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Supreme Court to Hear CIPA Case 418

Ruger writes "The Supreme Court of the United States will "decide if public libraries can be forced to install software blocking sexually explicit Web sites," according to this article from the Associated Press. US lawmakers have passed three laws to 'protect' children from Internet pornography, but the Court struck down the first and blocked the second from taking effect. 'A three-judge federal panel ruled the Children's Internet Protection Act violates the First Amendment because the filtering programs also block sites on politics, health, science and other non-pornographic topics.'" Our previous story on this ongoing case will bring you up to speed on the issues.
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Supreme Court to Hear CIPA Case

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  • by WCMI92 (592436) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @03:25PM (#4653584) Homepage
    Those who's interest it is in finding ANY chink in the 1st amendment to allow them to censor the Internet will keep trying. This is their third attempt...

    They are now down to "we must protect the children". Will the court buy it? Hopefully not. Legislation should NOT be used to do the work of respobsible parents.

    As an adult, I should have unfettered access. A child's protection is not sufficient cause to violate MY 1st amendment rights. It is the parent's responsibility to filter for the child, not society's.
    • you know what? schools and libraries dont carry "Jugs" magazine, so why should they allow porno to be displayed on the machines?
      • by GMontag (42283) <`moc.gatnomyug' `ta' `gatnomg'> on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @03:32PM (#4653641) Homepage Journal
        you know what? schools and libraries dont carry "Jugs" magazine, so why should they allow porno to be displayed on the machines?

        No federal law is preventing them from carrying any magazine they like.

        This federal law is mandating they restrict content from the web wheather they like it or not.

        There is a serious difference between the two.
        • Wrong (Score:5, Informative)

          by Keebler71 (520908) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @04:09PM (#4653985) Journal
          This debate is very misunderstood. This is not a federal law forcing libraries to restrict porn web content. It simply denies federal funding to libraries who are content with letting children browse porn using monies given to libraries for computer upgrades from federal tax dollars. This just requires that if these libraries want the computer money, they have to place safeguards.

          I can stil understand peoples' arguements against such legislation, but in this context do not see it as a free-speach issue, just a funding issue. The libraries do not have the right to demand new computers at any cost.

          • Re:Wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

            by arkanes (521690) <arkanes AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @04:18PM (#4654054) Homepage
            The federal government likes to use the funding lever to get it's way in areas where it doesn't have any legal authority - ref the 55 mph speed limit. This worked for a while, but recently the courts have looked down on it, ruling that de facto administrative power should be as limited as de jure administrative power, which makes sense to me. While it's certainly true libaries don't have some magical right to new computers, the Fed doesn't have the power to force censorship, either. That is, when there are requirements for federal funding, those requirements cannot be unconstitutional. Another example would be denying funding to schools that admitted black and female students.
          • Re:Wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Gorm the DBA (581373) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @04:19PM (#4654058) Journal
            Denying Federal funding has been the U.S. Government's preferred method of enacting local change for many years now.

            See Mandatory Seatbelt laws or the 21 Year old drinking age, or the 55 MPH speed limit (later changed to 65, later junked).

            And it's not about browsing porn (I'll bet dollars to donuts anybody who was browsing hardcore porn on a library computer would quickly find his access to said computer cut off), it's about being forced to install software that arbitrarily removes the access for *ADULTS* to web pages based on metrics which are completely out of control of the local librarian, and for that matter generally inaccurate.

            • by RatBastard (949) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @06:21PM (#4655074) Homepage
              (I'll bet dollars to donuts anybody who was browsing hardcore porn on a library computer would quickly find his access to said computer cut off)

              Sorry, but that's just not the way it works. My wife works for the local city library and people are constantly looking at hard core porn there. Their solution? Bury the moniters in the desk so that only the person using the workstation can see the screen.

              Libraries don't want to know what you are looking at. Most don't even keep any records of who uses them anymore. What they don't know they can't be compelled to tell the FBI under the Patriot Act.

              School libraries might have different policies, but municipal public libraries, for the most part, are not interested in knowing what you do on their internet terminals.

          • Re:Wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

            by sandbenders (301132) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @04:26PM (#4654108) Homepage
            but in this context do not see it as a free-speach issue, just a funding issue

            I would argue that it's a free speech issue thinly disguised as a funding issue. Does anyone remember when the Federal Gov't made the drinking age into a 'Funding Issue'? It said that it would only give highway money to states which had a drinking age of 21. Now all 50 states have a drinking age of 21 now, and have for decades, even though every state has the 'right' to determine its own drinking age. Funding is the government's traditional tool for overriding the states' rights and other constitutional guarantees, until and unless the supreme court comes along and whacks its nose with a rolled-up newspaper. Until the libraries have the ability to exist without this money, and many don't, it is effectively a law requiring filtering software.

          • Re:Wrong (Score:3, Informative)

            by nyseal (523659)
            You're right....the federal government is not making this mandatory; nor did they make the 21 year old drinking age mandatory for every state. They simply stated that if you don't change your state law we will deny you federal funds for your highways (which is an economic burden that NO governor would endorse). I realize that highway funds and internet connections are two different subjects; but are they? If the federal government can dictate there authority over the states using economic means, then what's the use in a local or state government? Oh what the hell; who needs highways're right.
          • Re:Wrong (Score:3, Informative)

            by aeschenkarnos (517917)
            Denying funding for not doing X is exactly the same as mandating the non-doing of X, only worse, because the denial of funding is much harder to get reviewed, not least because people like Keebler71 think "it's only a funding issue, you can do without funding". Libraries can do without funding like you can do without air. Cutting off your access to air (when I control your sole source of air) unless you do what I want has the same effect, only worse, than ordering you to do what I want. It's an end-run around the processes for reviewing my orders.

            I don't know whether this is a "stupidity hole" in libertarianism or Republican ideology, maybe both: neither ideology really understands the concept of dependence, especially inter-dependence. You are not an individual atom, wholly responsible to and for yourself. Everything you do creates obligations to and from you to others.

      • by Gorm the DBA (581373) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @03:33PM (#4653642) Journal
        The problem isn't with "You shouldn't access Jugs Magazine on this computer." It's with "You must install software that will filter the internet on a series of arbitrarily described terms.

