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ACLU and ALA Victorious in CIPA Challenge 352

Several people have submitted this news blurb about a victory in the CIPA case. If CIPA doesn't ring a bell, my earlier summary should help, or see this article from last month when the suit was heard in court. The ALA's CIPA page has more information, or read the lengthy decision. This is a rather surprising bit of good news; while the government often has great discretion in deciding how funds are spent (read my summary above for how the law worked), the judges in this case accepted the argument that requiring censoring software automatically lead to censoring things that weren't obscene, or child pornography, or "harmful to minors", and that that wasn't acceptable. I've reproduced the first part of the decision below. The government may choose to (and probably will) appeal to the Supreme Court.

Preliminary Statement

This case challenges an act of Congress that makes the use of filtering software by public libraries a condition of the receipt of federal funding. The Internet, as is well known, is a vast, interactive medium based on a decentralized network of computers around the world. Its most familiar feature is the World Wide Web (the "Web"), a network of computers known as servers that provide content to users. The Internet provides easy access to anyone who wishes to provide or distribute information to a worldwide audience; it is used by more than 143 million Americans. Indeed, much of the world's knowledge accumulated over centuries is available to Internet users almost instantly. Approximately 10% of the Americans who use the Internet access it at public libraries. And approximately 95% of all public libraries in the United States provide public access to the Internet.

While the beneficial effect of the Internet in expanding the amount of information available to its users is self-evident, its low entry barriers have also led to a perverse result - facilitation of the widespread dissemination of hardcore pornography within the easy reach not only of adults who have every right to access it (so long as it is not legally obscene or child pornography), but also of children and adolescents to whom it may be quite harmful. The volume of pornography on the Internet is huge, and the record before us demonstrates that public library patrons of all ages, many from ages 11 to 15, have regularly sought to access it in public library settings. There are more than 100,000 pornographic Web sites that can be accessed for free and without providing any registration information, and tens of thousands of Web sites contain child pornography.

Libraries have reacted to this situation by utilizing a number of means designed to insure that patrons avoid illegal (and unwanted) content while also enabling patrons to find the content they desire. Some libraries have trained patrons in how to use the Internet while avoiding illegal content, or have directed their patrons to "preferred" Web sites that librarians have reviewed. Other libraries have utilized such devices as recessing the computer monitors, installing privacy screens, and monitoring implemented by a "tap on the shoulder" of patrons perceived to be offending library policy. Still others, viewing the foregoing approaches as inadequate or uncomfortable (some librarians do not wish to confront patrons), have purchased commercially available software that blocks certain categories of material deemed by the library board as unsuitable for use in their facilities. Indeed, 7% of American public libraries use blocking software for adults. Although such programs are somewhat effective in blocking large quantities of pornography, they are blunt instruments that not only "underblock," i.e., fail to block access to substantial amounts of content that the library boards wish to exclude, but also, central to this litigation, "overblock," i.e., block access to large quantities of material that library boards do not wish to exclude and that is constitutionally protected.

Most of the libraries that use filtering software seek to block sexually explicit speech. While most libraries include in their physical collection copies of volumes such as The Joy of Sex and The Joy of Gay Sex, which contain quite explicit photographs and descriptions, filtering software blocks large quantities of other, comparable information about health and sexuality that adults and teenagers seek on the Web. One teenager testified that the Internet access in a public library was the only venue in which she could obtain information important to her about her own sexuality. Another library patron witness described using the Internet to research breast cancer and reconstructive surgery for his mother who had breast surgery. Even though some filtering programs contain exceptions for health and education, the exceptions do not solve the problem of overblocking constitutionally protected material. Moreover, as we explain below, the filtering software on which the parties presented evidence in this case overblocks not only information relating to health and sexuality that might be mistaken for pornography or erotica, but also vast numbers of Web pages and sites that could not even arguably be construed as harmful or inappropriate for adults or minors.

The Congress, sharing the concerns of many library boards, enacted the Children's Internet Protection Act ("CIPA"), Pub. L. No. 106-554, which makes the use of filters by a public library a condition of its receipt of two kinds of subsidies that are important (or even critical) to the budgets of many public libraries - grants under the Library Services and Technology Act, 20 U.S.C. 9101 et seq. ("LSTA"), and so-called "E-rate discounts" for Internet access and support under the Telecommunications Act, 47 U.S.C. 254. LSTA grant funds are awarded, inter alia, in order to: (1) assist libraries in accessing information through electronic networks, and (2) provide targeted library and information services to persons having difficulty using a library and to underserved and rural communities, including children from families with incomes below the poverty line. E-rate discounts serve the similar purpose of extending Internet access to schools and libraries in low-income communities. CIPA requires that libraries, in order to receive LSTA funds or E-rate discounts, certify that they are using a "technology protection measure" that prevents patrons from accessing "visual depictions" that are "obscene," "child pornography," or in the case of minors, "harmful to minors." 20 U.S.C. 9134(f)(1)(A) (LSTA); 47 U.S.C. 254(h)(6)(B) & (C) (E-rate).

The plaintiffs, a group of libraries, library associations, library patrons, and Web site publishers, brought this suit against the United States and others alleging that CIPA is facially unconstitutional because: (1) it induces public libraries to violate their patrons' First Amendment rights contrary to the requirements of South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203 (1987); and (2) it requires libraries to relinquish their First Amendment rights as a condition on the receipt of federal funds and is therefore impermissible under the doctrine of unconstitutional conditions. In arguing that CIPA will induce public libraries to violate the First Amendment, the plaintiffs contend that given the limits of the filtering technology, CIPA's conditions effectively require libraries to impose content-based restrictions on their patrons' access to constitutionally protected speech. According to the plaintiffs, these content-based restrictions are subject to strict scrutiny under public forum doctrine, see Rosenberger v. Rector & Visitors of Univ. of Va., 515 U.S. 819, 837 (1995), and are therefore permissible only if they are narrowly tailored to further a compelling state interest and no less restrictive alternatives would further that interest, see Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844, 874 (1997).(1) The government responds that CIPA will not induce public libraries to violate the First Amendment, since it is possible for at least some public libraries to constitutionally comply with CIPA's conditions. Even if some libraries' use of filters might violate the First Amendment, the government submits that CIPA can be facially invalidated only if it is impossible for any public library to comply with its conditions without violating the First Amendment.

Pursuant to CIPA, a three-judge Court was convened to try the issues. Pub. L. No. 106-554. Following an intensive period of discovery on an expedited schedule to allow public libraries to know whether they need to certify compliance with CIPA by July 1, 2002, to receive subsidies for the upcoming year, the Court conducted an eight-day trial at which we heard 20 witnesses, and received numerous depositions, stipulations and documents. The principal focus of the trial was on the capacity of currently available filtering software. The plaintiffs adduced substantial evidence not only that filtering programs bar access to a substantial amount of speech on the Internet that is clearly constitutionally protected for adults and minors, but also that these programs are intrinsically unable to block only illegal Internet content while simultaneously allowing access to all protected speech.

