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

Monday, September 22, 2003

Anti Filter Facts

The Free Expression Policy Project has an interesting fact sheet on filtering. If you need a quick backgrounder on filtering and its problems the fact sheet is a good place to start.

Filters replace educational judgments by teachers and librarians with censorship decisions by private companies that do not disclose their operating methods, their political biases, or their lists of blocked sites.
F free expression policy project
This underlines the need for complete transparency on the part of any filtering company. In order to ensure a filtering product does the least harm to the values of intellectual freedom librarians must insist that the block lists are available. Because no filtering product is perfect it is up to filtering customers to make sure that the imperfections do not contain a systemic bias and are corrected. Without the lists it is effectively impossible to know what is really being blocked.

Monday, September 15, 2003

CIPA do's and don'ts

An excellent opinion letter from the law firm of Ropes and Gray on the issues surrounding CIPA compliance. It can be found here in PDF. The key point is the "good faith" requirement imposed by the FCC is explained. It's a lawyer's letter and could serve as safe harbour for a library seeking to show that it is complying with CIPA. Simply by chjecking off the points in the Ropes and Gray letter a library will be demonstrating a good faith attempt to comply.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Fairbanks Filter Follies

Karen Jensen writing in the Fairbanks News-Miner
makes some telling points against spending $20,000.00 to filter the public libraries of Fairbanks. $20,000.00!!! I have no idea how many library seats there are in Fairbanks but I do know that IF2K would filter 3000 seats for that sort of money.

Jensen's point is that this is a ridiculous waste of money to preserve E-Rate funds of little more than $3000.00 a year. She's right of course. And if the E-Rate is $3000.00 the seat count is almost certainly no more than a few hundred. Let's say 500 to be safe. In which case the IF2K product would cost no more than $8485.00. Which is a one time licence fee. On the basis of a five year cost of ownership analysis, and ignoring the very real implementation costs, on 500 seats the Fairbanks library would be ahead $6515.00. (On 300 seats the number is IF2K filter licence $5485.00, E-Rate funds retained, $9515.00.)

Ms. Jensen also brings up the issue of overblocking. This is irrelevant for adults who have the right to have the filter turned off, for kids it is a real issue. The only way to ensure that only the sites which should be blocked are blocked is 1) to have full access to the block list, 2) install white lists which will not be blocked in any circumstance. It is important that any library getting ready to filter know what is being blocked and how easy, or difficult, it is to add white lists.

Finally, Ms. Jensen cites Consumer Reports from 2001 " "filtering software is no substitute for parental supervision." This study found that no filtering product tested worked perfectly, making Internet filters a false security for parents." No question. But once in a while parents need a break - the best that can be said for filtering software is that it is a backup.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

A Modest Proposal

LLRX.com also has an article which I wrote before the ALA's August 23 meeting in which I set out a process that the ALA could follow to set standards for filtering companies. You can, as they say in blogland, read the whole thing here.

The Law of CIPA

For an excellent review of the legal logic behind CIPA LLRX.com provides an excellent summary of the law going to obscenity, child pornography and "harmful to minors". Mary Minow's article reviews the statutes and the cases going to these questions.

The article also has this lovely quote illustrating the strangeness of the obscenity definition,

In practice, prosecuting obscenity cases is very tough. As Kathleen Sullivan (now dean of Stanford Law School] has said, �The first two parts of the Miller test are incoherent: to put it crudely, they require the audience to be turned on and grossed out at the same time.�
link llrx.com


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