        Add in the fact that most filtering programs these days would not only filter out "Jugs the Magazine", but also "Jugs the water carrying vessels", and it gets worse.

        Filter on the word "Breast" and you filter out Breast Cancer, or the Bible for that matter (it's in there, frequently).

        Trusting businesses to maintain "Black hole" lists doesn't work either, because it either becomes government supported censorship (who's paying for the filters...right...your taxes), or it becomes an easy way for political adgendas to be advanced (See the ACLU site blocked because they defend the Free Speech rights of the unpopular).

        The Government shouldn't be in the business of telling me what I can see. Libraries are a function of the Government. Therefore Libraries shouldn't be in the business of telling me what I can see...Q.E.D.

      • by EnderWiggnz (39214) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @03:33PM (#4653645)
        but they arent banned by law from carrying JUGS, they choose not to.

        huge difference
      • by danheskett (178529) <> on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @03:33PM (#4653647)
        you know what? schools and libraries dont carry "Jugs" magazine, so why should they allow porno to be displayed on the machines?

        Because not subscribing to Jugs doesn't also block National Geographic.

        The problem with this law and similiar laws is that without a doubt legitimately protected first amendment protected speech is filtered. That is government censorship.

        In fact, your post, which is political speech and fully protected by constitutional law, is censored by the government. The word "jugs" with "porno" would probably be enough to get you filtered.
      • Because the presence or lack thereof of "Jugs" magazine doesn't stop people from checking out "Catcher In The Rye."

        Whereas the presence of internet filters blocks legitimate research in the name of trying to block porn.
      • the existing nanny software restricts many non-Porno sites & is expensive and difficult to administer.

        So the upshot will be that many libraries will have to cancel internet access altogether if forced to comply.

        Now if the law included a nationwide site license for the nanny software & money to libraries for set up & support, then it would be a simpler decision between do we support porn in the library or not.

        However, the decision the USSC is facing is more along the lines of do we allow libraries to provide internet access or not.
      • by Saige (53303) <evil.angela@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @03:35PM (#4653673) Journal
        When a Library chooses not to carry "Jugs" magazine, it doesn't mean they are forced to also leave out, say, books on breast cancer, magazines dealing with health issues that include sexual health, and such.

        If there was a filter out there that ONLY blocked pornography, then it would be a different story.

        But there isn't one. Requiring a library to install a filter that also blocks information on medical issues, religious minorities, sexuality issues, and discussions of problems with filters is clearly wrong.

        Let's make this clear - NOBODY is in favor of adding pornography to the libraries. The people challenging this law just feel that all the non-pornography that has to be blocked in the process because of the poor state of filtering is reason not to allow the law.
        • by Unknown Poltroon (31628) <> on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @03:45PM (#4653768)
          You gonna allow Lolita? How bout What is it, fanny hill? Romance novels? Sex ed books? The karma sutra? The joy of sex? Our bodies Our selves?

          Frankly, i have no problem with them adding pornography to the libraries, because I am unwilling to draw that line for someone else.
        • by Lendrick (314723) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @04:08PM (#4653969) Homepage Journal
          If there was a filter out there that ONLY blocked pornography, then it would be a different story.

          No it wouldn't.

          The problem with all these arguments is that they miss the point of the First Amendment, which protects any speech, not just speech that national moral standards deem worthwhile.

          People don't like to talk about this openly, but the fact is that most of us like porn, at least in some form. Admittedly, the vast majority of porn has no redeeming social value, but that's not enough to make it against national law. The only reason the laws are as strict as they are is that a rich, highly vocal minority are imposing their religious moral standards upon the rest of the country--standards which are technically unconstitutional because they violate the doctrine of separation of church and state.

          Diverting federal funds because of religious issues, while not technically making it against the law for libraries to allow unfettered internet access, is still mingling church and state.

          Of course, there's the other side:

          Would I myself walk into a library, sit down at a computer, and bring up a porn site? Absolutely not. It's rude and inconsiderate to other patrons, and any library ought to have a rule against it. But here's the clincher: It's the libaray's business what rules they decide to make and how they decide to enforce them, not the federal government's.

          I ask Congress something they've been asked many times before, and will likely be asked many times again: What part of shall make no law don't you understand?
          • The problem with all these arguments is that they miss the point of the First Amendment, which protects any speech, not just speech that national moral standards deem worthwhile.

            Not so. The First Amendment most definitely does not protect "any" kind of speech, it never has, and it was never intended to. It prevents the gov't from passing laws that regulate speech for the sake of regulating speech. That doesn't mean that you have can say anything you want to anyone you want at any time you want and not expect the consequences. Nor does it mean that private non-gov't entities have to obey the same rules.

            If I take out television ad that falsely claims that you're guilty of some horrible crime, then I am not protected by the First Amendment. If the TV station realizes that I'm lying and decides not to run my advertisment then they are also not guilty of violating my First Amendment rights. Nor can I exersize my free speech rights by casually violating private contracts, official oaths, privacy laws, etc.

            People don't like to talk about this openly, but the fact is that most of us like porn, at least in some form. Admittedly, the vast majority of porn has no redeeming social value, but that's not enough to make it against national law. The only reason the laws are as strict as they are is that a rich, highly vocal minority are imposing their religious moral standards upon the rest of the country--standards which are technically unconstitutional because they violate the doctrine of separation of church and state.

            Nonsense. First, the laws aren't strict. You can buy, view, or create pretty much any kind of porn you like in this country short of child porn, which is illegal for obvious reasons. The only question here is who funds the access to the porn.

            Second, the fact that a given law parallels the moral beliefs of the majority of the population does not make it a violation of the establishment clause in the First Amendment. If that were actually so then laws against murder and theft would also be unconstitutional, because, after all, the Bible teaches that those things are sins, and we can't have religion tainting things, can we?

            Personally, I think that net filtering is stupid. Watching what people are doing while online and kicking out unruly patrons who break the rules seems to work just fine. Let the Libraries and the communities they exist to serve make these decisions.

