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May 31, 2002
9:47 PM   Subscribe

The federal goverment is now not allowed to withold funding from libraries who don't use Internet filtering. The Children's Internet Protection Act, an attempt to shield chidren from pornographic [if legal] material, was overturned by a ruling handed down today. Some libraries, like San Francisco Public, had already decided to forego any funding they might be entitled to in order not to be hamstrung by CIPA, but many others were dutifully preparing to install imperfect filters on their public terminals by the deadline of July 1st.
posted by jessamyn (23 comments total)

 
Good.

And that's about all I have to say about that. Quality post, too.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 10:02 PM on May 31, 2002


Definitely good.
Common sense & free speech actually get to win one.

Also, do you know how happy net porn would have made me as a child?
Kids today get everything. I remember having to abuse myself to an Orvis catalog.
posted by dong_resin at 10:11 PM on May 31, 2002


You think that's bad? My parents were so religious, I had to spank it to pictures of the Virgin Mary from our family Bible.
posted by Optamystic at 11:15 PM on May 31, 2002


Sweet Mother of God, indeed.
posted by Optamystic at 11:15 PM on May 31, 2002


i'm sure that's somehow very blasphemous, optamystic.

rock on!
posted by aenemated at 1:04 AM on June 1, 2002


Cipa.

> I remember having to abuse myself to an Orvis catalog.

One-coat rod finishing.

> I had to spank it to pictures of the Virgin Mary from
> our family Bible.

Oh, you poor thing. I had Kali.
posted by pracowity at 1:09 AM on June 1, 2002


*Pictures Kali and Mary going at it*

Mmmm..... sacrlicious.
posted by dong_resin at 3:57 AM on June 1, 2002


Eminent death of Metafilter *by lightning strike* predicted.

Seriously, this is great progress. Now if we can just get Congress to stop doing this sort of thing...
posted by hob at 7:07 AM on June 1, 2002


Well, good. Now we can keep the kids from downloading porn in the library the old-fashioned way... by having a blue-haired librarian lean over their shoulders and embarrass the hell out of 'em.
posted by darukaru at 7:20 AM on June 1, 2002


Darukaru,
Blue Haired librarians? If you think that image represents the majority of librarians out there, you may be surprised. Although, on second thought....I for one HAVE had blue hair.... and I think Jessamyn has had a blue streak or two also.... ( my blue and orange liberty spikes were the talk of the town for at least a month.)
Librarians fight censorship issues every day. Next time you visit your public library, thank the "blue-haired librarian." You know, the one with the tattoos and piercings.

Brad, proud member of Hell's Librarians. Live to Read, Read to Live.
posted by bradth27 at 8:43 AM on June 1, 2002


For reasons unknow to me, I am a member of the Librry Commisssion in the town in which I live. It has always been the policy of the library groups state-wide and I assume mostly nation-wide not to censor or use filters (too much work too) but to restrict access to certain computers for people over, say, age 12 and make available other computers in children's section for those under--and some retrctions seem to govern their use.
More fascinating than the "big win" for what is already in practise is the idea that States have rights, towns have rights, people have rights--but if the govt gives money in any way it can restrict these rights by the threat of witholding money that has been forcoming for years.
It is therefore good to see that He who pays the piper calls the tune" now recognizes that We pay the piper--called taxes-- and so we call the tune.
posted by Postroad at 9:44 AM on June 1, 2002


i worked briefly at a job center which included a bunch of computers that job seekers could use to search the internet for jobs. they actually had something of a problem with unemployed guys coming in and using the the computers to download porn. they solved the problem by allowing the librarian to monitor everything that the customers were doing on the computers. i always thought installing a filter would be a much better solution than forcing the poor librarian to spy on these guys and then confront them and kick them out when they went to the porn sites. but for some reason they never did.

i support the ruling because i think that the federal government was being overly coersive by forcing the local libraries to follow its will on this, but i have no problem if my local library decides to prevent my fellow patrons from looking at porn in the library by using filters.
posted by boltman at 10:07 AM on June 1, 2002


It seems highly unlikely that this law will not ultimately be established in some form. Tying recipient actions to federal funds is not a new procedure, and it's frankly arrogant of libraries not to expect those groups from whom they take money not to want a say in how it is spent.
posted by ljromanoff at 10:19 AM on June 1, 2002


I was joking, brad. Although my local library is full of 'em. Bless their hearts, though.
posted by darukaru at 10:37 AM on June 1, 2002


ljromanoff,
Most of the money taken from "those groups" you refer to is put into certain areas, and the guidelines are pretty strict. Simply because they give us a little money, doesn't mean we have to turn around and let them run our entire operation. The problem was that libraries were to receive no additional money to buy the software needed to comply with the law. Without receiving additional funding, libraries would have had to buy costly software that basically didn't work, just to satisfy a few parents who feel that the library is their own private day-care center. ( this being only one problem with the proposal, mind you) . Most public libraries are suffering in the budget area, and do not have time to play LibraryCop.
Oh, and Darukaru, that's okay. I was just picking anyway.
posted by bradth27 at 10:58 AM on June 1, 2002


It seems highly unlikely that this law will not ultimately be established in some form. Tying recipient actions to federal funds is not a new procedure, and it's frankly arrogant of libraries not to expect those groups from whom they take money not to want a say in how it is spent.