As our extensive findings of fact reflect, the plaintiffs demonstrated that thousands of Web pages containing protected speech are wrongly blocked by the four leading filtering programs, and these pages represent only a fraction of Web pages wrongly blocked by the programs. The plaintiffs' evidence explained that the problems faced by the manufacturers and vendors of filtering software are legion. The Web is extremely dynamic, with an estimated 1.5 million new pages added every day and the contents of existing Web pages changing very rapidly. The category lists maintained by the blocking programs are considered to be proprietary information, and hence are unavailable to customers or the general public for review, so that public libraries that select categories when implementing filtering software do not really know what they are blocking.

There are many reasons why filtering software suffers from extensive over- and underblocking, which we will explain below in great detail. They center on the limitations on filtering companies' ability to: (1) accurately collect Web pages that potentially fall into a blocked category (e.g., pornography); (2) review and categorize Web pages that they have collected; and (3) engage in regular re-review of Web pages that they have previously reviewed. These failures spring from constraints on the technology of automated classification systems, and the limitations inherent in human review, including error, misjudgment, and scarce resources, which we describe in detail infra at 58-74. One failure of critical importance is that the automated systems that filtering companies use to collect Web pages for classification are able to search only text, not images. This is crippling to filtering companies' ability to collect pages containing "visual depictions" that are obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors, as CIPA requires. As will appear, we find that it is currently impossible, given the Internet's size, rate of growth, rate of change, and architecture, and given the state of the art of automated classification systems, to develop a filter that neither underblocks nor overblocks a substantial amount of speech.

The government, while acknowledging that the filtering software is imperfect, maintains that it is nonetheless quite effective, and that it successfully blocks the vast majority of the Web pages that meet filtering companies' category definitions (e.g., pornography). The government contends that no more is required. In its view, so long as the filtering software selected by the libraries screens out the bulk of the Web pages proscribed by CIPA, the libraries have made a reasonable choice which suffices, under the applicable legal principles, to pass constitutional muster in the context of a facial challenge. Central to the government's position is the analogy it advances between Internet filtering and the initial decision of a library to determine which materials to purchase for its print collection. Public libraries have finite budgets and must make choices as to whether to purchase, for example, books on gardening or books on golf. Such content-based decisions, even the plaintiffs concede, are subject to rational basis review and not a stricter form of First Amendment scrutiny. In the government's view, the fact that the Internet reverses the acquisition process and requires the libraries to, in effect, purchase the entire Internet, some of which (e.g., hardcore pornography) it does not want, should not mean that it is chargeable with censorship when it filters out offending material.

The legal context in which this extensive factual record is set is complex, implicating a number of constitutional doctrines, including the constitutional limitations on Congress's spending clause power, the unconstitutional conditions doctrine, and subsidiary to these issues, the First Amendment doctrines of prior restraint, vagueness, and overbreadth. There are a number of potential entry points into the analysis, but the most logical is the spending clause jurisprudence in which the seminal case is South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203 (1987). Dole outlines four categories of constraints on Congress's exercise of its power under the Spending Clause, but the only Dole condition disputed here is the fourth and last, i.e., whether CIPA requires libraries that receive LSTA funds or E-rate discounts to violate the constitutional rights of their patrons. As will appear, the question is not a simple one, and turns on the level of scrutiny applicable to a public library's content-based restrictions on patrons' Internet access. Whether such restrictions are subject to strict scrutiny, as plaintiffs contend, or only rational basis review, as the government contends, depends on public forum doctrine.

The government argues that, in providing Internet access, public libraries do not create a public forum, since public libraries may reserve the right to exclude certain speakers from availing themselves of the forum. Accordingly, the government contends that public libraries' restrictions on patrons' Internet access are subject only to rational basis review.

Plaintiffs respond that the government's ability to restrict speech on its own property, as in the case of restrictions on Internet access in public libraries, is not unlimited, and that the more widely the state facilitates the dissemination of private speech in a given forum, the more vulnerable the state's decision is to restrict access to speech in that forum. We agree with the plaintiffs that public libraries' content-based restrictions on their patrons' Internet access are subject to strict scrutiny. In providing even filtered Internet access, public libraries create a public forum open to any speaker around the world to communicate with library patrons via the Internet on a virtually unlimited number of topics. Where the state provides access to a "vast democratic forum[]," Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844, 868 (1997), open to any member of the public to speak on subjects "as diverse as human thought," id. at 870 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted), the state's decision selectively to exclude from the forum speech whose content the state disfavors is subject to strict scrutiny, as such exclusions risk distorting the marketplace of ideas that the state has facilitated. Application of strict scrutiny finds further support in the extent to which public libraries' provision of Internet access uniquely promotes First Amendment values in a manner analogous to traditional public fora such as streets, sidewalks, and parks, in which content-based restrictions are always subject to strict scrutiny.

Under strict scrutiny, a public library's use of filtering software is permissible only if it is narrowly tailored to further a compelling government interest and no less restrictive alternative would serve that interest. We acknowledge that use of filtering software furthers public libraries' legitimate interests in preventing patrons from accessing visual depictions of obscenity, child pornography, or in the case of minors, material harmful to minors. Moreover, use of filters also helps prevent patrons from being unwillingly exposed to patently offensive, sexually explicit content on the Internet.

We are sympathetic to the position of the government, believing that it would be desirable if there were a means to ensure that public library patrons could share in the informational bonanza of the Internet while being insulated from materials that meet CIPA's definitions, that is, visual depictions that are obscene, child pornography, or in the case of minors, harmful to minors. Unfortunately this outcome, devoutly to be wished, is not available in this less than best of all possible worlds. No category definition used by the blocking programs is identical to the legal definitions of obscenity, child pornography, or material harmful to minors, and, at all events, filtering programs fail to block access to a substantial amount of content on the Internet that falls into the categories defined by CIPA. As will appear, we credit the testimony of plaintiffs' expert Dr. Geoffrey Nunberg that the blocking software is (at least for the foreseeable future) incapable of effectively blocking the majority of materials in the categories defined by CIPA without overblocking a substantial amount of materials. Nunberg's analysis was supported by extensive record evidence. As noted above, this inability to prevent both substantial amounts of underblocking and overblocking stems from several sources, including limitations on the technology that software filtering companies use to gather and review Web pages, limitations on resources for human review of Web pages, and the necessary error that results from human review processes.

Because the filtering software mandated by CIPA will block access to substantial amounts of constitutionally protected speech whose suppression serves no legitimate government interest, we are persuaded that a public library's use of software filters is not narrowly tailored to further any of these interests. Moreover, less restrictive alternatives exist that further the government's legitimate interest in preventing the dissemination of obscenity, child pornography, and material harmful to minors, and in preventing patrons from being unwillingly exposed to patently offensive, sexually explicit content. To prevent patrons from accessing visual depictions that are obscene and child pornography, public libraries may enforce Internet use policies that make clear to patrons that the library's Internet terminals may not be used to access illegal speech. Libraries may then impose penalties on patrons who violate these policies, ranging from a warning to notification of law enforcement, in the appropriate case. Less restrictive alternatives to filtering that further libraries' interest in preventing minors from exposure to visual depictions that are harmful to minors include requiring parental consent to or presence during unfiltered access, or restricting minors' unfiltered access to terminals within view of library staff. Finally, optional filtering, privacy screens, recessed monitors, and placement of unfiltered Internet terminals outside of sight-lines provide less restrictive alternatives for libraries to prevent patrons from being unwillingly exposed to sexually explicit content on the Internet.