            This law might be a violation, and if it is the courts will say so. But don't pretend that everything law or government decision that you disagree with is automatically an unjustifiable violation of your rights, because it just ain't necessarily so.
      • by Darth Pondo (609687) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @03:37PM (#4653688)
        As with all censorship, it is a question of degrees. What one person considers pornography, another considers art. If you cannot draw a clear line between what is offensive to most people and what is acceptable, you shouldn't be drawing lines at all.
      • you know what? schools and libraries dont carry "Jugs" magazine, so why should they allow porno to be displayed on the machines?

        When I was in college, the reason the college library didn't have Playboy was because they tended to get stolen, it had nothing to do with content. Maybe this is true for some public libraries, too.

      • by burgburgburg (574866) <splisken06@email . c om> on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @03:41PM (#4653727)
        It keeps bound editions of Hustler and Playboy. It stores them in the Rare Book Collection to prevent them from being stolen, defaced or mutilated, according to this letter [] from Christian Heritage Tours (Google takes you to the oddest places sometimes).
      • Re:What? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by morgajel (568462)
        free nude xxx teen hardcore.

        guess what? most filtering agents would now ban this slashdot page.

        filters just don't work that well. I've seen a few spam blockers, but I wouldn't bet my life on them.
      • My library carries Playboy. What's your point?

        Oh. Your only upmod was "Underrated." You got me. IHBT.
    • Judging by your opinons i'd say you dont have children.
      • by GMontag (42283) <`moc.gatnomyug' `ta' `gatnomg'> on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @03:42PM (#4653740) Homepage Journal
        Judging by your opinons i'd say you dont have children.

        I can not speak for him, but I share his opinion and have raised a quite sucessful child. He heven spells better than me ;-)

        As a responsible parent, I gave him rules, even for the web, monitored his activity and disciplined him accordingly. Taking my parenting responsibilities seriously, I wanted to keep the "village" out of my decisions for his upbringing as much as possible.

        In my opinion, the people that need a "nanny state" are the ones that raise little vandal brats, then run back to the government asking for even more nannying to obfuscate their own lack of attentiveness, shirking even more of their own responsibility.
      • Judging by your opinons i'd say you dont have children.

        I have 4 children, and they each have Internet access.

        OF course its using a squid proxy server, nat'ed and IPfiltered to block all ports. I have a deny list and an approved list of URLS they can goto. They also use a kid protected email client (web based) that filters out addresses, phone numbers and some key words.

        When the kids are about 12 or so, Ill start to loosen the restrictions. I have v-chip on my tvs, and restrict some channels on thier profiles, and block anything above PG. (I had to block MSNBC also, it was for thier own good.)

        I really dont want them seeing pics, but they see and hear enough from school as it is. We spend most of our time de-programming them from DARE and other Political Correctness garbage. I want too homeschool them, but both me and my wife work.

        Oh yea, reason for having 4 kids, Your own lan party anytime you want. (-;
    • by MrAl (21859)
      I agree that it's my duty to filter what my child sees. However the one place that should be a safe place to drop the kid off is the library. Do we really want to discourage children spending time at a place where they can learn?

      Parents have little enough time - forcing them to spend what they have watching what their kids see at a place that should be a safe haven is going to discourage discovery and learning on the behalf of the kids.
      • by Zathrus (232140) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @03:51PM (#4653831) Homepage
        Sorry, the library is not an alternative to child care.

        I've worked at a library, and except for specifically designed children's programs, it's not someplace you should just drop your kid off anymore than you'd just drop them off at the mall without supervision.

        Furthermore, the library is not just for your child. It's for the community as a whole. And as such it should serve the community as a whole. No, I don't want someone to be surfing for porn from the library, but I do want someone to be able to do research on breast or testicular cancer while at a public library. Currently the two are mutually exclusive - there is no way to block only the porn sites.
        • by MrAl (21859)
          The library isn't childcare. But if my daughter wants to spend some time looking for books on subjects that interest her while I run a few errands, I won't be able to do that if I'm forced to watch her every activity. I resent the fact that you insinuate I'm just dumping my kids off because it's an alternative to childcare.

          The legal stipulation for regulating strip clubs is based upon "community values". You're right, the library is for the community. So maybe we should stop the federal government from deciding what goes in my local library and have a public vote on the issue.
      • by jafiwam (310805) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @03:57PM (#4653877) Homepage Journal
        Agreed, libraries should be safe environment for children where they can walk past the computers without seeing porn.

        However, they are not your babysitting service. Children should not be "dropped off" and left to fend for themselves until they are old enough to deal responsibly with the rules therein;

        - keep quiet and do not disturb others
        - keep away from the homeless people wandering through the bathrooms (here they do at least)
        - realize there is material for everybody there, with different points of view
        - know how to check out and return books in an undamaged state

        Watching books and managing the library is the responsability of the librarians, not watching the children of irresponsible parents who like to "drop them off" there.
      • It's interesting that you should bring this up since the actual librarians don't feel that their facilities should be used as free daycare centers. My son(s) should not be subjected to intellectual deprivation simply because you can't find the time to be bothered.

        It quiet, bookish librarians that are persuing this, not just some cabal of sexually deviant liberal lawyers. They (librarians) appreciate the value of academic freedom.

        Besides, a law such as this clearly oversteps the bounds of legitimate federal authority. If you want your local library to act as net.nanny, the appropriate authority is your city or state government.

        • If you knew some of the librarians I have known, you'd realize there are a lot more sexually deviant librarians out there than you think :-).

          Which really has no bearing whatsoever on the fact that the federal government should stay the hell out of the business of censoring our public libraries.

      • The library is NOT a day care center. It is a community resource, for adults and children. The legitimate, protected speech of adults should not be blocked because you can't spend the time to watch what your kids are doing.

        And considering the open, relatively unsupervised nature of most libraries, is that really where you want to leave your kids alone?

      • WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by GuyMannDude (574364) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @04:01PM (#4653911) Journal

        I agree that it's my duty to filter what my child sees. However the one place that should be a safe place to drop the kid off is the library.

        What the hell? Your second sentence is completely at odds with your first one! First you accept responsiblity for filtering the data your child gets. Then you follow that up with a claim that you should be able to shirk your responsibilities by dropping the little tyke off at the library.

