Lunes 1 de Julio de 2002, Ip nº 18

Bush: bring back library filters
Por Julia Scheeres

News that the Bush administration is planning to take its library filtering battle to the Supreme Court didn't come as much of a surprise to advocates on either side of the controversy.

The Justice Department on Thursday notified the Supreme Court that it planned to appeal a May U.S. Court of Appeals ruling striking down the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which required public libraries to install filters on computers to keep children from viewing porn sites or lose federal funding.

Sources close to the controversy said the Bush administration had warned it would appeal an unfavorable outcome even before last month's ruling by a three-judge panel in Philadelphia

Filtering opponents said they were confident that if the Supreme Court decides to hear the case, it would uphold the ruling, which found CIPA unconstitutional because the filtering programs also blocked constitutionally protected speech.

"We're confident that the Supreme Court will affirm the strong opinion of the lower court declaring unconstitutional forced Internet censorship in libraries," said Ann Beeson, the litigation director for the technology and liberty program of the ACLU.

Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the Washington, D.C. office of the American Library Association, said she believed the Supreme Court would be swayed by damning evidence presented in Philadelphia that demonstrated the filters were buggy and unreliable.

"The filtering companies were pretty much discredited by this case because they're not the best way to protect children," she said.

The library association believes that decisions on how to protect children from unsavory material online is best left in the hands of individual libraries, as is currently the case.

For example, some libraries have opted for recessed or hooded monitors that can only be viewed by the patron surfing the Net. Others have opted public humiliation as a tactic -- if a patron ogles porn in a facility that prohibits such things, the librarian taps the person on the shoulder and orders him (or her) to leave the terminal or library.

But Jonathon Bertman, the president of Afraidtoask.com, a health site which provides information on everything from bowel movements to masturbation, was irritated at the appeal. His site is routinely blocked by filtering software because it contains graphic images and text, but is not pornographic.

"I'm disappointed the government is going to waste our time and taxpayer money on a law that clearly tramples on my rights of free speech," he said.

Bertman, a family physician who teaches family medicine at Brown University, said 25 percent of his visitors are under 18; an age group often embarrassed to ask their elders about intimate body functions.

Nevertheless, the pro-filtering forces hailed the planned government appeal to the Supreme Court as a victory for children.

"The issue is not whether patrons have been denied First Amendment rights but rather, whether public libraries must be forced to become purveyors of pornography and deliver obscene material to innocent children," said Stephen Crampton, chief counsel for the American Family Association.

Moreover, libraries already censor literature deemed inappropriate for kids, said David Miller, the vice president for Citizens for Community Values.

"They already pick and choose which books their patrons have access to," Miller said. "Why are they unwilling to filter out Internet material that is harmful to children?"


  21/06/2002. Wired Magazine.


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