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United States Censorship

US Supreme Court Upholds CIPA 585

TheMatt writes "The US Supreme Court today has upheld CIPA, the law that required public schools and libraries to put internet filters on computers or lose federal funding. Quote: 'The court in a 5-4 decision ruled that the Children's Internet Protection Act does not violate the First Amendment, but that filters sometimes, do block informational Web sites.'" The decision will be posted on the US Supreme Court website later today. The case is United States v. American Library Association, 02-361. We had covered this story before.
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US Supreme Court Upholds CIPA

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  • Can they keep logs? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aridhol ( 112307 ) <> on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:42AM (#6273693) Homepage Journal
    If so, keep logs of those sites that are blocked. Log the reasons for blocking (pornographic, political, etc). When it is seen what non-pornographic content is being blocked, let everybody know. Publish a list of the top-ten blocked informational sites.

    Make sure everybody knows what is being blocked. Talk to the media. Once there is a enough support, try to get the law repealed.

    Note that I am Canadian, and I have no idea what goes into repealing laws in the USA. It may be that, because it has already been to the supreme court, it's too late to repeal. But challenge it anyway. Knowing the way laws work, someone can probably write a counter-law that will override it, and attach it as a rider to another bill.

    • by demaria ( 122790 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:46AM (#6273724) Homepage
      The Supreme Court said the existing law was legal. That does not nullify the ability to repeal. All you need to is pass another law saying "That other law is now overridden" or something to that effect. Heck, we did it with our constitution before (see prohibition).
    • It's never too late to repeal a bill. However, the political will to do so is not present in the Congress. The Supreme court probably won't revisit this issue for a long time, either.

    • by Zirnike ( 640152 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:52AM (#6273785) Journal
      "Log the reasons for blocking (pornographic, political, etc)."

      Nice idea, but haven't people been DMCAed for trying that? It's essentially trying to 'pry' into the 'trade secrets' that are the block lists. Which is why the SC threw out this idea the last time it came to them, I think...

      Anyone know what the differance in the two cases was? I'm almost positive this contradicts something else they've said.

      • by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @12:03PM (#6273919) Journal
        The supreme court overturns its decisions all the time. This is why anti-abortion people try to get them to hear another roe vs. wade type case all the time, to see if they'll overturn that decision.
        • They don't do it "all the time". They do it rarely, and only then when there is new evidence or a changed social climate can be demonstrated. You'll notice that your own comment says that the anit-abortion people "try" to get them to hear it. They haven't heard it again because there is no new evidence to listen to.
        • The court doesn't overturn itself all the time. Actually it hardly ever does. It only redefines, limits the scope and applies other rulings in other ways. If the court actually overturned a lot of decisions (from the supreme court, not lower courts) you'd see a very very different outcome in many situations. The court is first and foremost concerned with previous rullings and their authority to act!!
      • by egarland ( 120202 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @12:47PM (#6274346)
        You are assuming that these libraries and schools will be using comercial filtering software. That's the wrong way to go about it.

        The law is extraordinarly lax in what it requires the institutions to install (IANAL but I have read most of CIPA.) It basically sais you must have filtering software that blocks stuff. Not all stuff, not some percentage of stuff, it just has to block stuff. SquidGuard and derivitives like Dans' Guardian are great options for these institutions. They are open, not just in the source but in the blocklists. They offer full control over the block lists, they are plain text so you can read them, edit them etc. There are places that serve out updated block lists that you can auto-update from. You have the ability to put in local files that override what comes from these servers (explicit allows and denys). It's really great and FREE in both sences of the word which is important for things like Schools and Libraries.

        Comercial filters are wrong for Schools and Libraries. They absolutely shouldn't use them and it should probably be illegal for them to use anything where the block list isn't examineable. How do you know if they are filtering ideas that it is illegal to filter unless you can see what they are filtering?
        • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @01:21PM (#6274718) Journal
          How do you know if they are filtering ideas that it is illegal to filter unless you can see what they are filtering?

          Indeed. I recall finding that a lot of Linux sites were being blocked by the filter used by a school in which I was working. I eventually worked out that it was counting occurences of the letter 'x' and blocking sites that had a lot of them, thinking that they were pornography...