        Do we really want to discourage children spending time at a place where they can learn?

        There is so much wrong with that sentence ... where to start. No one is talking about discouraging children from going to the library. Hell, if kids think they can look at nude pictures, they'll probably beg to go to the library. So the problem isn't on their end, it's with you. You're choosing to discourage them because of your personal beliefs. Second, they will be learning at the library it's just that you're afraid of them having access to material that you don't like. It sounds kind of funny but when a child sees some dirty picture, they are learning that such material exists. Filters or no filters, they will continue to learn at the library.

        Parents have little enough time - forcing them to spend what they have watching what their kids see at a place that should be a safe haven is going to discourage discovery and learning on the behalf of the kids.

        Hey, the library is not a babysitting service. You're going to have to make a choice here. What's more important: monitoring what your children see or your free time. Don't give us this "safe haven" crap. A library is full of information. If you don't want you kids to have access to certain kinds of information, then be prepared to take the responsibility yourself.


    • Jurisdiction (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dannon (142147) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @03:52PM (#4653834) Journal
      It's not just a matter of the 1st amendment, as I see it. It's also the 9th and 10th that are at issue here.

      My local library is paid for with my municipal tax dollars, and managed by my city government. So, under what principle does the Federal Government have any say in how my local library manages its business?

      If I think my library should be using censorware, I can walk on down to city hall at the next town meeting, and bring it up. If I don't like the censorware my library is using, I can do the same. Or, for that matter, I can volunteer to work at the library myself. If someone in D.C. doesn't like the policy my community has chosen, tough beans. It's our library, not theirs.

      But for longer than I've been alive, the Federal government has been taking more and more decisions away from local governments.
      • Re:Jurisdiction (Score:2, Informative)

        by DeepRedux (601768)
        If your library is fully funded by your municipal tax dollars then the law does not apply. It only "requires public libraries receiving federal technology funds to install filters on their computers or risk losing aid."
  • Hm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by The-True-Necromancer (102822) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @03:26PM (#4653592)
    This seems like if the US Congress doesn't get it's way they'll try to get around the thing somehow. I'm all for protecting children from things but shouldn't it be the parents job do decide morality to their kids?
    • About your sig, here's another that may cause you some indigestion as you swallow:

      The only innovation I've seen from Microsoft is new ways to write licenses

      Does that count?
  • by Reality Master 101 (179095) <RealityMaster101&gmail,com> on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @03:28PM (#4653606) Homepage Journal

    Will the librarian turn off the controls at the legitimate request of an adult or child. If so, there's no debate and no abridgement of free access.

    Otherwise, I see absolutely no harm in having tools that slow down teenagers from leaving sitting on library computers as a "joke" that my 5 year old daughter has to walk through.

    • A right that you have to beg for isnt a right, its a privelage.

      Also, how can you know that the link you are trying to click doesn't have porn in it, or in fact is what you were looking for?
      • A right that you have to beg for isnt a right, its a privelage.

        Yeah, and you also have to ask permission to see rare books, and to climb ladders to get at the tall shelves. And of course, let's not forget about midgets who can't reach the tall shelves.

        By your logic, any abridgement of "instant access" is an abridgement of your rights, which is just silly.

    • by Kamel Jockey (409856) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @03:36PM (#4653681) Homepage

      I see absolutely no harm in having tools that slow down teenagers from leaving sitting on library computers as a "joke" that my 5 year old daughter has to walk through.

      How about a compromise solution? I'm sure anyone who is all for unfiltered access can certainly agree that there is content that is completely inappropriate for a child to view under any circumstances. So... how about setting up separate banks of computers in the library instead? One could be completely unfiltered, and accessible only to adults, and the other could be in the children's section, with filtered access, and hopefully a requirement that parents actively supervise their children's web-surfing.

      • This fails to address the crux of librarians' and civil libertarians' concerns: the filtering is over-reaching. The worst filters filter by gross word-selection and/or have a political or religious agenda; others just have ill-defined categories for filtered web content. Even the best, however, censor pages that they shouln't, and this is a fundamental problem of the (pattern recognition) technology used to create these filters. The mistakes are potentially embarrassing.

        I know all this because I used to work on building these filters.

        In short, this strikes me as a poor compromise solution. A much better solution would be for libraries to filter for pornography on ALL computers. Pornography is much easier to filter than most other kinds of objectionable content (again, this is my professional experience in the matter). It also strikes me as a good political solution: on the one hand, even the hardest core civil libertarian can't argue that tax dollars used to support libraries should pay for pornography; on the other hand, this allows just about every other kind of content, including the most controversial (guns, abortion, homosexuality) through, so long as it isn't pornographic.

      • Your solution sounds like pork just to sell more computers. It doesn't address the fact that the computers in the childrens section, will still allow people to look at porn, and still prevent access to nonporn.

        Filters aren't feasible without strong AI.

        • Filters aren't feasible without strong AI.

          There is no existing AI technology that can filter pornography. Even bright, motivated people can't consistently filter it. There is no legal definition, and different courts can't agree on what is art and what is pornography even when they look at the same things. Until people can agree on this, which will be three weeks after hell freezes over, there can never be any filtering software.

          That's why parents looking over their kids' shoulders is, and for the forseeable future will be, the only filtering system that works.

      • by aussersterne (212916) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @04:41PM (#4654267) Homepage
        Um, how about we do away with the censorship and just ask libraries to use the second half of your suggestion instead:

        a requirement that parents actively supervise their children's web-surfing

        If libraries used this rule uniformly, there would no need to censor anything at all, parents could decide for themselves what they want their children to see, and libraries would not have to stretch their already woefully tiny budgets in order to pay for twice the number of computers and filtering software for half of them.

        By the way, in no way am I suggesting that even this should be codified. If certain parents don't agree with what the library is doing (whether refusing to filter or requiring that a parent attend a child at the Web machines), perhaps such parents should take care to ensure that their child just stays home where everything is safe and they can spend time reading the Bible and the constitutional handgun magazines instead of the dangerous material at the public library...
    • Then the problem with that is that it is up to the librarian to decide what is legitimate. That brings the librarian's personal values into the mix, they should be irrelevant.
      • That is the WHOLE point of the librarian. THEY manage the library collection. THEY decide how to allocate resource. THEY are the experts. If ANYONE is in a good position to decide what should be the actual librarians.

