Friday, January 8, 2010

CIPA Compliance in Brownsville, Texas?

In his January 6th post, SafeLibraries takes to task the Brownsville Public Library, which he accuses of falsely claiming to be in compliance with the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA).

I am in no position to verify the details of the situation in Brownsville, but if they are as SafeLibraries claims, he could have a valid point. That is, IF the Brownsville Public Library has certified to the FCC that it is in compliance with the CIPA, and  IF it is also true that the library has computers that are permanently unfiltered (as SafeLibraries indicates), then the library might actually be violating the terms of the CIPA, and could be subject to an FCC demand for return of the federal funds it has received from programs related to the CIPA.

So far as I understand the requirements of the CIPA, a compliant library must have internet filters installed on every computer, even computers in a back office that is not open to the public.  While any adult patron (or employee) can request that the filter be disabled, the filter would have to be re-enabled once that individual finishes using the computer.

Part of SafeLibraries' post is about an adult patron who was able to download child pornography on a library computer (the patron was convicted and jailed, according to news reports).  It is important to point out that such an incident, by itself, is not evidence that a library is out of compliance with the CIPA, and can be difficult to evaluate without a lot more details about how the illegal pornography was obtained.  In a library that is complying fully with the CIPA, a patron might still be able to download illegal pornography because a) the filtering program underblocked, meaning that it failed to live up to its intended design, b) the pornography was transfered as an attachment to an email or instant message that was not monitored by the filter or could not be identified as containing illegal images, c) the patron simply had requested that the filter be disabled while he was using the computer.  Downloading child pornography is a crime regardless of how it is accomplished.  But even in a library that is fully CIPA-compliant, it is possible for such a crime to take place.

A recent post by the American Library Association documents a somewhat similar situation at the public library in Groton, Connecticut.  Police are investigating the possibility that an adult patron downloaded child pornography on a computer in the library, in spite of internet filtering.  In Groton, however, there has yet to be any accusations that the library failed to comply in any way with the CIPA.

1 comment:

  1. I made a mistake on the Groton, Connecticut, part of this article. I saw the January 6th date but misread the year. The situation in Groton took place in 2006, not 2010.