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, April 17, 2004

Pumping up the threat

Websense, Inc. (NASDAQ: WBSN), the world’s leading provider of employee Internet management (EIM) software, today announced that the number of pornography Web sites in the Websense® URL database is more than 17 times greater than it was just four years ago—surging from approximately 88,000 in 2000 to nearly 1.6 million sites today. This dramatic growth has been fueled by new technology such as high-speed Internet connections and streaming media, as well as innovative guerrilla tactics used by porn vendors to attract and keep visitors at their sites. With unlimited access to a high-speed Internet connection and streaming media at work, employees can be easily lured to X-rated sites—knowingly or unwittingly.
websense press release
1.6 million web sites...Wow. That sounds like a lot. The only trouble is that this sort of number is largely meaningless. Just to give one example: a free hosting company, think Geocities, might have a million sites of which 10,000 are porn. Depending on the filtering technology used, it may be possible to drill down and only block the porn or it may not. In which case one option is to block the whole free site.

Having a giant block list indicates machine harvesting of the sites to block. Which is really the only way to do it. But 1.6 million suggests that the machine looking for the porn was on a hair trigger. Which is perfect for corporate enviornments in which a zero tolerance of anything even a little doubtful is an employer's right; but it is less attractive for libraries which may want to ensure that the benefit of the doubt goes to risque sites.

Monday, April 12, 2004


The high price of mesothelioma ads has had some unintended consequences as firms try other means to land mesothelioma patients. In particular, some firms are attempting to boost their Web sites' spot on search engines' so-called algorithmic, or nonpaid, listings by tweaking the content and links to get a higher ranking. These efforts can include using the desired keywords (like "mesothelioma") frequently near the top of their home page, and including them in the Web address.
seth finkelstein
I am trying a little spider attracting experiment over at my personal blog. If you have a blog it would be great for the experiment if you linked to my Mesothelioma post. And if you see the magic word, Mesothelioma, give it a whack.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Disable with Ease

Mary Minow's First Monday article on the legal hazards of library filtering is up at First Monday. A great, rich, smart, legal analysis which I am going to be reading several times before making too many comments. But here are the money grafs:
Disabling filters with "ease" Is the KEY to avoiding lawsuits

What is a reasonable time frame that a library has to unblock a Web site or disable a filter upon request? The Court and the FCC do not take a position on this.

To recap: the plurality noted that a patron "may" request disabling with "ease" (plurality), "without significant delay" (Kennedy concurrence) or "need only ask a librarian" (Breyer concurrence.)

The only stab at a timeframe can be found in Justice Breyer’s concurrence. He compares the delay in unblocking or disabling the filter to traditional delays associated with requesting materials from closed stacks or interlibrary lending practices [69].

Yet as our need for information hurdles into faster, ever more urgent modes, it is easy to imagine scenarios in which the delays are not analogous. Job seekers are heavy library Internet users. Imagine the job seeker who can’t get a job listing that could make a real difference. That information may be needed right away.

Further, it is not difficult to imagine a fact scenario where a library has limited terminals, and users may only be online for an hour per day. Wasting even a half an hour of precious Internet time is clearly more burdensome on a patron than waiting patiently for a book to be retrieved.

In truth, we won’t know how much is too much of a burden. If and when a lawsuit is filed by a civil liberties group, however, it will likely aim for a library that’s disabling policy or practices is more onerous than its peers.

It is up the library community to set norms and determine reasonable expectations.
mary minow
This is critical material and every library needs to ask if the filter it is considering has the option of "warn, don't block"

Friday, April 09, 2004

Filtering and Collections Development

Wrapping up, I contend that filtering is a collection development issue. ALA’s Glossary of Library & Information Science agrees. Because we are dealing with a new technology that is accessed rather than owned makes no difference. It is still a “provided” resource within the library and thus deserves the scrutiny of a selection policy within a greater collection development policy. For now we have filters that are getting better as any technology does with time. We shouldn't confuse the principle with the technology. Nor should librarians allow filters to do all of their work. Filters are a tool, not a panacea.

This issue is also about standards. Libraries are not warehouses, but collections developed specifically for local users. Catered may be a better term. Until recently, the notion of free and open access only extended to what had been judged by a librarian as having a place within a library collection. Today many are lead to believe this means something entirely different. This is disingenuous.
As the arguments rage over intellectual freedom, overblocking and the host of issues dropped on the head of filtering, Tomeboy provides a welcome, library driven, analysis.
For those unwilling to accept this evidence, my challenge still stands for anyone to demand their public library accept and make available vintage porn donations e.g. Hustler, Playboy or Penthouse. Not to mention the more raunchy variety like WaterSports, Jugs or anything involving hooves.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004


One of the more interesting things to see as I look at filtering solutions is what categories filtering companies are willing to block. Here is a link to the Cy-Block categories page. Cy-Block is happy to facilitate blocking of 58 different categories.

At some point I suspect it would be a lot easier to opt to block the entire Internet and only allow specifically approved sites to be accessed. Which is what IF-Only, one of IF2K's products does, but which is apparently not an option with Cy-Block.


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