In an effort to avoid the potentially fatal legal implications of the overblocking problem, the government falls back on the ability of the libraries, under CIPA's disabling provisions, see CIPA 1712 (codified at 20 U.S.C. 9134(f)(3)), CIPA 1721(b) (codified at 47 U.S.C. 254(h)(6)(D)), to unblock a site that is patently proper yet improperly blocked. 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.

Under these circumstances we are constrained to conclude that the library plaintiffs must prevail in their contention that CIPA requires them to violate the First Amendment rights of their patrons, and accordingly is facially invalid, even under the standard urged on us by the government, which would permit us to facially invalidate CIPA only if it is impossible for a single public library to comply with CIPA's conditions without violating the First Amendment. In view of the limitations inherent in the filtering technology mandated by CIPA, any public library that adheres to CIPA's conditions will necessarily restrict patrons' access to a substantial amount of protected speech, in violation of the First Amendment. Given this conclusion, we need not reach plaintiffs' arguments that CIPA effects a prior restraint on speech and is unconstitutionally vague. Nor do we decide their cognate unconstitutional conditions theory, though for reasons explained infra at note 36, we discuss the issues raised by that claim at some length.

For these reasons, we will enter an Order declaring Sections 1712(a)(2) and 1721(b) of the Children's Internet Protection Act, codified at 20 U.S.C. 9134(f) and 47 U.S.C. 254(h)(6), respectively, to be facially invalid under the First Amendment and permanently enjoining the defendants from enforcing those provisions.

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ACLU and ALA Victorious in CIPA Challenge

Comments Filter:
  • Look familiar? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:19AM (#3617369)
    "The government, while acknowledging that the filtering software is imperfect, maintains that it is nonetheless quite effective, and that it successfully blocks the vast majority of the Web pages that meet filtering companies' category definitions (e.g., pornography). The government contends that no more is required."

    - This didn't work for Napster either. At least the courts are being consistent.
  • Our Best Defense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lionchild ( 581331 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:21AM (#3617393) Journal
    Our best defense for protecting our children from things on the Internet that we don't want them to see, is to be active, responsible adults. That means we shouldn't leave our under aged offspring to roam around freely in places where they could be exposed.

    If we, the ones who spawned our children, aren't responsible for protecting them, why should someone else (including the government) be concerned about doing it for us?

    I think it all boils down to being responsible adults to those who aren't yet adult enough to be responsible.
    • Because one of the governments' prime responsibilities is to 'protect and serve'. Even if you believe it's not the governments' place to raise a child (and it's not), you can at least acknowledge the fact that poorly raised children are more likely to be dangerous (or irresponsible) adults.

      This is why they are (or should be concerned). IMO the government has no business meddling in this regard, especially since they can't even do public schooling properly yet...

      But what do I know... I vote moderate Libertarian [lp.org].
      • No, that is the police department's self-appointed duty/motto. Government does 4 things:

        1) Controls national currency
        2) Protects its borders from invasion
        3) Handles foreign policy
        4) Protects my right to life, liberty, and the persuit of happiness

        Number 4 can be interpreted in any number of ways, and your position on it probably depends largely on your party affiliation. To me, it means to create laws guaranteeing my personal freedoms, and restricting others from meddling with those fundamental freedoms. It does not permit the government to hand me a set of ideals and force me to comply.
        • Where did these 4 points come from? Did you just make it up? Just because you think something should be, doesn't mean that that is how it is.

          • I came up with them after a lot of thought. These are the 4 things that a federal government should and must concern itself with to ensure national security (a very Republican/Libertarian viewpoint). These are the things that are provided for in the Constitution itself, and given a strict interpretation this is all the rights the framers of the constitution gave our government. A liberal interpretation would view these as rights and protections of the the government, not the people, giving the government the right to make new laws and restrict personal freedoms in a way they see fit.
        • It does not permit the government to hand me a set of ideals and force me to comply.

          No, that's exactly what government does, by its nature - the concept of government itself is an ideal! ALL sets of rules (including anarchy, the single rule that there are no other rules, which translates to the 'law of the jungle') espouse an ideal of some sort. The question is which ideal or set of ideals a particular set of rules endorses, but it is impossible not to follow an ideal of some kind, no matter what you do, especially on a governmental basis.
    • "I think it all boils down to being responsible adults to those who aren't yet adult enough to be responsible."

      Exactly. If a parent cannot educate their children about acceptable and moral behaviour on the internet, something is wrong. It is not the place of software the make moral decisions in the place of a human brain.

      • "I think it all boils down to being responsible adults to those who aren't yet adult enough to be responsible."

        sorry to use you as a ramp, but here goes.

        your implying that those who have kids ARE responsible adults.I knew a lady who have 7 kids by the time she was 27, the oldest being 12. She was in no way responsible. so should the government monitor all of our kids to protect hers? abso-fuckin-lutly NOT. this seems to be the argument for this kind of legislation- it protects children whos parents won't protect them. IMNSHO they should take a look at these parents and determine if this kind of neglect is in every facet of the childs life. they should worry about the kid getting the shit beat outta him by his drunk father more than they should about him seeing a pair of tits on a library monitor.
    • by -brazil- ( 111867 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:37AM (#3617501) Homepage
      Well d'oh. The point here is that one would generally consider a public library a place where one could let one's children go safely and without supervision instead of worrying about pornography and whatnot. Do you want (or are able to) to supervise your children every second of their lives?
      • And properly instructed children shouldn't need supervised the majority of the time. Furthermore, why should you worry about pornography? By age 12 they've already had sex ed courses in the government's public school...
        • By age 12 they've already had sex ed courses in the government's public school I think a child learning about the reproductive system and their bodies is a little different then seeing pregnant transexuals peeing on young asain boys' feet.
      • Well d'oh. The point here is that one would generally consider a public library a place where one could let one's children go safely and without supervision instead of worrying about pornography and whatnot.


        Perhaps this is a common misconception that needs to change. This [fflibraries.org] article points out there are a lot of things available at a public library that are already regulated in the private sector. Music with explicit lyrics, pornographic stories, not to mention all the religious texts with stories of rape, murder, child sacrifice, and genocide. I was not allowed to go to a library by myself until I was 15 years-old, when my parents were sure I had the knowledge needed to deal with such material (although it was mostly because there were a rash of pedophiles stalking children in libraries.) Would you let your 10 year-old wander the local mall all alone? I would argue anything they encounter there would be far less likely to be offensive. But most people don't allow that, because it doesn't make sense to turn your child loose on the world alone at such a young age.


