Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Internet Filters Update

My previous posts on Internet Filters, Part 1 and Part 2, relied mostly on my own reading of the applicable law. Since then, I've been rummaging for sources that describe, in plain English, the opinions of real experts on the matter. I've found several I think are quite useful.

These confirm the key points I've emphasized before:
  1. Internet filters can be legal, appropriate, and practical if implemented properly, facing the real facts of the law.

  2. Internet filters are not perfect. The degree and direction of the problem varies from product to product, but they all either under-block (permit access to some objectionable material), over-block (deny access to some legitimate material), or both.

  3. The US v ALA ruling so overused by would-be censors is not a general decision about library censorship. It applies only to libraries that accept specific federal funds.

  4. The US v ALA ruling is about Internet filters for children. It is not about books or library-produced web content, re-shelving or warning stickers.

  5. The constitutionality of US v ALA very much depends on the ability of adults to unblock the computers they use.

  6. A library that doesn't allow adults to bypass filters is at risk for lawsuits. This is the "as-applied challenge" mentioned in the US v ALA decision.

  7. The idea of separate computers for adults and children is quite practical. It won't allow computers for adults to be permanently unblocked, but it will relieve library staff of a lot of administrative hassles by allowing adults to unblock those computers at will, without monitoring or intervention by library staff.

I know these sources won't convince the wanna-be censors. I'm sure they've already declared these part of the plot by the communistic American Library Association to sexualize children and turn people gay (Note to the literal-minded: this sentence is an example of sarcasm).

Nevertheless, see:

An analysis of the US v ALA decision by First Amendment specialist Julie Hildner on Findlaw, A Recent Supreme Court Decision Allowing the Government to Force Public Libraries to Filter Users' Internet Access Is Less Significant Than It Might At First Appear:

Frequently Asked Questions on the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), by the Wisconsin Library Association:

Lawfully Surfing the Net: Disabling Public Library Internet Filters to Avoid More Lawsuits in the United States, by Library law consultant Mary Minow:

Links to these and other resources can be found on the links page of:

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