        Laws on obscenity are inherently local anyways.

        Besides, which government do you think YOU would personally have more chance in influencing?
    • NO. (Score:2, Flamebait)

      The cesnsorship wont stop the problem you just described. AS a matter of fact, it will make it worse. I have no problem with reaonable requests to not leave goatsex open on the computer when i log off. Fair enough. But when im told I have to ask permisson to TURN OFF filtering on machines that destroy my first amendment rights, on equipment MY TAX MONEY paid for, fuck you. I will do my damndest to remove that software and reset the background picture to nude pictures of earnet borgnine.
      How bout a simple check box when you log on?
      I am an adult, therefore i wish to turn off censorship on this machine. yes/no. Yeah, youll have 13 year olds looking at neekid women. SO what? By the time their old enough to be interested in it, theyre old enough to look at it.
      (No, im not a parent. Keep your kids out of the library if they cant behave themselves)
    • going to come from?

      Maybe you haven't noticed, but most libraries are overworked and underfunded as it is.

      Requiring them to purchase & maintain new software will likely lead to many canceling Internet Access altogether.

      As far as your five year old, isn't she a little young to be wandering around the library by herself?
    • What if the "legitimate request" comes from a teenager who is lying? Then the librarian has to decide how trustful the teenager is. That's not a librarian's function.

      As far as "goatse", have all of the computers face the librarian's desk. It won't take too long for the site to be changed... If you are worried about your daughter not seeing these things, or hearing these things, then don't take her to the shopping mall on a Saturday night. Want to know how many times I heard the "F" word last time? Is it offensive to me, yes. Do they have the right to say it, yes...

      And I do have a 6-year old son. I teach him right and wrong, and I try to be with him in situations where this may come up. Whether or not I'm with him, if he asks questions, I try to be honest with him while still telling him what is wrong with it.
    • by Irvu (248207) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @03:57PM (#4653875)
      Actually that provision exists in the CIPA. The Justices noted it but still considered the law a problem because
      1. although the librarians were required to turn it off they may not want to.
      2. this would force everyone to get clearence from a librarian and basically announce to the world at large what they are looking at before they do so, opening them up to censure.
      3. Many systems block sites "invisibly" or in ways that will prevent legitimate adults from ever knowing that they exist and thus being unable to ask for the provision to be turned off.

      To which I would add two more reasons why that is an issue:
      1. If it can be turned off all the time, it can be accidentally left off, hacked or spoofed thus making the system even less effective in the face of determined teenagers.
      2. In the face of recent USA Patriot rulings on librarians being forced to divulge recently secret information this is one more thing that librarians can be forced to log and then divulge.

      One other problem with the act that has been noted by many groups including the federal government is that the CIPA imposes the same standards on Teenagers as it does on your five-year old. While on the surface that seems (legally) reasonable it falls down in the face of teenagers doing school reports on breast cancer, etc. The rules for Teenagers really should be different. If I have to do a report on HIV in Health class it makes no sense for me to be banned from seeing the materials. Moreover, how are teenagers supposed to learn to deal with this stuff if they never see it until they turn 18?

      I agree with you that children need to be protected from harmful materials online, just as they need to be protected from harmful people on the street, and from playing with handguns. However I beleive that the federally mandated systems in the CIPA and others will do more harm than good for the reasons above and because no software can make the kinds of appropriate decisions that parents can.

      You might also see the American Library Association's page [] on the issue and the report of the COPA committee (a congressional task force) here []. Note I do not necessarily agree with all of what they say however.
    • I see absolutely no harm in having tools that slow down teenagers from leaving sitting on library computers as a "joke" that my 5 year old daughter has to walk through.

      Standard library solution: position the monitors just so that the librarian behind the desk can see them.

    • I would like my 15-16 year old to be able to do research on birth control, teen pregnancy and the like. Any topic of which would probably embarass them enough to not want to approach the librarian to ask permission to do the research.
    • Not Sufficient (Score:3, Insightful)

      by HopeOS (74340)
      There is ample debate, thank God. Please read what the district court had to say [] on the matter. The requirement to ask for permission constitutes a sufficient barrier to access to be ruled unconstitutional. From their preliminary statement:
      The evidence reflects that libraries can and do unblock the filters when a patron so requests. But it also reflects that requiring library patrons to ask for a Web site to be unblocked will deter many patrons because they are embarrassed, or desire to protect their privacy or remain anonymous. Moreover, the unblocking may take days, and may be unavailable, especially in branch libraries, which are often less well staffed than main libraries. Accordingly, CIPA's disabling provisions do not cure the constitutional deficiencies in public libraries' use of Internet filters.
      Their reasoning is sound and the following example further illustrates this fact.

      If you request that the filter be disabled, you are in effect stating that you will access material that may be deemed inappropriate by the library staff and the community in general. The only way to exonerate yourself is to divulge your purpose and the subject matter for which you are searching. If you do not, then it is reasonable to assume that your good name will be put in jeopardy. Since you may not wish to suggest to the library staff that you could potentially be gay [], have testicular cancer [], or be interested in providing homeschooling [] for your daughter, you are effectively blocked from accessing the material. All three topics have been blocked by filters in the past.

      As for leaving explicit images on public computers, a change to library policy would be a more appropriate solution. CIPA was not designed to impede teenage pranksters. It was designed to block US citizens from accessing material deemed inappropriate from public libraries in direct violation of the First Amendment right to Free Speech.

  • Take action now!! (Score:4, Informative)

    by updog (608318) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @03:30PM (#4653619) Homepage
    You can go here [] and take action against this now!

  • if they overtun the need for filters, maybe than can mandate plastic keyboard covers!!!

  • Then CIPA will be overturned like the CDA was, and the COPA should have been (parts of it were incorrectly supported, though it's enforcement was blocked).

    But that is one hell of a big if. You can drive a truck through that if and never see the sides.

