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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.

Links
Jay Currie
IF 2K

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Wired Nation

When the Pew Internet and American Life Project began chronicling the online medium in March 2000, 52 million Americans logged onto the Internet each day. By this past August, that figure had swelled 27 percent, to 66 million.
nyt
The ease and simplicity of the net, aided by such useful devices as Google and broadband, makes the net critical to an increasing number of people. For me it's a livelihood, a reference library, entertainment, an atlas, a handy place to engage my three year old's sense of imagination, a substitute phone, a replacement for television and a pleasure to deal with. My sense is that the 'net is just beginning its real expansion. Not in terms of North Americans with access - I think that number will grow slowly - but rather what they do with that access.

My assumption is that if I need it - from movie times to a picture of Saturn's rings - it is available by Google search. It may take a couple of tries but it is usually out there somewhere. The net allows me to read three to five newspapers from all over the world every day. And, again with Google's help, drill down from a news story to get the background and the opinions which surround that story. Or, when Sam asks me how the World was made I can get everything from illustrated Genesis to Hubble shots of embryonic stars and cross sections of the Earth.

The hype has largely left the net. People have stopped trying to sell fifty pound bags of concrete using websites; but the idea that storehouses of well presented, deftly organized, accurate information are there for a couple of keystrokes and the cost of a broadband connection is astonishing and wonderful.

Library WiFi

New York Public Libraries have set up free WiFi access. Which brings up an interesting filtering question - are computers connected to the WiFi network of an E-Rate certified library required to be filtered?
has in place a policy of Internet safety for minors that includes the operation of a technology protection measure with respect to any of its computers with Internet access
cipa
Now the old lawyer in me says that the clear meaning of the section revolves around the word "its" which implies "owned by the library". However, if that it is the case all a library need do is contract out the provision of the boxes to a third party and it no longer has to comply with CIPA to get E-rate. More realistically, I suspect the law will be interpreted to include a library's server, effectively the machine which is, in fact, hooked up to the internet and that raises the issue of WiFi.

A server which runs a WiFi network would seem to be subject to CIPA even if the private computers brought by the library patrons are not. Thus it is the WiFi network which has to have the filtering in place. This raises an interesting pricing issue for filtering companies which charge by the seat....what do you charge for the WiFi network which could have anywhere between zero and a thousand computers hooked up to it? WiFi My bet is IF2K will be charging a flat rate for WiFi; but that has yet to be determined.

What the WiFi problem does illustrate is that once again the technology is moving far faster than the ability to legislate. Wireless highspeed networks never even occurred to the folks who wrote CIPA.


Thursday, December 18, 2003

Seth Speaks

Everyone wants to censor something. The problem is that everyone has different things they want to censor. Sex, violence, hate speech, blasphemy, counter-revolutionary propaganda, DVD decryption algorithms, etc. For each one of these, someone can be found who will gladly explain why it must be suppressed for the good of society.

This leads into what I call the "values" argument, or the "Chinese Menu" theory (pick one from column A, two from column B). The "values" argument is passionately devoted to determining which items from the list should be suppressed (column A), and what authorities have the right to do it (column B). And then attacking anyone who has any other settings, as being morally wrong.
greplaw
Seth gets to the heart of the filtering issue. A heart which apparently eluded Congress when they passed CIPA. The problem with CIPA being that in its zeal to protect the children, Congress mandated always on filtering which would block the legitimate constitutional rights of adult library patrons.

There are solutions to the problem: most notable being the click through feature of IF2K which lets adults make the decision to filter or not for themselves. It is directly in line with the Opinion of the Supreme court of the United States on the problem of filters blocking adult access to constitutionally protected material - "You just turn it off." But it avoids having librarians scurrying about switching off filters.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Ad Sense

A number of people come to this blog looking for personal filtering solutions. I have no recommendations to offer as IF2K is not in the personal/family filtering market; but here are some ads from Google which may help.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

More Useful

The ALA has an Internet Toolkit up. Well put together and resoundingly neutral about any particular type of filtering. But they make two interesting points:
Consider providing a choice of filtered and unfiltered access to the Internet in keeping with court rulings that adults should not be limited to materials appropriate only for children and in recognition that the intellectual needs and maturity levels vary greatly from a six-year-old to a 16-year-old.
This is an eminently sensible idea. Unfortunately, a library which adopts this rational approach may have significant difficulty in complying with CIPA. While the Supreme Court said that the way to protect adults' First Ammendment rights to view legal material by turning the filter off, the default position for the filter has to be on for thereto be ful compliance with CIPA.
Provide adults a mechanism for overriding and/or disabling filters that is as obvious and unobtrusive as possible.
This is, essentially, what minimal CIPA compliance requires. Note, with the FCC's statement that what is required to qualify for E-Rate is a good faith attempt to block 17 and unders from accessing CIPA prohibited material, this leaves it open to libraries to adopt technologies which leave the decision to block or not in the hands of the adult user.

Shameless Plug: IF2K's click through feature is exactly the clear and unobtrusive override the ALA is looking for.


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