        You shouldn't have to supervise your child every second of their lives, but our jobs as parents is to shelter them as much as possible until they are mature enough to deal with the "real world." An important part of that job is also preparing them for the real world by talking to them. The "sex talk" is one that gets a lot of attention in movies and TV, but we also need to be able to talk to them about pornography, violence, and other offensive things.

      • Re:Our Best Defense (Score:5, Interesting)

        by zenyu ( 248067 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @11:54AM (#3618027)
        The point here is that one would generally consider a public library a place where one could let one's children go safely and without supervision instead of worrying about pornography and whatnot.

        Librarians hate you, you know. I worked at a community library in high school and unsupervised children were a huge problem. You can't just kick them out when they make noise or generally act like unsupervised children. You have to find the irresponcible parent and have the "you're a bad parent" speech. I think my supervisor had no problem with it, but it's hard for a 16 year old to explain to a 35 year old that people are trying to study, and will you please take you're hellspawn out of here NOW.

      • I've got a newborn on the way here soon. Will I ensure this child is supervised every second? Yup. If I'm not right there, my wife will be. Or if neither of us, then maybe grandma and grandpa or aunts and uncles. But 24/7 supervision will be there regardless.

        Skip ahead a few years--4 or 5 years old. Am I really worried about pornography in the library affecting my kid? No--I've got a house full of electrical outlets that are far more dangerous. Besides, little kids wouldn't understand or desire sexual material anyways. Is supervision required every second? Maybe--maybe not. Depends on the kid. But supervision is still needed.

        Alright, skip ahead some more--now I've got a 10 or 11 year-old. Do I start to worry about sexual material at the library? Sure. But--get this--I'm not letting my kid run around the library yelling and screaming and generally annoying people. That's the time to teach kids how to PROPERLY use the library facilities, and let them know what is and isn't acceptable. I will probably not leave this child unsupervised for too long.

        Alright, now moving along till I've got a 15-year-old. That's scary. Now, I don't have to worry about supervising nearly as much because my kid likely will understand how to properly use the library--after all I've spent the last few years making sure of that. Plus, a 15-year-old will know that if he or she starts looking at naughty pictures, others will see it. Our library has the computers placed so that the public could see what you are looking at. If it's for a project on breat cancer, no one will care because typically those pictures aren't terribly provocative. If my kid is looking at the recent Playboy centerfold, people will take notice. So my kid's still being supervised (indirectly), but I don't have to hold junior's hand every step through life.

        To be honest, though, I don't particularly trust anyone else to watch or take care of my child. I don't feel that there is any "kid safe" environment, be it in my house, church, library, school, or gang-war zone. Sure, some places are much safer, but I wouldn't count the library as one of the most safe places. It's a great place for kidnappers, pedophiles, etc. to explicitly target children. Take two hours of some day and go sit near the children's areas--you'll see lots of young kids running about without any parents around to supervise. I don't call that "kid safe" by any stretch, and I can't say that my biggest worry there is pornography.

      • by Trekologer ( 86619 )
        The point here is that one would generally consider a public library a place where one could let one's children go safely and without supervision instead of worrying about pornography and whatnot. Do you want (or are able to) to supervise your children every second of their lives?

        This is the FUD that has been dished out over "protecting children".

        The public library is the cornerstone of our free society. There, you can access tons of information and entertainment for free. The Internet is the logical extension of the library. To have the government forcefully block off part of it is like having anything with the word Shakespeare in it blocked because he might not be popular with someone. In fact, censoring Shakespeare might be a good idea to protect children. After all, Romeo and Juliet has killings and suicides which are both dangerous to children.

        If you look at the filtering software, none of them are totally objective. In fact, most are quite subjective. They block not just "obscene" material but also unpopular speech and anything else that the software publisher feels like blocking, including material that is critical of them.

        And if a child would be looking at pornography over the Internet, they surely wouldn't be doing it at the library, where the computers are out in the open for anyone to see. They're doing it at home (or a friend's house) while unsupervised.

        That's right, at home. Where you, the parents, are supposed to be watching over them. Not at the library, not at school, but at home.

        The best defense to pornography on the Internet is simple parents monitoring their children. Moniroting them all of the time comes with the territory. Barring having your eye on them all the time, parents at least need to instill in their children what's right and wrong and how to make the right decision. If you aren't prepared or willing to do that, then maybe you shouldn't have children.
    • That means we shouldn't leave our under aged offspring to roam around freely in places where they could be exposed.

      So parents shouldn't allow children to go to the *library*? For starters, I believe that some perv wouldn't look up porn with people walking around the library. And I have a hard time believing that there isn't anyone who wouldn't agree that looking up child porn on tax dollars is not cool. Although I agree that nazi/kkk/black panther/whatevah shouldn't be filtered. I've actually had to do reports on that stuff. That's all a political message though, not swearing. So I guess I believe in blocking of porn/obsceneties, after all, the History channel seems to teach just fine without showing porn or swearing. The government decides what they can show, right?
      • "So parents shouldn't allow children to go to the *library*?"

        Parents shouldn't allow children to go *anywhere* unsupervised until they've tought their children to think for themselves in regards to pornography, hate speech, etc. They're going to run in to it anyways, even if it's just in mild forms - you're.. THEY're much better off understanding how to deal with it rather than being shielded from it.
      • well obscene is in the eyes of the beholder (or in this wacky country the "current prevailing community standard" whatever that means) and therefore can never be filtered 100% correctly by any piece of software (whether it is running on wetwear or hardware). The problem is that it can be easily demonstrated that every single piece of commercial nanywear will block out a large volume of apropriate material and allow a large amount of inapropriate material through. Add to this the fact that almost every nanywear company is run by conservative zealots with their own political and moral ax to grind and you end up with the government essentially promoting a form of censorship that eliminates many types of speech and thought that are counter to what a small group of extreme conservatives think is "apropriate". For more explanation please see peacefire [peacefire.org]
  • by Telastyn ( 206146 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:24AM (#3617405)
    There's now laws in the US to try to prevent, and in most cases punish dumb, useless lawsuits. Where's a similar provision for dumb, useless laws that are blatantly in violation of the constitution?
    • The punishment is that voters should pay attention to what laws their representatives voted for and if they voted for dumb useless laws, then don't vote for that person. It seems re-election is the most important thing to many politicans, take that away and you've punished them plenty.
    • Where's a similar provision for dumb, useless laws that are blatantly in violation of the constitution?

      That would be provided by the voters in the form of not re-electing the sponsors of the bills and the people who voted them into laws.

      That said, it would be interesting to study all the laws that were ruled unconstitutional in, say, the last 15 years, what generally they were about (i.e. what part of the constitution they violated), who sponsored them, and who voted for them. Anyone know if such a list exists?

      • I was thinking of that originally, though if the bills passed to law, that means that a majority of congress voted for said dumb law and the seated president did not veto it.

        Voter solution would be best, though I think we can be reasonably assured that that won't happen, either by ignorance, or by well... ignorance. People mostly want a "fun, safe" internet, but have no grasp of what consiquences that would mean.