    • by KludgeGrrl ( 630396 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:52AM (#6273790) Homepage
      What is upsetting is that there has already been serious opposition to this law from librarians themselves -- who have argued that the filters block too many useful sites (and I imagine that they have indeed produced lists in support of their claims).

      It would be intersting to know who has been pushing for the ruling. Was it "concerned citizens" or companies that make filtering programmes?
      • If it is a useful site use the override function and unblock it. YOU DON'T HAVE TO USE THE DEFAULT BLOCK LIST! And anyone who does, is going to be getting pr0n and not getting all the available "useful sites". All the filters have a bias, some political, some religious, doesn't matter. Figure out the bias and correct for it.
        • by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @12:22PM (#6274125) Journal
          Basically you're saying that its ok that filter companies are underhanded losers, since after all, everyone knows every useful site in existance and can generate a list of them on demand for inclusion into the white list.

          Oh wait, they dont. Thats why whitelists don't work!

          I don't suppose its too much to ask of my tax dollars for government-mandated technology to not possess a bias? I fail to see how this cannot be a first amendment conflict, but I guess all the justices thought about was "wow, these filters must just block porn, so its OK, because porn isn't a free speech issue" while ignoring the fact that the filters fail at that task.
          • by johnnyb ( 4816 )
            Yes it is, because any filter, by definition, has a bias. This is definitely not a first amendment conflict, although it may be problematic elsewhere.

            This has nothing to do with free speech. Blocking sites and other censorship is not a free speech issue, as long as the censorship does not penetrate into privately-owned land. Free Speech is the right to speak, not the right to be heard.
        • "All the filters have a bias, some political, some religious, doesn't matter. Figure out the bias and correct for it."

          And who pays for this? Does the federal library funding now officially cover only the cost of censorship, and not that of books? In which case, why not turn the places into state-funded libraries, with free access to information?
        • by garyrich ( 30652 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @12:58PM (#6274461) Homepage Journal

          In the real world, yes you do. This is simply because the goal is not to block these sites, it's not to save children from the Internet Pedophile, etc. The purpose is to show a "good faith effort" that you have tried to do that. If some good christian mommy complains to the library that their darling was exposed to witchcraft and demonology (a Harry Potter site say) and threatens to sue the library - they will be safe as long as a court decides that they made that good faith effort (the library was not negligent).

          You just point to the blocking software company and tell the mommies to send the URL to them. Once you are no longer using the default block list - you are taking that respponsibility onto yourself. The library is now much more vulnerable to suits.

          Same goes for corporations and their block software. They are more likely to get hit with a sexual harrasment suit (creating a hostile work environment), but the rationale is the same - don't change the default block list
      • addendum (Score:5, Informative)

        by KludgeGrrl ( 630396 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:55AM (#6273830) Homepage
        Yes, it was indeed librarians who opposed the law here's [] the link...
    • There should be open sourcedfilters. That way it is totally explict what is being filtered and how. There can be no conflict of interest or abuse. As an added bonus public schools and libraries wouldn't have to absorb the financial impact of purchasing a filtering product.
    • Alternatively, you could take the same amount of effort to raise money for your local library so that it can pay for its own internet access. Then it wouldn't be subject to that law.
  • by abcxyz ( 142455 ) * on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:42AM (#6273694) Homepage
    The Washington Post article indicates that the decision was 6-3, not 5-4. Maybey they had a typo and corrected it later.
  • by sulli ( 195030 ) * on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:44AM (#6273704) Journal
    Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Stephen Breyer, in separate opinions, said the government's interest in protecting young library users from inappropriate material outweighs the burden on library users having to ask staff to disconnect filters.

    I'm for civil liberties as much as the next guy, and I agree that filters generally suck, but how hard is it really for an adult to ask another adult to turn off the filters? They are known to block all sorts of legit sites, so it's not as if you're really asking to look at pr0n.

    The folks who get screwed here are the teenagers, but unfortunately that seems to be the way of the world these days. But what would youth be without breaking a few laws? If everything were legal, what would be the fun of being underage?

    • by aliens ( 90441 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:52AM (#6273786) Homepage Journal
      So it's up the librarian to determine what should and should not be filtered if a teen asks them?