  • by Corvaith (538529) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @03:34PM (#4653655) Homepage
    What I don't understand is why the government hasn't undertaken to write some software that really will just filter out things that are sexually explicit--perhaps with a way of turning it off with the help of an administrator, for if someone needs to get to materials that are educational as opposed to entertainment.

    I don't know of any existing software that doesn't try to block you from going a million other places, too. Sites on homosexuality. Sites on alternative religions. It seems like most of the filters have been put together by people who are less interested in protecting children than promoting an agenda.

    The opposition to this would probably be far less if there were some kind of guarantee that legitimate informaiton was not going to be blocked along with all the so-called 'smut'. I have nothing against telling people they can't browse porn from a public library... but I do have something against the government telling public libraries that they can't let kids find out about Wicca or gay rights or whatever they might want to really learn about, just because the filter says it's bad.
    • by Gorm the DBA (581373) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @03:47PM (#4653786) Journal
      "What I don't understand is why the government hasn't undertaken to write some software that really will just filter out things that are sexually explicit"

      Primarily because there is no accepted and defined line of "what is sexually explicit?". Nudity? Well...what about the statue of David, or the roof of the Sistine chapel?

      Sexual activity? What's sexual activity?

      Penetration? OKay...fine, but then you have to allow in all of the BDSM "Tie em up and beat em, but don't fuck em" films.

      "Purient Interest"? OKay...what's that? The best that the Supreme Court has come up with is "I know it if I see it"...I don't think they've developed the computer that can see and process yet.

      See the problem?

    • What I don't understand is why the government hasn't undertaken to write some software that really will just filter out things that are sexually explicit

      This cannot be done, because "sexually explicit" is too vague a concept to write a software spec around. It means different things to different people, and computers tolerate exactly zero ambiguity in their programs. Also, definitions of the phrase which rely on other vague terms like "lewd", "lascivious", and "vulgar" also suffer the same problem. It works fine for lawyers, but computers just don't get it. Ergo, you'll never see a successful filter.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @03:35PM (#4653662)
    One of the things I think of off hand to make filtering of explicit content would be to create a new TLD, such as .xxx . If every site that is deemed pr0nographic used the .xxx tld instead of .com/net/org/foo then it would be a simple matter of having filter software that would just reject any DNS request for that TLD.

    Of course, getting all the pr0nmeisters to change their domain registrations, etc. voluntarily would be hard (or would it?) , but this is just something that I've thought of in a few minutes.

    Of course, when my child starts to use the 'net more (she's only 2, but already mousing around my Gnome desktop on my Slackware box), I don't intend to rely on software to keep track of where she goes on the 'net and what she does - that is my job as a responsible parent.
    • Nope. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Unknown Poltroon (31628) <> on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @03:47PM (#4653790)
      How bout the other way around? Force all the child safe sites to .kid? DOnt like that? Why do you think its so much better to force the sex busisness to .XXX?
    • One of the things I think of off hand to make filtering of explicit content would be to create a new TLD, such as .xxx . If every site that is deemed pr0nographic used the .xxx tld instead of .com/net/org/foo then it would be a simple matter of having filter software that would just reject any DNS request for that TLD.

      The problem with that is - who decides what is porn and what's not in a global .xxx domain? A guy in Amsterdam? A mullah in Saudi Arabia? An art gallery director in San Francisco? The PTA in Dumptruck County, Alabama?

      Remember - this is a top-level domain that's meant to encompass all "porn" - who decides what makes the cut?
    • There are a number of sites that filtering firms designate as forbidden that are legitimate adult forms of art, literature and discussion. And most of them would be highly offended/dismayed to be asked to step into the ghetto of .xxx . And they should not have to.

      And pr0nmeisters would never volunteer for it because it would be restraint of trade.

  • So, what DO we do? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pknoll (215959) <slashdot,pk&grapefish,org> on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @03:36PM (#4653676)
    There's a legitamate problem to be solved here. I don't like their solution, but I will refrain from critisizing it until I come up with one of my own.

    It's not just a question of parenting and observation of your child's activities anymore; adult content isn't something you have to go looking for anymore. It lands in my inbox every day, thanks to spammers. Must I forbid my children from using the computer at all? That's not a good solution either.

    I, for one, would rather see them focusing efforts on keeping the adult sites from using "push" marketing tactics and pass enforcable laws against the spammers.

  • He was the very expert we needed for all of these anti-porno vs. free speech debates.
  • by venomkid (624425) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @03:37PM (#4653689)
    ...that tries to convince you it's "for the children."

    It seems to be a convenient way to suppretitiously legislate morality-based attacks on personal liberty.
  • the bush administration should not be wasting our tax dollars on seeking an appeal to the lower court ruling by escalating this case to the supreme court. CIPA is OBVIOUSLY flawed and the supreme court will quickly affirm the lower court ruling. instead of wasting our tax dollars and the justices time they should be thinking of better ways to combat this issue (ie use the money to educate parents and/or children).

    lets hope for a favorable conclusion to the eldred case.
  • I guess I don't know why this is such a big deal. Why can't a library enforce its usage policy with a filter. This argument appears earlier, but you don't see a library having a "porn day" where they show porno's all day long. How is blocking access to pornographic sites any different? It doesn't infringe on free speech because you can find your own way to look at porn... just not at a library.
  • by MadBurner (607889) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @04:02PM (#4653920)
    "Parents should not be afraid to send their children to the library, either because they might be exposed to such materials or because the library's free, filterless computers might attract people with a propensity to victimize children," wrote Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, who was elected to the U.S. Senate last week.
    when my child is on the internet I monitor what she surfs. why should this be different at the library. maybe the issue is parents want to "send their children" instead of taking a part in it.
    We need to focus on raising our children not finding others to do it. Porn stopping software stops all sorts of things other then porn. and who is who to tell me what is acceptable and what is not? I'll raise my kid thank you very much. and in doing so I want her to have access to as much information as she needs to fullfill her life. the focus should not be on what our kids see but how we teach them to deal with it. This is the real world people. there are uncomfortable situations everywhere. I don't believe we should stick goat sex up on a wide screen or anything like that. but let me be responcible for my own child.
  • porn abounds (Score:3, Informative)

    by z_gringo (452163) <z_gringo&hotmail,com> on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @04:03PM (#4653928)
    This is a bizarre problem in the US. Why is there so much porn spam?