I would very much prefer that libraries are funded without regard to how the money is spent (as long as it isn't wasted) because if the government (or any group or person who donates to a library) has a say in what library users can read, view, or listen too, than the door is opened to blocking out views that the patrons don't agree with.

A leftist donor could demand that "The Way Things Ought To Be" be removed or they will pull their money, and the right wing donor just might try getting every Noam Chomsky book or "The Lorax" pulled.
posted by drezdn at 12:42 PM on June 1, 2002


Private donors can already demand those things, and I'm sure some libraries have accepted funding with just those sorts of strings attached.
posted by kindall at 2:33 PM on June 1, 2002


My first (negative, is there any other?) experience with filtering software was about three years ago when I was teaching a group of adults how to use the internet. I wanted to show them the web museum as an example of the cool content you could find on the net. But the blocking software didn't have a taste for art (and we're talking the louvre here, fairly acceptable stuff, dontchathink?).

Most libraries keep their computers out in the open, within easy eye-shot of the librarians and others. I've yet to see one equiped with jergens and facial tissues. Give me a break. Nudie pictures! The horror!
posted by wheat at 4:34 PM on June 1, 2002


Simply because they give us a little money, doesn't mean we have to turn around and let them run our entire operation.

Adding a software filter is running your entire operation? I think not. These requirements are much less strict than those on universities, for example, if even a single student at a university is getting financial aid.
posted by ljromanoff at 5:36 PM on June 1, 2002


These requirements are much less strict than those on universities

No. University library funding is generally much more hands-off because it is dealing with a collection development policy that already basically predetermines what will be in the library [materials to support the academic culture and research culture]. Technology funding too. Essentially they trust the professionals [in this case librarians and the computing and research staff] to make considered judgments and use money appropriately or risk not getting money on the next round of funding. This has always been the case in public libraries as well. I wouldn't want the feds detemining my medical care, I leave that to my doctor. I let my librarians choose -- with the guidance of professional organizations like the ALA -- how the library runs.

The issue in this case was whether the feds could require filtering on all computers when the admitted risk was only that children might encounter material that was dangerous, damaging, or whatever your hyperbole of choice is. The ruling hinged on the fact that employing any current filtering software solution on all terminals would be impinging on adult rights to view and read whatever they want -- a stated right in many if not most public library policies.

I'm sure there are many librarians who would happily use filtering software if it kept out porn and allowed all other information to pass through. Since that software does not presently exist, forcing an imperfect solution that infringes on people's right to read and adults' rights to look at naked ladies [or news about breast cancer, or SuperBowl XXX news] in the interests of a very vocal minority of library patrons and employees was judged to be non-consitutional. It's going to the US Supreme Court presently.
posted by jessamyn at 5:55 PM on June 1, 2002


These requirements are much less strict than those on universities

No. University library funding


Actually, I was referring to universities as an entire entity, not university libraries.

forcing an imperfect solution that infringes on people's right to read and adults' rights to look at naked ladies

Forcing? No library is forced to take federal funds, and can avoid the filtering requirements by not doing so.
posted by ljromanoff at 9:22 PM on June 1, 2002


I think that you can make a good argument that existing filtering software violates the free speech rights of even children because it has a difficult time separating obscene content from political content. From an Alternet article
The result is that popular products like Net Nanny, SurfWatch, and Cybersitter all blocked House Majority Leader Richard "Dick" Armey's official website upon detection of the word "dick." Most filters have various levels of filtering, allowing users to check off what they want to weed out. By clicking on X-Stop's "foul word function," for example, searches for "The Owl and the Pussycat" and the novel, Bastard Out of Carolina were blocked.

...

In the bizarre category, sites blocked include Focus on the Family's Pure Intimacy page (www.pureintimacy.org), aimed at those "struggling with sexual temptations," Air Penny (BeInMyPoster.com), a Nike site devoted to basketball player Penny Hardaway, and numerous pages and sites containing the syllable "cum," including biographies of two members of the Commission on Online Child Protection who graduated college "magna cum laude" and a site on the genetics of cucumbers. (The mind races with the multitudinous possibilities of errant censorship. What about fan sites for Scottish actor Alan Cumming, a personal favorite, or English curricula featuring that degenerate lower-case poet, e.e. cummings?) (repost from previous discussion)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:12 AM on June 2, 2002


I did some research on this while working for an organization that was gathering evidence to fight this issue in court. My job was to go to the libraries that used filtering software and try to access certain websites that we thought would trigger the filter. Most were predictable sites dealing with sex, but a few blocked sites surprised me: Mormon sites (i have no idea why), straightedge sites, hardcore/punk/metal sites, gay/lesbian sites, AIDS/Hepatitis sites, drug addiction/recovery sites, and political cartoons sites to name a few. Clearly, the software is not too precise.
posted by mariko at 7:15 AM on June 3, 2002


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