      If I wanted to visit a site that gave alternate views on history for a paper (like I once did back in the day. A paper on the Black Panthers, I used a museum of African American history in baltimore. They painted a rather different picture of the Panthers than what you'll read about.) would the librarian unblock it?
      • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @12:17PM (#6274071)
        Any librarian I ever worked with would have, in fact so long as the site was not pornographic I don't think they would object to unblocking ANY site. Most librarians are extremely learned and free to any intelligent viewpoint or outlook. Now you may run across mrs. kermudgens once in a while but I think they are in the vast minority.
      • Actually... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sterno ( 16320 )
        This is why people have parents. If you need to do a research paper on a filtered topic, then your parent can go to the library with you and tell the librarian it's okay for you to have free reign. At that point, if you get access to pr0n, it's your parents fault not the librarians.

        I didn't realize that CIPA provided a means for adults to unlock the filters. That being the case I don't have that much of a problem with it anymore. This law seems to give authority to the parents until the child becomes
    • When I was a kid they had an adult library card and a kids card. My dad signed a form that let me have an adult card at the age of about 8.

      Perhaps libraries could issue smart cards that have personalized filter settings built in so you can sit at the computer, plug in your card, and the settings would just work without having to ask a librarian for help.

      Of course, you would have to assure users that their browsing wasn't being correlated with their id.

    • by elmegil ( 12001 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:53AM (#6273808) Homepage Journal
      If the majority of a library's patrons are adults, and every time an adult wants to use the net they ask that the filters be turned off, and then someone has to remember that the filters need to be turned back on....seems to me there's going to be a lot of time wasted turning things on and off. How likely is it that the staff of a small library are going to be able to handle that along with the rest of their workload? "Hire someone to help handle it"? With todays funding levels? Riiiight.

      I'm not saying that the Supreme Court is wrong (I haven't read the opinion yet), but the whole idea of making the filters switchable seems unlikely to be implemented. The filters will be on 100% and that will be that.

      • the whole idea of making the filters switchable seems unlikely to be implemented

        It seems like this is a place where technology can support the librarians very simply. You have a "request filter off" button/applet that opens a chat window to the librarian's terminal. They ask you a question about your age, and they remotely disable the filters, the filters then are automatically re-eanbled after X minutes of inactivity.

        I'm not saying it's the best decision, but it certainly can ease the lives of the lib
    • I believe sometimes the situation will be complex enough that "asking an adult" is not sufficient. For example, the person who is in charge of doing turing the filters may not be at work at that time, and the library staff will say, "come back in three hours" :)

      It happenned to me at my gym -- they have internet access. Once I needed to check something, and guess what, there were a couple of pop-ups that came up (I guess pop-ups can be very annoying once one is used to the luxuries of not flexible pop-up bl
    • by scrytch ( 9198 ) <> on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:58AM (#6273872)
      > I'm for civil liberties as much as the next guy, and I agree that filters generally suck, but how hard is it really for an adult to ask another adult to turn off the filters?

      Not at all. How hard is it for a minor in the library to ask for that? My tax dollars are paying to have sites on gay rights and censorship blocked.
      • by sulli ( 195030 ) * on Monday June 23, 2003 @12:03PM (#6273921) Journal
        My tax dollars are paying to have sites on gay rights and censorship blocked.

        Right. Mine too, and I don't support the law. But that doesn't make it unconstitutional. The question was whether this was an inappropriate limit to adults' First Amendment rights, and the court found that it was not. Though I think the law should be repealed (not that this is likely in Red States dominated America), I agree with the majority that it is constitutional.

    • I know in washington state all our licenses are getting barcodes, let alone libary cards which already have them.

      I would incoperate some common sence, and automate the system of verifying age of the users of the library to determine wether or not they want the filters in place or not. While we'd run the risk of kids printing bar codes on their own, this requires access to a computer, and if you already have access to a computer you can get your porn on your own.