    John Dvorak actually published an article today regarding this sam subject. One good quote is The porn purveyors have taken my freedom to choose away from me. Push technology now pushes porn at me whether I like it or not.

    he goes on, but you can read the entire article here []

    I agree that this is way out of control.

    • Re:porn abounds (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ChaosDiscord (4913)

      Odd, while the spam I get contains lots of promises of all sorts of indecent things, I don't actually see any. There aren't even links for me to click on to get to the site. I wonder what his problem is...

      HTML mail I get from a spammer...

      Oh yeah! The cutting edge mail client I use, mutt [], has support for not displaying HTML. What a great feature! Perhaps more email clients should add support for not displaying HTML.

      The nature of email is that it's going to go downhill. Any legislative effort to stop it is only going to stifle effective communications. The spammers are already using mail servers in foreign countries. (Similarly I expect as long distance phone call cost continue to decrease to start getting telemarketers in foreign countries ignoring my state's do-no-call list.) The only effective solution is to filter at a user level (or ISP level at the user's request). For the short term, to minimize your horror at seeing it, disable viewing HTML email. (Perhaps email clients could add a "only display HTML from people in my address book option.)

      The porn purveyors have taken my freedom to choose away from me. Push technology now pushes porn at me whether I like it or not.

      Is Dvorak equivally as angry about his right to choose what junk mail he gets from the postal system? Both email and postal mail provide a system for random strangers to send you things you don't want. It's life. Bothered that you're "forced" to see these messages? Stop using a mail client that previews HTML.

  • Filter, what filter? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Kizzle (555439) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @04:09PM (#4653986)
    My school and this tech school I go to both have Cyber Patrol installed on the proxy and they are extremely easy to bypass. If a site is blocked just remove the www, or use nslookup to go directly to the ip address. This works most of the time. The filter only blocks one way to the site.
    I wouldn't be supprised if other filters have the same problem.
  • Downright silly (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ogerman (136333) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @04:13PM (#4654007)
    Has anyone EVER seen someone looking up porn in a library? I certainly haven't. My local library's 8Eö>2_Jals are in plain view of the entire upstairs floor. Someone would have to be awful gutsy to display their moral decadence so blatantly in public.

    Secondly, they need to at least get the language right. Children do not look up porn; immature teenage boys do. You don't just randomly stumble into porn sites.

    On the other hand, I have no problem with libraries filtering their content as long as they use open source software like DansGuardian and ONLY use it to block porn sites. I've set this up for clients and it works nearly flawlessly.
  • by SkyTech12 (591773) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @04:14PM (#4654022)
    I worked in a library for about (2) years. We had completely unfiltered internet access. I can't recall a single time that we had a problem with pornography on the terminals. Granted ther may have been a few, but some people like to cause trouble. I have to believe that the majority of the population has enough common sense and decency to not view porn around kids.

    There is one thing though that I dont understand about our society? Maybe someone can give me some insight? Why is sex and nudity looked down upon, while violence is generally ignored. Dont get me wrong, I love both of them equally, well more the former than the latter. Its just a little confusing. Take BMX XXX for example. Sony opted to cover all of the nipples, to censor the game. Yet in grand theft Auto Vice City, I can dig a chainsaw into a cops chest, and dance in the resulting pool of blood. Shouldnt there be a balance?

    Wouldnt the images of be more disturbing to a child than seeing some playful lesbians?
  • by cafebabe (151509) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @04:27PM (#4654112)
    The Bush administration argued libraries are not required to have X-rated movies and pornographic magazines and shouldn't have to offer access to pornography on their computers.

    Yes, but libraries are also not required not to have X-rated movies and pornographic magazines. I have been to a few libraries that have subscriptions to Playboy and erotica on the shelves. Hell, my college library had the last 15 years of Playboy archived on microfilm. If libraries are going to use filters (which I oppose), it should be decided on the local level. The Federal goverment doesn't ban pornographic or erotic books from being in libraries so why should it be allowed to mandate what can be accessed via the Internet from their facilities.
  • by Pampaluz (163324) <> on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @04:30PM (#4654145) Journal
    In every library I've been in, there is a children's book section. And whenever there are computers, there's always more than one.

    Why not put special "Children's Access" computers in the children's section?

    If we keep the majority of books away from children (when I was a child I remember being barred from entering the "Adult" section of the library, until I told them I couldn't find Ronald Clark's biography of Albert Einstein where I had already been looking, so they let me go in there that day), then it makes sense to keep them from the worst areas of the Internet. But this should only apply to the children's area!

    Once they reach teen-age, kids should be allowed to use the unfiltered computers (and be told they will be banned from the library altogether if they are caught downloading pornography, unless they can show that it was an accidental "pop-up" or something that momentarily displayed an ad for pr0n.)

    I don't see why this idea hasn't been considered.

    If resources are limited in a particular library, then when someone wants to use a computer, they should be given a card with a password on it; and this password allows them to log in to the computer. Children under the age of 13 would be given a different password; and it would log them in with the filters running.

    Linux of course would be ideal for this, but I don't know if there are filtering programs written for Linux. But Windows XP has pretty good separate logins, this should be pretty easy to do.
  • by WeirdKid (260577) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @04:42PM (#4654277)
    Am I the only one who read the article? The bill was signed by Clinton, not Bush -- not that it even matters. However, the Bush administration argument for the filters seems to be more of an argument against them.

    "The Bush administration argued libraries are not required to have X-rated movies and pornographic magazines and shouldn't have to offer access to pornography on their computers."

    The key phrases here are not required and shouldn't have to. Following this logic, libraries are not required to not have pornographic magazines and therefore shouldn't have to deny access to pornography on their computers.

    Why legislate when communities and libraries are perfectly capable of handling this without violating the First Amendment on their own? How? Here's a few suggestions:

    • don't do anything
    • tell parents to keep their kids in the kiddie section if they're worried about it
    • Move the computers to the far corner, out of sight (this will handle the goatse prankers)
    • have a separate bank of computers with kiddie filters for those who choose to use them

    "We must protect the children!" Please. I'm tired of your children and your inability and unwillingness to watch them determining how I can lead my life.

