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FC: Boston Globe columnist: "Web filters at libraries are overdue"

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Date: Sun, 6 Apr 2003 01:17:04 -0500 From: Monty Solomon <> Subject: Beam: "Web filters at libraries are overdue" Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

Web filters at libraries are overdue

By Alex Beam, Globe Columnist, 4/1/2003

I once wrote that ''librarians are indeed the unacknowledged legislators of the universe,'' and I meant it. Their pay stinks, their working conditions are worse than at the post office, but they bring the world to us. Now librarians are caught up in a dramatic First Amendment imbroglio over the recently adopted Children's Internet Protection Act. The case, US v. American Library Association et al., has reached the Supreme Court, with the ALA and the American Civil Liberties Union aligned against the government. The government's position is: We provide $200 million annually to public libraries for computer-related programs. As a condition of this aid, we demand that you filter out Internet pornography, especially for juvenile users.

The ALA and ACLU oppose the law on more or less classic First Amendment grounds, arguing that libraries' Internet terminals are ''public forums'' where the government may not restrict speech. They feel strongly that filters or ''blocking'' technologies end up weeding out legitimate sites -- e.g., the Flesh Public Library in Piqua, Ohio -- along with the illegal child pornography and the garden-variety smut clogging up the Internet.

Well, we're all against censorship -- or are we? While the ACLU and the usual band of First Amendment zealots are demanding let-it-all-hang-out Internet access in libraries, some resistance has arisen from an unexpected constituency: librarians. In Minneapolis last week, 12 librarians sued their employer in federal court, charging that the library's three-year-old Internet sites displayed ''virtually every imaginable kind of human sexual conduct,'' contributing to an ''intimidating, hostile and offensive workplace.'' ''We were living in hell, and they were unwilling to acknowledge the problem,'' plaintiff Wendy Adamson told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. In Toronto -- admittedly a city that won't be affected by the Supreme Court's decision -- a group of unruly teenagers chased a librarian out of her building when she shut off their Internet porn connection. A police officer told The Toronto Sun that teenagers consider the library better than an amusement arcade because the latter doesn't allow them free, unfettered access to all kinds of pornography.

... are_overdue+.shtml

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