judy Murphy, the computer is just another wedge in the generation gap.

And, she contends most parents have even less idea about the seamy side of the Internet -- hard-core pornography and violence.

"Parents think, `This is America and there's a kid with a $3,000 computer in his room. He's got the best in the world.' But he's got the worst in the world -- in his own bedroom," she said.

Internet service providers, like America Online and other companies that are gateways to the World Wide Web, have agreed to provide a prominent pop-up screen or link to what Vice President Al Gore called on Thursday the Parents' Protection Page. The new feature would be released in July.

The page would give access to technologies that parents could use to block or filter what children can see. It would also provide tips on how to report trouble online, how to find good content and how to prevent children from providing sensitive personal information to strangers over the Internet.

Pornography is a $1 billion-industry in cyberspace which is growing at the rate of 500 new sites a day, said Ms. Murphy. "I didn't know that there were 500 in all."

She knows now and she's trying to help clean up the online community. Ms. Murphy is regional executive director of Mayberry USA, an Internet service provider that calls itself "America's Home Town on the Internet." The company is based in Metairie, La., east of New Orleans.

Mayberry, promotes the service as an invisible shield between the Internet and the home computer. It costs $22 a month and claims to filter 99 percent of pornographic or violent material without restricting research.

If a questionable site slips through, subscribers can alert technical support. A decision is made within 24-hours to block the site.

Mayberry workers who evaluate the sites are rotated periodically so that they do not lose their sensitivity to offensive material. Pornography is progressive and addictive, said Mrs. Murphy.

Not all filtration systems can distinguish between honest research and someone seeking inappropriate material. But key in "breast cancer" on Mayberry and 152,000 sites pop up. Key in the name of a hate group and get history but not the propaganda, said Patrick Murphy, a sales representative and Ms. Murphy's son.

Mayberry will also substitute asterisks for rough language in in-coming or out-going e-mails. And the filtration system keeps a record of each attempt to link to an off-limits site or write an offensive word. Three strikes and a marker will appear to alert parents.

Ms. Murphy and her husband, Dr. Michael Murphy, heard about Mayberry through friends at Bob Jones University, which is promoting the porn-free service among home school families.

Ms. Murphy said that getting people to see the downside to the Internet, as helpful as it can be, is a ministry for her.

"Parents are supposed to monitor their kids. There are so many single moms and dads and they can't be there all the time," said Ms. Murphy.

For information, call 738-2020 or visit the Web site at www.mayberryusa.net.

Virginia Norton covers religion for The Augusta Chronicle. She can be reached at (706) 823-3336 or vanorton@augustachronicle.com.