        Like they want no terrorism, but don't understand that increased FBI spying will lead to unthinkable invasions of privacy.
        • Voter solution would be best, though I think we can be reasonably assured that that won't happen, either by ignorance, or by well... ignorance. People mostly want a "fun, safe" internet, but have no grasp of what consiquences that would mean.

          Agreed. Still, tracing these laws to their roots may indicate what is driving them through the legislation. Part of it is sheer ignorance on the part of lawmakers, part of it is politicking (I'll pass your bill if you pass mine), and part of it is serving constituencies (all the angry soccer moms in my district want me to protect their kids from online porn).

          This ruling is essentially the third strike against mandated net restrictions. The Communications Decency Act was killed. COPPA is not being enforced but has not been entirely killed. CIPA is now dead. One would think that eventually the source of these laws would begin to think, "Hey, maybe I should learn WHY they're getting killed, and stop doing that!"

          By figuring out who the primary offenders are, a counter-campaign of education could be aimed at those groups/individuals to help them understand why these laws are being sniped off one by one.

    • I've already proposed taxing new laws ( http://www.livejournal.com/talkread.bml?journal=fi n9901&itemid=14184 -- adding links to posts seems to be broken right now, also please delete the damn space slashcode insists on adding); it'd be simple to extend this to add even heavier taxes to lawmakers that vote for laws that are later found unconstitutional.

      Of course the only way to get something like this implemented is by the same lawmakers that would be taxed by this, so good luck getting *that* to happen.
  • It only makes sense that someone make every effort to protect users from such things as viruses, scams through mail and email and all the other dark saide of the net stuff. Why is it so hard to accept that in a public place (where there are alot of people who want to be protected from negative stuff) that filtering could be a good thing, if applied correctly and intelligently.

    I've been invloved in the creation of filtering software for a few years now and I a confident that when applied creatively it is effective and useful. What I fins is the administrators expect that software (of all kinds) can be installed and "just work" which is never the case, especially where free speech is concerned.

    I'm sure any tech support rep on slashdot will remind you that they speak to a hundred people a week who cannot figure out that they can't just X software package on any machine and it'll work the same EVERY time. This is the case with most filtering packages, in fact the majority of good high level filters don't even come pre-configured. Thus, no filtering is applied at all and it is left to the admin to set up their own filters. The technology is almost there folks, it just takes intelligence and dilligence to set it up.

    This ensures that there is no need for mandatory filters for all users, effective filtering means it is tailored for the users, not the state.

    • The decision of the court upholds the spirit of the first amendment: your speech is protected, even if I don't like what you say.

      The philosophical side is that if just one item of protected speech is filtered out, then that violates the first amendment and is unconstitutional. My guess is that filtering software would probably keep you from reading the court's decision at the library!

      The practical side includes: (a) libraries don't have a boatload of technical experts standing around waiting to configure filtering software; and (b) filtering software may be OK but it still filters out protected speech, and forcing someone to give up their anonymity in order to read/see/hear it violates their privacy.

      Libraries have kids sections now. I recommend that communities that want "protected" internet stations for kids provide them in a separate area. This would not violate the constitution because non-filtered terminals would exist elsewhere in the facility. The libraries would not lose their federal funding. Adults would not lose their freedom to view legal materials anonymously. And kids would be protected from pr0n and slashdot (at least while at the library).

      Keep in mind that the court did not outlaw filtering software at libraries; it merely said that the federal government can't take away library funding from libraries that don't use filtering software.

      • Considering that there is already a childrens section of the library, it seems like this would be a logical solution. RWE: Athens Regional Library has a childrens network setup in the kids section of the library. You can access all KINDS of information, Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, general information on lots of things, including Anatomy, but only in a text book kind of way. They created this so that kids could get access to most of the information they needed without their parents having to worry that they would come up on hardcore porn while trying to do their biology report. If they can't find what they need there, then the parent can take them over to the un-blocked systems and look it up for them. I think this is a nice compromise and it seems to work very well.

        Kintanon
    • Why is it so hard to accept that in a public place (where there are alot of people who want to be protected from negative stuff that filtering could be a good thing, if applied correctly and intelligently.

      If people really wanted to protect themselves, then give them a voluntary filter and let them turn it off whenever they wanted.

      Personally, I think that people are far more interested in protecting their neighbors than protecting themselves. After all, most people will tell you that they can take care of themselves, but it's their neighbors that they're worried about.

  • Usually the courts rule in favor of more protection winning out over individual rights.

    Though a little discomforting perhaps to patrons and libraries alike, the "tap on the shoulder" method seems to be the most preferable method. Though there is freedom of information, there are rules one must abide by when using library equipment, so one must accpewt a small loss of privacy by library personnel occasionally monitoring your surfing.

    However, human discretion seems to beat software in this case.
  • Expected (Score:4, Interesting)

    by loxosceles ( 580563 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:26AM (#3617424)
    The courts are fairly consistent in throwing out junk legislation like this when it is shown to substantially impede protected free speech. It sounds like the ACLU did a good job of demonstrating that web filters do a terrible job and are not a magic bullet.

    The cases that are argued purely on the basis of "rights" and on philosophical grounds are not usually as successful for the side representing "freedom."
  • by L. VeGas ( 580015 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:27AM (#3617430) Homepage Journal
    In a related case, the National Organization of Tissue Manufacturers and the Petroleum Jelly Consortium have been convicted both of jury tampering and bribing judges.
  • by daoine ( 123140 ) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <3101hdaurom>> on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:28AM (#3617442)
    As much as we hear about our rights being taken away, I'm optimistic about the direction that this particular situation is moving. The CDA was declared unconsitutional, COPA is being challenged as unconstitutional due to its vagueness, and now CIPA is going down the same path.

    Just as you won't find pr0n is a kids' bookstore, I'd much prefer to see these lawmakers focusing on the .kids.us domain and other proactive measures, rather than trying to limit what already is.

  • New Rights (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jvmatthe ( 116058 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:29AM (#3617450) Homepage
    Throughout history, we have expanded the definition of what "rights" one is entitled to. This ruling could be a move towards defining a right for Americans to have free and open access to information and from there towards making it a basic human right. This line from the CNN article at least seems to have this flavor:
    They [the judges] say it denies poor people without home computers the same full access to information as their wealthier neighbors.

    Eben Moglen came and gave a talk to our LUG (and other groups) here and one question he asked that has stuck with me is this: "If all the human race's collected information could be made available to anyone, anywhere, at any time, for marginal cost, would it be moral to restrict access to that informtion?"


    Perhaps the courts are saying the answer is "No, everyone should have access to all the information that can be provided for them."

  • Kids & porn (Score:4, Insightful)

    by revscat ( 35618 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:31AM (#3617461) Journal

    For reasons which will become obvious shortly, I have to preface this by saying that this is not a troll. It's an honest question.