    • by barzok ( 26681 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @12:08PM (#6273983)
      I'm for civil liberties as much as the next guy, and I agree that filters generally suck, but how hard is it really for an adult to ask another adult to turn off the filters? They are known to block all sorts of legit sites, so it's not as if you're really asking to look at pr0n.
      In many cases, the librarians & aides don't have access to turn it off (the required login rights on the computer), or if they do, they don't have the password for the filter itself. And the person or people who can do it will require red tape be filed and probably aren't on-site when needed anyway. Remember, it's still a beauracracy.
      • In many cases, the librarians & aides don't have access to turn it off (the required login rights on the computer), or if they do, they don't have the password for the filter itself. And the person or people who can do it will require red tape be filed and probably aren't on-site when needed anyway.

        OK, but that's not what the law forces to happen. Remember this case was about whether or not the law was facially unconsitutional. Just because it isn't facially unconstitutional doesn't mean that certa

  • by Dunedain ( 16942 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:44AM (#6273706) Homepage
    A huge problem with the law is that filters which don't tell you they're filtering are OK: if you're using a reasonably clever Google-filter, for example, you may never know that information has been filtered.

    Additionally, many methods of filtering infringe the copyrights of the original authors, or may if the MPAA lawsuit against the DVD bowdlerizers succeeds.
    Funny that we may have to hope for the MPAA to make filtering harder.
    • by aborchers ( 471342 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:50AM (#6273766) Homepage Journal
      A huge problem with the law is that filters which don't tell you they're filtering are OK

      I would expect that in most cases you will be able to rely on the librarians to tell you when filters are enabled. The American Library Association has already denounced the decision [] and, unlike the PATRIOT act, I don't believe CIPA puts librarians under a gag order with respect to disclosing the existence of filters.

    • Freedom of speech (Score:2, Redundant)

      by HanzoSan ( 251665 ) *

      Freedom of speech is protected by the fact that you can say anything you want online, meaning you can send any 1s and 0s you want out, but what you recieve, who says censorship is unconstitutional if the school agrees to it?

      I think this is pretty fair to me, I dont really think public schools and libraries should have access to the true internet.

      Filters do not block access to the internet, it filters, like it says, and I think its good to filter kids from the net as a whole, because a library or school sh
  • by Dan Berlin ( 682091 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:44AM (#6273708)
    Plurality opinion here [].
    Dissents are here [] and here [].
    Concurrences are here [] and here [].
  • Does anyone know if there are any requirements as far as software, or if certain vendors are "certified" as being good enough?

    This argument has been around for a long time, and I don't think it's a bad idea to require a filter, I just think there needs to be a better filter out there before this should be legally enforced...
  • by TopShelf ( 92521 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:46AM (#6273723) Homepage Journal
    And buy shares in anybody producing internet filters - they've just gotten the Golden Ticket!

    First they've got a huge market that must, by law, use their product. Second, that product is painfully inadequate to perform the job it's asked to - hence a nice long development-release-fix cycle that should go on for years, fully funded via government mandate.
  • by thdexter ( 239625 ) <dexter AT suffusions DOT net> on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:47AM (#6273729) Journal
    The SCOTUS did say that having a librarian temporarily disable the filter is acceptable (and that's why the case was decided this way, in part; it isn't an undue burden, if a legit site is blocked it can be bypassed, and it will prevent a majority of porno or whatever.) Take a look over at SCOTUSblog [], there's more information there.
    • Still. Why the hell is it the government's problem to solve ? It should be that the PARENT is monitoring what their sprog.. I mean offspring is doing.

      If they don't trust their child (or have anought faith in them), then they shouldn't be unsupervised on the internet in the 1st place.

      • by stanmann ( 602645 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:58AM (#6273871) Journal
        Odd, As a child, I always felt safe wandering around the library. So now when I have kids, I should have to follow them around to make certain some pervert going to goatse doesn't expose them to that horrific image. Filters at some level are a good thing. And a library should be a place where a child(8-16) should be able to go wherever and read whatever.
  • by RevDobbs ( 313888 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:49AM (#6273742) Homepage

    Unless the effectiveness of the filter is legislated, I suppose all one would have to do is redirect,, and some obvious pr0n sites to a warning page and you'll have met the letter of the law without accidentally blocking National Geographic. Or artistic movies about gay cowboys eating pudding.