  • by CokoBWare (584686) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @04:44PM (#4654285)

    You know, there would be a lot less of this niggling and policy crap (and rights being trampled, etc.) if some smart people mandated the creation of the .xxx domain extension. Easy to identify, easy to filter, easy to block. I guess it's not so easy to enforce. How could you enforce companies to use the new domain extension and abandon their old one by law with many countries having different pornography laws? Credit card companies could be mandated to refuse to pay for porn access from companies outside of this .xxx domain. You're a .com smutt dealer? Sorry, you're not getting paid!

    Well anyways, David Coursey once talked about this idea [] (though most likely not his original idea) being one of the more simple approaches to tackle the censorship of Internet porn.

    Something to think about methinks!

  • by palmpunk (324912) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @04:49PM (#4654338)
    What happens when this legislation is upheld and libraries are forced to use filtering software and the porn STILL GETS THROUGH? Will the libraries then be held responsible? or maybe it should be the court's place to punish the software companies for supplying software that _breaks the law_.

    The largest problem I see with the internet in libraries is the popup traps so many web pages use now. If i accidently turn up a pr0n site through my browsing will I be able to correct my mistake by clicking on the X before no one notices, or will my screen be filled with so many popups that the librarian will have to assist me?

    Popup blockers would be a much better service to have installed on the library computers. Filterware is just technology that doesn't work.
  • Politicians (Score:3, Funny)

    by Cheese Cracker (615402) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @04:52PM (#4654366)
    How about them passing some laws that protect the internet against politicians?
  • by Fastolfe (1470) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @04:59PM (#4654433)
    Two things:

    1) Why aren't we doing adult library cards any more? In the past, there was a "general-purpose" section of the library that had most anything a child would find enriching, and then there was the "adult" section, which held content arbitrarily determined to be unfit for the general-purpose section. Parents could get their child either a child library card or an adult library card, at their discretion.

    Good thing #1: Parents can either choose not to parent their kids, and let them be restricted in their content to whatever the library has determined isn't suitable for them. If they don't care enough about their kids in this respect, then they shouldn't care where the lines are being drawn and nobody is hurt (except maybe the kids, but that's a parenting issue, not a censoring issue); or parents can trust their children and/or supervise them, and let them go through the adult section with an adult card.

    Good thing #2: The decisions about what to keep away from the child section of the library is a local decision. My local library (maybe even with my input) determines what might not be suitable for the child library cards. What might be unacceptable to one community might be OK with another. We do not have a federal mandate stating what is appropriate for our local communities. That is the way it should be.

    2) Now, extend this to Internet access. IE, for example, already has a "standards-compliant" filtering system built into it. It relies on the PICS tags in the web page content to identify the types of potentially questionable content that are on the page. Browser settings then determine how far into each "questionable area" you want to be allowed to go. The browser will then prohibit you from going any further. If a site has no rating, the browser can even prevent you from viewing it.

    This pushes the onus of labeling onto the content authors, who generally have little incentive to lie (except to cause mischief).

    This should neatly catch 99% or better of the questionable Internet content, all evaluated to your tastes with no false blocking. Adults would browse in the "adult" section of the library. If set up right, parents could even tweak the content settings for their children to better match the types of things they want to be blocked.

    If you wanted to get fancy, you could even put this information on the library cards, and have software automatically reconfigure the browser depending on who's using it.

    Why hasn't this approach (segregating adult and child sections, using content-side labeling) been considered more widely? Am I missing some flaw?
  • by Herkum01 (592704) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @05:13PM (#4654533)

    Thats right you heard it here first! I believe that kids should not being going to the library and looking at boobies on the internet. I am an old fashion person and believe that kids should learn about sex the old fashion way, on the street! It is important that kids learn about this from their friends as lies and half-truths told by their equally ignorant friends.

    God knows the parents aren't going to it, and the sex education that comes from schools is all about scaring the living bejesus out of kids with cancore sores and HIV epidemics. Remember the old-fashioned ways are still the best ways, make sure you kid is out at the street corner getting the education that he will need to get through life.

  • by dameron (307970) on Tuesday November 12, 2002 @07:39PM (#4655638)
    I'm the system admin for a k-12 school of 800 students, about 400 computers and a dozen servers. We have filtering software (which I won't mention or advertise here) on our gateway that purports to block access to pornographic web sites. We are able to enter exception urls into the filter to allow access to specific sites, and have needed to make use of this in quite a few instances.

    Here's a list of the sites that were blocked by default that I had to unblock manually:

    Some of these sites involve themselves in gay/lesbian issues (particulary in regards to the other BSA the Boy Scouts of America), and may have been incorrectly blocked by keywords for "gay" or more likely "lesbian", but I've scoured the index page source for places like "Access Atlanta" and couldn't find anything that could be construed as remotely offensive, even in a substring.

    People who back such laws as this and oppose the recent ruling concerning the "under God" portion of the "Pledge of Allegience" are at odds with America's diverse morality and (non)spirituality. To include a reference to God in the Pledge begs the question "Which God?" or "Whose?". Likewise when legislating morality the question becomes "Whose morals?".

    Because nearly every commercial filtering system is protected by "trade secrets" it becomes impossible to expect and answer to the above questions, and illegal to discover them on your own.

    Are expected to purchase software that controls our childrens access to information without knowing what it's really doing? Absolutely, and if this law is upheld it'd be illegal to choose otherwise.

    Don't entirely know what it blocks and doesn't. Don't know why. Blocking software companies won't tell us. Illegal to find out. Illegal to not install. Likely illegal to circumvent.

    Orwellian. Yep.

    As an aside:

    "Protecting children" is a convenient way to get government to move, and it's a red herring. No American politician is going to come out and say "I'm anti-children" or "I think children should look at porn and the taxpayers should foot the bill.". Evoking "protecting children" is just a carrot (or whip if you'd rather) for people who have an agenda to wave in front of legislators.

    "Protecting children" also sells tires, and Volvos, and antibacterial soap, and milk, and private schools, and cell phones, and guns...


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