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

Friday, March 26, 2004

Children's Libraries

In reality most public libraries have children's sections. Many of these sections have computers and those computers pose a distinct filtering challenge. Leave aside CIPA, do you really want children - say under 12 - having unrestricted access to the net where you are often only a couple of links away from porn, violence and all sorts of untoward material?

Just as the children's section does not shelve Playboy or The Story of "O" there is no reason why a parent should not assume the same level of decernment when it comes to the net.

Frequent readers will know that I advocate a filter which provides an adult patron a warning and then the option of ignoring that warning and "clicking through" to constitutionally protected content. In my view that is what is required by the Supreme Court's rewriting of CIPA.

However, in the children's section there is certainly an argument for reducing potential issues by limiting access, intentional or unintentional, to age inappropriate material.

In the next few days, IF2K will be annoucing a collaborative effort to give childrens' librarians the tools to prevent harm while promoting access.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

School Library Journal

I had missed this article in School Library Journal on the Kanguard open source filter. Nice to see Lori Ayre mentioning IF2K:

Library consultant Lori Bowen Ayre of the Galecia Group analyzes all of the major commercial software filters, including The Internet Filter IF-2K, a filter that she thinks is the most responsive to libraries' intellectual freedom needs.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Click through

Lori Ayre posts an excellent comment on the desirablility of having a warn, don't block set up in public libraries. I commented:

Sometime ago, after reading the SCOTUS decision - and I was a lawyer - we reaached the conclusion that a warn, not block, option was critical for a library filter. (On IF2K we call it a "click through".)

Not only does this ensure adults their constitutional rights and intellectual freedom, it also will tend to protect libraries from lawsuits brought by anti-filtering, pro-intellectual freedom organizations. (Both the ACLU and the EFF have indicated they will be watching filter implementation carefully.)

Arguably, a library may find itself in more trouble if it absolutely blocks constitutionally protected speech than if, very occassionally, a sub-18 kid "clicks through".

In the former case the library could find itself sued by an adult whose 1st ammendment rights were abridged as a matter of policy. In the latter, the library could still self certify that it was making a good faith attempt to comply with CIPA. Good faith does not imply perfect and the occassional breach of the library's appropriate use rules would not be likely to mar its compliance.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Library Staff Computers Free

My blog readers are the first to know.....

Bob Turner, President of Turner and Sons Productions, announced a change to the pricing of the company’s IF2K library internet filtering product.

“Lori Ayre at Galacia Consulting mentioned on her blog that she thought it was criminal that CIPA required all computers in a public library, including staff computers, to be filtered. We agree.” Turner said. "Filtering staff computers is an unnecessary expense to libraries and unwarranted restriction of librarians’ intellectual freedom. It isn't protecting kids and it is making it harder for librarians to do their jobs.”

“Today we are pleased to announce that IF2K will not charge for the licences for staff computer filters required under CIPA. Our recommendation is that you install the filter as required by CIPA and then immediately turn it off as the Supreme Court of the United States has said you must for any adult who requests unfiltered access.”

The new pricing is effective immediately. The no charge for staff computers iniative is part of IF2K’s ongoing commitment to providing library filters which are the least worst way of complying with CIPA.

This press release will be out in the next day or so.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Free Porn

Seth Finkelstein takes US Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson to task for using a faulty internet search to come up with the statement that, "Olson told the justices yesterday, he typed in those two words in a search engine, and found that "there were 6,230,000 sites available." Finkelstein surmises that Olsen didn't put quotes around free porn and so ensured that his search which would mean he got results which reflected every site on the net which included the word free. Plus, if he was using Google, his free porn results would have reflected webpages rather than websites.

Finkelstein's point is well taken and one would expect better from the leading law officer of the United States.

However, the sheer quantity of free porn on the net is staggering. Had Olsen worked a little harder he could have come up with vast numbers of websites which offer hardcore pornography "teasers" which are entirely uncensored and absolutely down and dirty.

One of the most significant problems posed by the CIPA rules is blocking those sites. The Kansas initiative which is using a blocklist approach for CIPA compliance, is very quickly going to run into the sheer magnitude of the technical problem. A blocklist solution means that the filter is only as good - or bad depending on your perspective - as the list itself. As one of Seth's commentors pointed out, a favorite technique of the pornsters is to generate huge numbers of "spam" pages which are nothing more than search engine bait. But each of these pages may well contain offensive content as well as links to the porn. The majority of those artificial pages are not going to appear on a hand generated block list.

Having some sort of phrase filtering is critical for a functional CIPA filter. Without it, self certification for CIPA compliance will almost certainly be open to challenge.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Things have Changed

Everyone benefits: Tax dollars weren't wasted on an early-generation filter that blocked helpful and informative Web sites. Library patrons had and will continue to have access to the sites they need. Library staff will no longer be required to scrupulously police computer screens.

The board's decision to install a filter system follows the arrest of a convicted child molester who was using a main library computer to view child pornography. The library's dependence on "people filters" worked perfectly in that case. But library staff shouldn't routinely be expected to serve as computer cops.

Three years ago, this page noted that until the technology had improved, or until the library staff couldn't reasonably police its computer screens, the filters were best left off. Fortunately, the former occurred just as the realization came that library personnel were no match for the persistence of patrons determined to call up inappropriate sites.

WebSense, the new filter, improves existing technology by screening sites, not keywords. Someone searching for information on breast cancer, for example, can access medical information but not stumble on pornographic sites. It represents the difference between using a fine-toothed comb and a pitchfork.
One of the critical shifts in filtering technology has been the development of tools which allow this sort of basic contextualizing of information. While the censorware camp seethes the truth is that the arguments about filters overblocking constitutionally protected sites are vastly overblown.

In fact, a modern filter, with context sensitive sorting, an open blocklist - which I don't think Websense has but I might be wrong - an easy edit white list function and click through for adults will deliver filtered results to the target group without trampling on the first amendment rights or intellectual freedom of adult patrons.

(It does come with a price however, and Fort Wayne is certainly paying top dollar for the Websense version of a widely available technology.)


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