  • Blocking sites (Score:2, Insightful)

    by stanmann ( 602645 )
    Provided teachers have block/unblock per site capabilities, what is the problem. I understand that some sites get blocked that aren't pornographic, but so what. School is for education, and so during school/study hours having game sites blocked also is appropriate.

    But that is just my opionion, I could be wrong...

    Wait a tic, aren't low scores on tests a problem.

    I say block everything, and have the teacher unblock the relevant sites automagically by time/date. Programming a lesson plan into the bl
    • Re:Blocking sites (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Wavicle ( 181176 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @12:23PM (#6274146)
      I understand that some sites get blocked that aren't pornographic, but so what.

      So what? Let's say that some young woman believes her boyfriend has given her an STD. She is poor and cannot afford a computer at home, so she goes to research female sexual health online in the library. Unfortunately such a pornographic site as this is blocked, the young woman would have to go and ask the librarian to remove filtering so she can research her "problem". Doubly unfortunate is that the stigma of having an STD is so great, she is too embarrassed to ask because she doesn't want to direct any attention towards herself (she feels bad enough already). Thus she doesn't do the research, and it turns out she has syphillis. By the time the disease is caught, serious heart complications she will live with for the rest of her life have set in.

      A simple course of antibiotics could have killed the bacteria long before this, of course... but she didn't know that because there were filters on the computers, and those filters could not distinguish between a picture of a woman trying to arouse men by exhibiting her vagina, and a picture of a woman with chancres on her vagina.

      *This* is the constitutionally protected speech the filters block that we are worried about. I'd rather have 100 perverts view pictures of vile pornography than have 1 young woman end up sterile or worse because she did not have access to information on reproductive health. That is why I am opposed to filters.
  • by Gay Nigger ( 676904 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:50AM (#6273759)
    I can't believe this. One more step towards the nanny state. Sure, if you're an adult, you can just ask for the filter to be turned off, but what if you're a teenager? I know a lot of sites about reproductive health that would be blocked by these filters. What if some kid needs to find out medical information about STDs or how to get help if he might've gotten his girlfriend pregnant?

    There are all kinds of legitimate uses that are being stopped though this software because it is far from perfect. I can only hope that the Supreme Court doesn't continue with this apparent precedent for saving a few at the expense of many others. After all, how long of a jump is it from this to, say, imprisoning anyone who could be a terrorist, based on demographics? Sure, a lot of innocent folks would be robbed of their rights, but, hey, we've stopped a couple of terrorists from causing trouble. Things are better, right?

    • If the kid needs this, the info is still widely available, just not throught the public library. School libraries, university libraries, a friends house... ...oh, and God forbid....he could *gasp* ASK A HUMAN!
    • thus: RTFD (read the fucking decision).

      For you and anybody else who feels like holding a First Amendment Rights parade in front of the front steps of the Supreme Court, quit preaching from the pulpit about your FA rights. They don't exist in this case.

      The Supreme Court made a good decision. Maybe I can explain it to you in a way that won't make your head hurt.

      Libraries are federally funded.

      That means, plain and simple, that the government has every right to say, "You can have this money, if..
  • by flacco ( 324089 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:50AM (#6273772)
    kids should be beating off at home in their bedrooms, not in the library.
  • Idiots (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:51AM (#6273774)
    Everyone gets screwed here. All the Supreme COurt has demonstrated is that none of them has actually used an internet computer at a public library.

    Do you really want to have to ask the librarians every time you look for information on breast cancer? Or even worse... you're looking up Penis cancer. Lo and behold, you'll have to walk up to a librarian and say "Excuse me... could you unblock Penis cancer, you commie swine?"

    Working in a library, I'm certain this will happen. The worst part is no so much the filtering, but what it does to a poor library's ability to control their own agenda: you want computers, bow down to the morality of whatever company makes your filtering software of choice.

    Just what we ALWAYS wanted... private companies determining the morality of the public.
  • 6-3,5-4, whatever (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blunte ( 183182 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:52AM (#6273791)
    The article now says 6-3 ruling. I presume WP changed the numbers, and the poster isn't to blame.

    Anyway, the lawyer for the libraries should have engineered some text in his arguments that would guarantee that case to be blocked by the filters. That could help prove a point, if only after the fact.

