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

Thursday, November 27, 2003


Over at the ALA they have posted five pages of questions a library (in PDF) should ask a filtering vendor. All good questions but a fundamental abdication of the ALA's obligation to act on behalf of its members. Asking questions is not the same as demanding answers or setting standards. Any filtering vendor can, and no doubt will, answer the suggested questions. But will the answers be truthful, complete and helpful? Will the ALA collect and co-relate the answers to save smaller libraries the hassle and cost of going through this process?

Libraries - big and small - are much better advised to skip the ALA's lame attempt to get a handle on CIPA and go to Lori Ayre's increasingly comprehensive filter information, pricing and features page.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

K. G. Schneider on Filtering

Karen Schneiderhas published her general take on filtering and what she is prepared to do in dealing with the filtering issues which have been raised by CIPA.
My best advice hasn't changed in seven years. Filters are bad news.
Internet content filters block access to Constitutionally protected speech, and do so in a way that removes accountability from the vendor and control from the buyer. This is a Bad Thing. free range librarian
I agree that if a filter does, in fact, remove accountability from the vendor and control from the buyer it is a "Bad Thing".

But what if the vendor is willing to be accountable and the control, the total control, of the filter and its block lists is given to the library buyer? Would this still be bad news, a bad thing?

Perhaps the best way to look at the entire issue of CIPA mandated library filtering is to ask "what is the best way for a library to obtain E-Rate funding while doing as little damage to intellectual freedom and access to information in that library?" This is not a formula for perfection; rather it is the substitution of the libraries' agenda for the fundamentalists'.

By framing the question that way the ALA and its members can and should create standards for filtering in the libraries. Those standards need to reflect the values of librarians including the absolute requirement that the librarians have easy access to the list of what is being blocked and the capacity to easily change what is being blocked.

Simply refusing to deal with filtering except to announce it is a "bad thing" is neither helpful nor particularly principled. It is roughly analogous to a doctor refusing to treat a landmine victim because she disagrees with the idea of war.

Monday, November 03, 2003

More From the Copyright Office

"The ability to engage in legitimate research, criticism and comment about filtering software is even more compelling as a result of the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA). 52 Since CIPA requires libraries to install "filtering software" in order to block access to objectionable material as a condition of receiving federal funds, it becomes all the more important for the public to understand potential problems in particular filtering programs that may be installed in public facilities. Since the Court found that an important safety valve within CIPA was the ability of a library patron to request the disabling of such software, it appears all the more important that the public be able to obtain objective information about the performance or potential limitations of such software in order to make the determination whether to request such disabling. "
copyright office
via Seth FinkelsteinThis finding of the Copyright Office should be the preface to any report by the ALA on filtering products. Critically, it should not be a matter of trying to hack the encryption of a list - rather any filtering company which suggests that its software is CIPA compliant should, as a matter of course, disclose its full block list in the categories which it proposes to use to have its clients comply with the provisions of that law. Otherwise no library will know if the software they are buying is, in fact, CIPA compliant. Nor will a library know if its compliance is at the minimalist level demanded by the need for maximum intellectual freedom in a library setting.


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