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Porn free

Research Machines' approach to censoring the Internet is more sophisticated than British Telecom's "walled garden" and more liberal than many of the software products. RM's Internet for Learning service allows free and open access to the Internet except for overtly pornographic sites and newsgroups. Of the 15,000 newsgroups overall, RM bars between 7,000 and 8,000.

Feedback from teachers has been positive. Says marketing officer David Hunt: "A metaphor for our product is a library with a librarian keeping an eye out for things. The library, like the Internet, has a lot of valuable information and our service, like the librarian, acts as a guide which will eliminate traps."

Who decides what should be blocked and what shouldn't? Tim Pearson, on-line services manager, is one of the people who decides policy. He says it's straightforward: "Anything that you're likely to see in the Sun is okay. Beyond that is not okay." And beyond pornography, anything goes. "We try not to get involved in political and religious areas that can be handled in schools and colleges," he explains.

As the country's leading suppliers of computers and information technology systems to schools, with many ex-teachers among its staff, RM believes it has struck the right balance. The company offers schools safe passage in the "Wild West" world of the Internet, updating its blocking mechanism every month to keep up with the tremendous volume of new material. But it offers that safety without compromising users' freedom to roam.

* For details of RM's Internet for Learning service, ring David Hunt on 01235 826000

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