    Why are we so conerned with keeping children away from porn? Let's take a worst-case scenario, and ask what exactly the results are supposed to be if some seven year old girl stumbles across "Debbie Does Dallas"? The unspoken assumption seems to be that she will be irrepairably harmed by such material, but I challenge that statement. I remember running across a Penthouse once when I was a pre-pubescent kid; I thought it was interesting, but after a while I just went back to playing other decidedly non-sexual games.

    Now before I start getting flamed to death, I am by no means advocating for Disney to start showing full-penetration in their latest animated release. Further, I believe that child pornography is abhorent and rightfully illegal. My question simply revolves around the claimed ill effects to minors who view porn.

    • Well if I had a kid, and he/she inadvertantly got ahold of some objectionable material, I'd want to be damn sure I was able to explain what he/she just saw, rather than let his/her friends.

      I think the problem is the perception that is passed on by these films that is harmful, not necessarily the literal content. It teaches impressionable children that women (and I guess men, in some cases) are little more than recepticals for pleasure, whose feelings and emotions are non-existent. Without a responsible parent to tell them otherwise (and believe me, there are plenty of irresponsible parents out there who won't engage their children in this kind of discussion) they may learn everything they know about sex from raw, emotionless videos.

      That's not the perception of sex I would want my child to have.

      • I think the problem is the perception that is passed on by these films that is harmful, not necessarily the literal content. It teaches impressionable children that women (and I guess men, in some cases) are little more than recepticals for pleasure, whose feelings and emotions are non-existent. Without a responsible parent to tell them otherwise (and believe me, there are plenty of irresponsible parents out there who won't engage their children in this kind of discussion) they may learn everything they know about sex from raw, emotionless videos.


        I admit to haveing viewed a substantial amount of pornography. With that in mind, all of the pornography I have viewed with very few exceptions has given the impression that everyone involved was having a good time. It made Sex seem like an enjoyable activity between 2 (or frequently more) adults. I realize that there is pornography in which this is not the case, but it seems that mutually enjoyed sex is the theme behind the majority of pornography. So are you afraid that your child will learn that sex is an enjoyable activity?

        Kintanon
    • Re:Kids & porn (Score:3, Informative)

      by cdrudge ( 68377 )
      I don't believe the problem is kids & porn. I think the issue here is that the condition of putting ineffective software to filter the web connection in order to get federal funding. The software doesn't work. Libraries know it. The software manufactures know it. The government knows it. It blocks too much stuff that should have gone through, and doesn't block a lot of stuff that it was suppose to filter.

      I don't feel that I should have a right to go to my local library and look up porn. I do believe that I should be able to look up information on breast cancer (blocked - Sexuality, language), information or text about Catcher in the Rye (blocked - language), or anyone of thousands of legitimate websites that are blocked incorrectly.
    • Re:Kids & porn (Score:3, Informative)

      by SirSlud ( 67381 )
      You're absolutely right. Pron doesn't fuck kids up, mysogynist comments by families and friends are going to re-inforce gender inequality issues way the fuck more than some anonymous porn site.

      It's hilarious to think of the droves of fathers that think their kids viewing porn is a bad thing, but then casually refer to the secretary at work as a 'hot chick with a nice ass' to a friend in their child's presence.

      Porn isn't bad - thinking the women in porn are good for no more than porn is. I saw pron (as I think most urban children have at some point or another) when I was a child, and I'm one of the least sexist people I know. I'm forever defending porn against the same friends who pick up Stuff or FMV, oogle at the latest starlet, and cackle and the downright mysogynist content. The more we bring bring porn 'up' on the popular culture, the safer and more equal place it will be for its participants. All attempts to squash and censor it will simply allow its participants to operate in an area where public conciousness fears to tread - ensuring that its activites dovetail with the other cultures pushed underground (drugs, sex trade, etc).

    • Pronography is immoral and it harms women.

      Or that is the argument against it, regardless of you are a seven-year-old girl or a 21 year old /. reply-er. I don't happen to agree with the agruments, and I reason my opinions below.

      Should law reflect morality and our sense of public morals? Sodomy laws are an example of legislation that because of morality. Obscenity laws are also justified through morality. Historically pornography has been deemed immoral and therefore obscenity laws are on the books making pornography illegal. Is this position justified? Proponents of public morality intertwined with legislation argue that morality is what holds our society together. They also argue that morality and politics are interconnected.

      I would argue that morality, although important, should not be a justification for the state to regulate our behavior. I don't buy the argument that the lack of "morality" laws result in the downfall of society. Certainly the acceptance of homosexuality into our society has not destroyed it, yet laws were (and sometimes still are) passed that ban homosexual behavior on the grounds of morality.

      The other argument against pornography is that it is harmful to women. J.S. Mill published the Harm Principle in the 19th century, and it is till relevant today. The state may only regulate behavior that is harmful to others. Mill has a hard time defining harm, so he defines it vaguely. Mill says in the end that it is easier to define what harm isn't. He lists liberty of consciousness, liberty of tastes and pursuit, and freedom to unite as rights that are not to be infringed upon.

      The problem with the harm argument against pornography is that it is difficult to prove that it harms women. Feminists argue that rapists, wife-beaters, etc.; men who harm women, usually view pornography, and that it causes their harmful behavior. I would argue that correlation is not the same as cause. It is hard to show that because a rapist views pornography, that it was the cause of his behavior.

      Finally, a state can regulate behavior with what's known as the offense principle. However, what is offensive to some (goatse.cx) may not be offensive to others. Usually, the only condition that is used when someone is judged to be illegal because it is offensive is if it is so offensive and so prevalent that you cannot avert your attention to it. So with goatse.cx, although I find it offensive (and disgusting), the fact that I can simply not go to that Web page means that it is not offensive enough to regulate.

      Unfortunately, my arguments break down when it comes to children and pornography. Is your seven-year-old girl harmed when she (accidentally) sees Debbie Does Dallas? Mill wrote his Harm Principle before medicine understood emotional trauma, and mental damage. It is difficult to say whether or not your seven-year-old is harmed when she looks at pornography.

      Is it moral for children to see pornography? Again, my argument starts breaking down. I think we would all agree it is immoral to force children in participating in pornography, but is it immoral for them to see it? Many posters here on /. complain about our legislators, but hopefully you can see that legislation is not as easy as /. sometimes make it out to be.

    • Well, the problem is that for many teenage boys in my neighborhood, their preferred leisure-time activity is to porn-surf at the library with their hands in their pants, while the librarians, hampered by legal constraints, stand by silently with their arms folded. Sometimes their moms walk by and frown disapprovingly, but they're afraid to say anything.
      • "Hampered by legal constraints"? Huh? I mean, the kids don't seem to be hampered by legal constraints--why can't the librarians yank the twerps away by their ears and administer a Butt-kicking for Goodness?

      • Re:Kids & porn (Score:2, Insightful)

        by pjt48108 ( 321212 )
        Porn surfing is one thing. Hands in the pants is another, and would probobly fall under the category of indecent behavior not allowed under the board policy of most public libraries.

        Therefore, no library employee should feel at all afraid of kicking a kid out who is discovered enjoying his/her own charms. In fact, they should consider such an occasion to be cathartic. After all, theer are SO few things you can get away with kicking a kid outta the library for these days!

