Sunday, November 21, 2010

In Search Of The Kosher Internet (Updated)

The LA Times came out Friday with an article on what some companies in Israel are providing for those who want to avoid inadvertently viewing any offensive content.
There's Koogle, a Google-inspired searchable directory of kosher businesses offering, say, bargains on "modest" wedding dresses. Many rabbis frown on YouTube, so Yideotube offers a "daily online source of carefully screened videos," ranging from spoofs of anti-war activists to tips for buying a ceremonial kittel robe.

Worried about violating prohibitions against working on the Sabbath? Software vendor SaturdayGuard sells technology that enables websites to block access for Internet users, depending upon their time zone, between Friday and Saturday night.

There's even an online support group,, specializing in helping Orthodox Jews break "lust addictions" arising from Internet access. In addition to the usual 12-step programs and daily "strengthening" e-mails, the group offers tips for curtailing inappropriate surfing, including using software that automatically sends lists of visited websites to your spouse or rabbi.

...Nativ, which employs the female Web monitors, offers Internet service to about 20,000 ultra-Orthodox customers. The company, based in Bnei Berek just outside Tel Aviv, adheres to strict religious guidelines, employing only Haredi workers and taking instructions from rabbis.
You can also check out a short 2 page PDF on "Filtering The Internet", put out by the Haredi Women Professionals Network.

It's not as if this were the optimal solution to problem of the Internet. As the Internet continues to become an unavoidable part of people's lives, Haredi families are finding that they simply have no choice but to go online--to the degree that while roughly 30% will admit they have Internet access in their homes, some believe the actual number is closer to 50%. So if a ban is not the answer, the only other option is to somehow create a Kosher Internet.

The question is what elements of the Internet need to be kept out:
For example, pornography isn't the only thing that upsets some rabbis. They've also expressed concern about websites that espouse other faiths, such as Christianity or Islam. They worry Haredim will waste too much time surfing trivial news and entertainment sites, and not spend enough time in religious reflection.

Access to the Internet has also exposed Haredim, who traditionally have taken their direction only from rabbis, to alternate opinions.
It's a whole new world, and while there is no perfect solution--the Haredi community is making serious efforts on adjusting to a reality that not only is not going away: it is only going to become more invasive.

UPDATE: Here is an embedded copy of the article [click here for full page]--and Kishor/Haredi Women Professionals Network  had a whole-day conference on social media, with halachic/haskafic guidance AND professional how-to, with the recordings are available online.

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