A blog about a possible internet filtering solution for libraries

Library Internet Filtering

Frankly, I think the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the Children's Internet Protection Act case was wrong.
It is virtually always wrong to censor information, especially in a library. But that is how the law in the United States stands at the moment and if a library accepts federal funding it must install internet filtering technology on all of its internet enabled computers.

This website is about a particular internet filtering product IF 2K and its application to libraries.

This product is flexible, publishes its block list, is reasonably priced and it can be configured to meet library's particular requirements.

It is not a perfect solution but it is inexpensive and, with librarians' input, the least obnoxious filtering solution on the market.

Jay Currie

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Michael Moore on Librarians

My friend Bob Turner sent along this quote from Michael Moore about librarians - you guys know who you are....
BUZZFLASH: Now specifically, a little bit about your book. You've written in your columns that after September 11th, your publisher was going to deep-six the book unless you took out critical comments on Bush. You held firm. Is it true that the librarians of America came to your defense and saved the day?

MICHAEL MOORE: That's what it looks like. I mean, I didn't know who any of these people were. They -- this one librarian found out about it, and she got in a, I don't know, library chat room. Or she sent a letter out to a list of librarians, and they sent it out to a bunch of people, and the thing kind of mushroomed from there. So, I'd say it's a combination of these librarians and the Internet, because they started sending letters to Harper-Collins, and Harper-Collins saw that it wasn't gonna be a good thing to ban the book. But I'm really happy about it. I really didn't realize the librarians were, you know, such a dangerous group.

BUZZFLASH: Subversive.

MICHAEL MOORE: They are subversive. You think they're just sitting there at the desk, all quiet and everything. They're like plotting the revolution, man. I wouldn't mess with them. You know, they've had their budgets cut. They're paid nothing. Books are falling apart. The libraries are just like the ass end of everything, right?
link buzz flash

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

The ALA meets

The ALA convened a meeting of its Executive and member leaders to map out a response to CIPA. In its news release yesterday Carla Hayden, the ALA Chairman, stated that in the coming weeks the ALA members and staff would be
o Begin developing criteria and tools for evaluating technological protection measures in such areas as transparency of the company and its blocked list, customization tools that allow for the most narrow restrictions, privacy protections and ease of disabling, to name a few. As became apparent during CIPA trial testimony, Internet filters overblock and underblock information, and any library compelled to install a filter should have the ability to minimize that harm.
Hear, hear.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

CIPA Facts

Bob Bocher writing in the Library Journal provides a real service by outlining the requirements of CIPA and some of the considerations libraries should have when they are contemplating the filtering requirements.

Monday, August 18, 2003

The ACLU weighs in

via Seth Finkelstein
This is a memo which came out August 1 detailing the actions the ACLU recommends in the wake of the CIPA decision. From a librarian's perspective one of the more important aspects of the memo is this,
We are contemplating further litigation. Libraries that refuse to unblock sites or turn off unblocking software (at least for adults) or make unblocking onerous are obvious potential defendants. We’d appreciate hearing about any such libraries.
link aclu
The memo goes on to emphasize that only "visual depictions" are required to be blocked under CIPA. Well worth reading to get a clear, legally informed, perspective on the issues surrounding library filtering.


Minneapolis library officials will consider restricting patrons' access to Internet porn and pay $435,000 to a dozen librarians to settle a lawsuit that alleged the prevalence of the images constituted a hostile work environment, the librarians' lawyer said Friday.
link wcco.com
This is a troubling case. It would be very easy to say this was yet another great argument in favour of putting filters on library computers and I leave that to David Burt who wrote Declan McCullagh
"I do think this changes things. Not only are libraries facing losing federal funds, but they are also risking six figure payouts for creating hostile work environments as well. On top of that, a number of states are looking to pass CIPA-type laws to take away state funds for not filtering.

Obviously, I think all three of these trends combined will lead to a lot more filtering in public libraries.
However, while the images are not described in the news stories, there is nothing to indicate that these images were illegal for adults to view. Here is where the ALA has real work cut out for it. How do you balance the rights of library patrons to look at legal images against the rights of librarians not to face a "hostile work environment"?

The answer is not obvious but I suspect it begins with the library's own acquisition policies and their adaptation to the online world. Just as a library will not buy certain books and magazines it similarly is not required to provide unlimited internet access. It has to balance the public's right to intellectual freedom with its staff's sensibilities, the law and its own sense of mission. Only after that exercise has been completed should filtering be looked at as part of an overall program to bring online access into line with the overall goals of a library. Those goals will almost certainly be different in different communities and the ALA can help with this process by providing strategies for determining where the balance lies.

One thing which should be noted about the Minneapolis case is that
The issue arose in 1997, shortly after library Internet access was launched. The lawsuit alleged that terminals drew users hungry for explicitly sexual images.
link wcco.com
It is possible, even likely, that the users' hunger has been a bit diminished in the last six years and that the spread of cheap internet cafes will have reduced the demand.

Thursday, August 14, 2003


Over at www.lisnews.com Blake is running a short piece about the Department of Justice appealing a lower court decision declaring the Child Online Protection Act unconstitutional. Blake is running it under his heading "filtering". This act is nothing of the sort. Rather it is attempting the prior restraint of legal speech with the threat of criminal penalties.

Regardless of what people may think of pornography, pictures of naked people doing rude things are legal in the United States. The attempt to require adult verification by way of credit card before you are allowed to see such pictures is a gross denial of the first amendment rights of all those adults who either do not have a credit card or choose not to send their credit card card information over the internet.

The key aspect of this is the idea that it is legal for adults to view whatever they like on the internet provided that the content itself is legal. This is at the heart of the SCOTUS decision in the CIPA case and the requirement that libraries turn off any filters for adult patrons who ask. Based on that decision the ACLU's associate legal director, Ann Beeson's remark,
"I would have thought the Justice Department would have better things to do with its time than to defend what is clearly an unconstitutional law"
link wired news
makes a lot of sense.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Turn that Damn Thing Off

Over at FindLaw Julie Hilden's article on the legal implications of United States v. American Library Ass'n. Inc. focuses on Justice Kennedy's concurrence with the majority.
Justice Kennedy's concurrence focused on the point I have stressed above: Given the ability of users to request unblocking, Kennedy contended, "there is little to this case."

Kennedy also wisely suggested that if it turned out that, in practice, unblocking was slow or difficult, and impeded users' computer access, then patrons would not be prevented from suing the government, or perhaps the libraries, a second time. (Thus, if you actually go down to your federally-funded public library and demand unblocking, and they either refuse or make you wait a long time, under Kennedy's theory you may just have become a potential First Amendment plaintiff.)

Kennedy plainly won't stand for slow responses to unblocking requests - and he probably has four other Justices behind him on that (Breyer and the three dissenters: Stevens, Ginsburg, and Souter, who wrote a particularly eloquent defense drawing on history as well as law.). So libraries that don't hop to it when patrons ask for unblocking may be in serious trouble - and may quickly find themselves in court.
link findlaw
From the libraries' point of view the capacity to be turned off may be legally more significant than the issues going to overblocking. After all, Kennedy, J. sees getting rid of the filter as vital to protecting the rights of adult library patrons and the last thing a library wants to do is be sued for complying with CIPA using a filter which does not comply with the SCOTUS narrowing of the CIPA requirements.


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