      • the librarians, hampered by legal constraints, stand by silently with their arms folded.

        What legal constraints? My local public library had me sign a paper saying I wouldn't do that before they'd let me access the Internet, giving them grounds to remove anyone doing that. Heck, they could be arrested for lewd acts in public, if they have their hands in their pants.
      • Re:Kids & porn (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rupert ( 28001 )
        Public masturbation is a misdemeanor in most states.

        If their own mothers can't control them, then the software developers at NetNanny can't do much to help.
    • Re:Kids & porn (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dirk ( 87083 )
      Why are we so conerned with keeping children away from porn? Let's take a worst-case scenario, and ask what exactly the results are supposed to be if some seven year old girl stumbles across "Debbie Does Dallas"? The unspoken assumption seems to be that she will be irrepairably harmed by such material, but I challenge that statement. I remember running across a Penthouse once when I was a pre-pubescent kid; I thought it was interesting, but after a while I just went back to playing other decidedly non-sexual games.

      If this was the extent of porn on the net, I would agree with you completely. The real question is, have you looked at the porn on the net? Daily I get spam in my inbox for incest, beastiality, and occasionally necrophila. The problem isn't kids seeing "nudie pictures", it's kids seeing women having sex with a dog or donkey. And this doesn't even take into account the number of sites with pictures of decomposing bodies and gaping chest wounds. Saying all this is about pictures of naked women is to ignore the reality of what is available on the internet.

      That being said, I don't support use of blocking software in public libraries until it is at least 99% accurate (and it's a far way from there).
    • The harm comes when the children who viewed porn start having sex and expect their partners to look as good as the women in the magazines. Unsatisfied, the men then go from one woman to the next, searching for the woman with the "perfect" body. The net result: women now have self-esteem issues like never before; men can't seem to be satisfied with just one partner; children go fatherless because the man won't stay and be a parent (he's off looking for the "perfect" woman, like the kind he's seen in the magazines...). Though pornography doesn't directly cause all of these things, it reinforces the selfish, lascivious desires in human nature, and tends to keep one from ever learning to genuinely love someone. How many women suffer from bulimia or anorexia because they are trying to look like the women in magazines (because presumably, men want a woman who looks like a porn star)? How many men have issues/insecurities about there own sexual performance, once they've seen the artificially endowed male porn stars? How many men learn to look only at a woman's outward appearance when looking for a girlfriend; worse, how many see women as nothing more than a means to a sexual end, and have no intentions of ever being a husband to one?

      Porn is the root of all of these problems. Yes, it does hurt children, but because the effects are not immediate and devastating, it's easy to believe that it has no effect. The ill effects are subtle, real, and long-lasting.

      • (because presumably, men want a woman who looks like a porn star)?

        In my experiance with porn, there is no one shape for the porn star. They come in all shapes and sizes. So don't blame porn for hangups about shape and size.

        How many men learn to look only at a woman's outward appearance when looking for a girlfriend; worse, how many see women as nothing more than a means to a sexual end, and have no intentions of ever being a husband to one?

        Many people who do that haven't seen porn; it just comes naturally to them. I don't think it's fundamentally much different from the places in the world where men can have many wives and women are to be seen but not heard, and in most of those places, pornography is banned.
  • Somewhat in tune with the .kids.us domain, I think the US should consider endorsing a .adult, .pr0n, .sex or at some kind of domain that would at least force domestic porn sites to be centered in a more appropriate, easily-filtered forum.

    I know this won't do anything against international sites, but something like this would be a step in the right direction. It wouldn't limit free speech; it would just give it an appropriate forum. It would also be easier for individuals (parents) to filter the content (note I'm not even getting into filtering by public entities).

    I'd like to hear some decent, rational arguments against this idea.

    • I think the real danger of "balkanizing" the net into .adult/.kids/.etc like that is that it'll enable the larger ISPs, like MSN, to simply wall-off further sections of the net that they don't like or control. I think they'd jump at the chance to simply drop .adult.

      And their subscribers would likely be as unaware of it as they are unaware that they no longer have newsgroup access.
  • by Sean Clifford ( 322444 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:35AM (#3617486) Journal
    Hurrah! Now kids can actually do research on breast cancer, pregnancy, and a host of other subjects without getting the big fat "blocked by CensorWare 4.3."

    'Protecting' kids from the realities of the world is a great disservice. They'll end up clueless adults who have a hard time fitting in with society. I may sound like a broken record here, but kids don't need protection from porn or sex. For my pr0n argument, counter-arguments, and a really nice discussion thread, look here [slashdot.org].

    Keeping kids in the dark about sex and other 'unsavory' subjects is stupid. It only compounds the problems of STDs and unwanted pregnancy. Keeping kids in the dark about drugs, violence, politics, history, and other subjects is equally bankrupt. The 'innocent childhood' is a ridiculous concept and a disservice to kids.

    • CBS Radio noted that the filters were blocking a rock band called the Aardvarks. At the beginning of the report, they were playing some of their music in the background.
  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:35AM (#3617488) Homepage Journal
    Don't Be quick to blame the ACLA or ALA for children having access to pr0n -- rather blame the legislators who write sloppy, special interest crippled legislation. If congress could ever intelligently craft legislation and keep crippling amendments away from it, there will be a better chance of something like this not being thrown out on "protected speech" rulings.
    • If congress could ever intelligently craft legislation and keep crippling amendments away from it, there will be a better chance of something like this not being thrown out on "protected speech" rulings.

      Um, how? The complaint wasn't that it was sloppy, or crippled by special interests. The complaint was that filtering software is illegal under the first amendment. No matter how you craft it, that's going to be a crippling problem.
  • "Because the filtering software mandated by CIPA will block access to substantial amounts of constitutionally protected speech whose suppression serves no legitimate government interest, we are persuaded that a public library's use of software filters is not narrowly tailored to further any of these interests. Moreover, less restrictive alternatives exist that further the government's legitimate interest in preventing the dissemination of obscenity, child pornography, and material harmful to minors, and in preventing patrons from being unwillingly exposed to patently offensive, sexually explicit content."

    Like busting the assholes making this shit instead of attempting to "filter it away"??

    Good grief. I don't understand who up there is under the impression that censoring is a solution. The law already makes it illegal. It is almost promotional to censor it. It's like saying "You are horribly wrong and evil. But as long as I don't see or hear you, do whatever you want."

    those idiots.

    -----rhad

  • In related news... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by supabeast! ( 84658 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @10:46AM (#3617566)
    Every public library in the USA continues to stock numerous copies of the bible, a book with numerous graphic depictions of sex, rape, incest, murder, infanticide, torture, and just about anything else that human beings consider offensive.
    • Every public library in the USA continues to stock numerous copies of the bible, a book with numerous graphic depictions of sex, rape, incest, murder, infanticide, torture, and just about anything else that human beings consider offensive.


      No carjackings! The bible is obviously less offensive than GTA3.