    At least it would make the court look like the out-of-touch, technically inept folks they are.

    One positive note, something I didn't know, the Yahoo article states that library patrons can request that the filter be disabled.

    As for needing to hide the eyes of our children, have the justices not seen television lately? Do they not have their own hotmail email accounts? Kids left alone with TV or internet will inevitably get material we don't want them to get. They're much more likely to get it from a source while at home than while at a library. How many kids nowdays spend time in a library?!

  • Schools and Libraries are government funded, so there shouldn't be any reason why they aren't filtering this stuff. If people really want to look at their porn, they can do it at home. The internet is a great medium, but with it comes the bad, and a good deal of it is senseless porn popups and redirects that people have no control over. I would not want any kid to have to see something like goatse pop up on them and literally scar them for life. It's just not worth it. Yes, legit sites do get blocked, but t
  • Kids section (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bludstone ( 103539 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:52AM (#6273803)
    How about just setting up a "kids section," With filters on those computers?

    The computer lab should be "policed" by the librarians anyways. Wandering around, leaning over people shoulders. Making sure thomas q pervert isnt masturbating in the library. If he is, call the cops and have him dragged off.

    I mean, its one thing to look at breast cancer treatment sites and another to look at Wouldnt just seperating the sections be a perfectly fine solution? The kids could just ask the librarians for help if they reach a blocked site.

    Normally I would rage against something like this. But if you read the article, the supreme court's decision was based on the fact that librarians can shut off the blocker on request. As long as they dont ask "why?" it should be okay.

    Still.. It makes it difficult for people to do research on private topics :/

    I am conflicted.
    • I would have to agree with this. Filter specific kids machines, and then have some machines for people 18 and over, and check for an ID before they use them.
    • Re:Kids section (Score:3, Insightful)

      by teamhasnoi ( 554944 )
      With State deficits at an all time high, we can't afford to hire 'extra' Librarians to monitor what's going on - they can barely support the skeleton crew they have already.

      This just sounds like another Pennsyvania solution to me.

      I have always heard that the porn industry is for the most part self-regulating. Why not voluntarilly move to a .xxx tld? The porn-hounds can still find their 'panty-freaks homepage' and the remaining sites should be easier to block.

      Of course, this was tried with com, net and o

      • >Why not voluntarilly move to a .xxx tld?

        This has been done with the .kids TLD. Not exactly a smashing success. I would fully disagree with moving anything with nakedness to a .xxx TLD. The question of "what is porn" would be simply be too much for everyone to handle and some hamfisted legislation would make sure anything involving any show of skin short of wearing a burka would be in that domain. Sorry, but once .xxx is created it will be abused by the censorship contingent in the US.

        >we can't
  • by madape ( 89730 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:52AM (#6273805)
  • Library Computers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by obexed ( 682624 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:54AM (#6273817)
    Is it really such a BAD thing to put filters on a library computer accessible by kids? I hate them as much as the next guy, but doesn't a publicly funded institution have a responsibility to protect children from offensive and degrading material? Perhaps they should just have filters on the computers in the kids section and leave the others clean.
  • no big deal (Score:2, Interesting)

    besides there is better filter tech out there now.

    my Prof. just finished some research that rather than filter on the content of the page, filters on the construction of the page.

    you have to teach it what a certain type of page looks like. a porn site looks diffrent than a news, medical, sports, entertainment, etc. site.

    you can also have it take into account as many features as you deam nessisary.

    this tech I think will reduce the number of false positives and false negatives by a very significant amount
  • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:56AM (#6273841) Journal
    It seems to me, that all these problems and objections could be avoided if someone just made a program that would only block the _binary_ data from black-listed sites. That means you'd still be able to see text and HTML, but no images, no file downloads, etc...

    I'm sure this would satisfy FAR more people than the current system of all-or-nothing.

    Additionally, I don't see why the libraries don't just all band together and make their own filtering solution, rather than giving a blank check to companies? They could maintain absolute control, and decide wether blocking site XYZ is limiting someone's right to free speech.
  • Only today I read that librarians are allowed to turn off the filters upon request.

    Doesn;t sound all that bad to me now...