    • Wrong! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by gillbates ( 106458 )
      The distinction between sex and pornography is an important one. The fact that a book discusses sex does not make it pornography; pornography is defined not by the sexual content, but the manner in which the content is presented. This is what differentiates the Bible, which has a whole book devoted to romantic love and sex, from pornography. Pornography strips sex of all love, caring, intimacy, and dignity, instead focusing on self-seeking carnal desires. It is not so much that Christians are trying to remove from libraries materials to which they object, but that they are trying to protect the innocence of their children. In general, children do not have enough life experience to make good decisions - that's why they are considered children. It is one thing for an individual to use his own money to buy porn, but quite another for a library to use my tax dollars to not only buy it, but offer it to my children against my wishes. An individual's supposed "right" to view pornography does not override my right to protect my children from things that I judge to be harmful. As my children are required by law to attend school, and by the school to use the library, it is not as if I have the option of keeping my children out of the library. While I do believe that parents should take responsibility for raising their children, I also believe that it is wrong for the government to actively undermine the efforts of parents to raise their children in a moral manner. My tax dollars should not be used to harm my children.
      • "In general, children do not have enough life experience to make good decisions"

        And yet you would consider it perfectly acceptable to teach a religion to them when they, as you say, do not have enough life experience to decide wether they should believe or not.

        Not that I object to parents teaching religion to their kids as they please, but children certianly do not have the experience, education or sophistication to make a choice about it.
      • I also believe that it is wrong for the government to actively undermine the efforts of parents to raise their children in a moral manner

        Of course, some parents would consider the Bible to be at least as bad as pornography in this case. And part of the problem is that with filtering software is that some of the makers agree with you, and filter stuff like NOW or gay and lesbian stuff, which you may find fine, but I find rather offensive.
      • Re:Wrong! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by kindbud ( 90044 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @01:57PM (#3618866) Homepage
        It is one thing for an individual to use his own money to buy porn, but quite another for a library to use my tax dollars to not only buy it, but offer it to my children against my wishes.

        No library has done that. "Making available" and "offering" are two distinctly different acts. No one who enters a library is accosted with an offer to view porn. "Offering" is an active pursuit, "making available" is quite passive.

        An individual's supposed "right" to view pornography does not override my right to protect my children from things that I judge to be harmful.

        You have no such right. It is not even reasonable to expect such a thing. If your child is injured and requires a blood transfusion, the child should receive one, whether or not your family observes religious prohibitions against transfusions.

        A rather infamous mother in Texas was recently sentenced for killing her children to protect them from Satanic harm. She had no right to do that, even though in her judgement she was protecting her children from harm.

        My tax dollars should not be used to harm my children.

        "Personal judgment" is NOT a community standard of any sort, and has NO application to whether pornography is obscene or harmful to children. If it were, then I could judge my children to have been harmed by censorship, and can argue just as credibly as you can, that my tax dollars should not be used to harm my children. Your "personal judgment" argument holds no water, because it just as easily supports any viewpoint at all, which makes it effectively no argument at all.
  • This would all be avoided if the American people realized that thousands of local libraries cannot be run from Washington DC and should not be funded with federal dollars. Local dollars means local control and local standards. The same local public decency local public decency ordinances can be applied at the library as anywhere else. AFIAK, no one, not even the ACLU, is arguing that the poor have a right to spank their monkey at the county courthouse.
  • I'll never forget waiting in a little custom computer store for their sec'ty to process a check (and taking a darn long time at it) and using one of the machine they had running. Went to www.theregus.com and tried to read one article and the speaker startles me with 'blocked!', and the screen says something about porn. Tried another article and got the same thing. Eventually got to read one but the false hit rate in that little test, 2 out of 3, was pretty abysmal, rendering a public station nearly useless for the over paranoia.

  • I do not know if it is just a coincidence, or a hidden message, but CIPA in polish stands for female sex organs.

    I am serious.
  • legislators who try to break the constitution.

    I'll volunteer to lead the firing squad ...

    -
  • by Buran ( 150348 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @12:52PM (#3618405)
    "the judges in this case accepted the argument that requiring censoring software automatically lead to censoring things that weren't obscene, or child pornography, or "harmful to minors", and that that wasn't acceptable."

    There's something I don't quite understand here. This is not a troll but an honest puzzled reaction.

    It seems to me that this verdict, in particular the phrase which I have repeated above to clarify my position, seems to indicate that there are differing standards (at least to the court) regarding the application of censoring software. In the DeCSS case, it is my understanding that the courts are allowing censorship of the code and ruling that its publication can be blocked because it is harmful (to the profits of the movie inddustry.) In those cases, the argument that the code is free speech and thus protected by the First Amendment was denied, even though not everyone would be harmed by the posted code; the government is basically allowing censoring of something that is only harmful to a minority of citizens.

    But in this case, the needs of the many did outweigh the needs of the few.

    Where is the difference? Are words and symbols on a screen less worthy of protection than pixels on that same screen?

    Opinions invited.
  • by gdyas ( 240438 ) on Friday May 31, 2002 @01:13PM (#3618548) Homepage

    Part of the problem with people wanting to sanitize the library, at least in my neck of the woods, is that you get some no-good parents who treat it as a damned daycare facility. This is slightly O/T, but germane to the perception people have of libraries.

    The main branch of the library in my town is located downtown in a shopping district that also has a certain amount of homelessness, etc. I've been in the library and seen these moron parents walk their kids in the front door, kiss them on the forehead, and leave them for a good 1-2 hours. I could understand this behavior in a small town, but this isn't one. Nevermind that it's no librarian's job to look after your kids. Combine that with the homeless degenerates that skulk about it for hours to escape the summer heat and it's not a place I'd consider leaving my kid alone in for a second. In addition, unattended children damage library property. I've had librarians tell me that they get about 20 kids who spend the time between school and when their parents arrive to pick them up there. There have been fights, the police have had to come, take kids to the station & call their parents to come get them, but they keep coming back. It's ridiculous.

    The library is a public accomodation, not your private accomodation to control or do with as you will. To me, the people who seek either to abuse or control the content of libraries are on the same level as those who defile public toilets.

    • Careful buster. This statement: Combine that with the homeless degenerates that skulk about it for hours to escape the summer heat and it's not a place I'd consider leaving my kid alone in for a second.

      and this one:

      The library is a public accomodation, not your private accomodation to control or do with as you will.

      don't jive. Libraries are public property, for the public benefit, be that benefit in the form of knowledge or air conditioning. Those "homeless degenerates" as you call them have as much of a right to be there as you or your kids do. I've ducked int the local library on swelteringly hot days to avoid the sun - does that make me a degenerate?

      I'm not trying to beat you down, but that minor hypocracy kinda lept out at me. Information should be free to access by all. Yes. As someone else already quoted, not everyone owns a computer and a library is all about free access to information, just like some people can't afford books.

      Just as information should be free and public, public spaces by definition should be free and open to anyone.

      Triv

Everyone can be taught to sculpt: Michelangelo would have had to be taught how not to. So it is with the great programmers.

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