  • What to block (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ToadMan8 ( 521480 )
    I agree they should block Pr0n in schools. (I mean, what's the point anyway; kids fapping under the desks (not that I haven't seen that)) Personal e-mail, perhaps. Kids supposed to be doing research or in computer / programming class waste time on that stuff instead of paying attention. Either it should be policed better by teachers or perhaps in fact blocked. Entertainment (video trailers, games, etc) the same thing.

    But political sites and "hate sites" I honestly don't think should fall under this sa
  • This point has been made before but I feel the need to re-iterate....

    The children of today are what are going to lead the world tommorow. Makes sense. They shouldn't be prohibited from seeing all sorts of diverse stuff including the negative.

    It's like inbreeding. If you don't have enough diversity you end up getting weird illnesses and the species dies off. Same thing. If we all think the same way and band counter-thoughts we're doomed .

    Imagine in the future if the history of slavery becomes too "up
  • I got a net censor, have the computers in plain site of all the patrons of the library as well as the librarians. This also brings in the question of "what is pornography".

    Anyways after reading THIS [] I have lost all faith in the supreme court to actually even know what the constitution is. What is it with these people, do they not realize that the constitution is the framework for our contry and not a spare roll of toliet paper.

    The constitution is for freedom and those freedoms should be expressed in all parts of the government especially our centers of education. I'm tired of these conservative views being implemented on me. You don't want your children downloading porn, how about you try being a parent and stop relying on everyone else to do it for you.

    I want something to restore my faith in the system, I really do.

  • WaPo story says that Court split 6-3. Slashdot says 5-4. People who follow the court will tell you that 6-3 is a lot different than 5-4 in terms of how the decision is viewed.
  • by IWantMoreSpamPlease ( 571972 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @11:59AM (#6273878) Homepage Journal
    probably off topic.

    I was doing some work for a private religious school that had software of the CIPA type installed on their server, and it was preventing the students (grade schoolers) from doing their research.

    The topic at hand was something on their favourite sports team. The CIPA type software had a default not to allow access to such things.

    I looked into the config files, and modified the defaults to allow sports-type web pages to be accessed.

    I decided to test this (with all the kiddies watching no less) by going to

    Lo and behold it worked, with the front page of the NFL talking about the suspension, and jail time, of a star player for drug use, rape and murder of his pregnant girlfriend....

    perhaps those filters are in place for a reason?
  • by pb ( 1020 )
    It sickens me to see the Federal government use federal funding as a club to make local libraries comply with Federal guidelines--and then have the gall to talk about 'community standards' in the same breath! And they do this *all the time*.

    What if my 'community standards' involve protecting the bill of rights [] and upholding The Constitution? Why is the Federal government suddenly against that?
  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdfl[ ]com ['at.' in gap]> on Monday June 23, 2003 @12:02PM (#6273906) Journal
    For porn filters to effective block porn, they *always* overblock. So what's gonna happen is after several months of people constantly harrassing the librarian (can you turn the filters off so I can research XYZ?), this is probably going to go back to court.

    The problem isn't so much that it's a violation of civil rights (when a person is in public, they have a civic responsibility to behave in a certain manner anyways), as much as it's a problem that computers just aren't smart enough yet to be able to really tell the difference between, for example, a porn site and an article on breeding cats for profit. This isn't because of bad filters, it's because computers are too dumb to do any thinking on their own.

  • Automatic Unblock (Score:5, Insightful)

    by linuxwrangler ( 582055 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @12:05PM (#6273941)
    While I find the blocking software providers a secretive and sleazy bunch and the blocklist rather suspect, I'm not sure that this law will be all that bad.

    The terminals I've seen at libraries require a card or login anyway. Since the law is aimed at kids, just issue adult/minor cards or IDs that are, by default, unrestricted or restricted. (I think that parents must sign for kids library cards anyway - minors can't sign legal documents promising to return the books - so determining who is a minor is just part of the process anyway.)

    Since adult logins are never blocked there should be no issue of embarassment over requesting removal of the filter. If a kid "needs" unfiltered access he can bring his parent to log in. It's sort of like an R rated movie.

    Sure, IDs or cards can be lost or stolen but they can also be deactivated. It seems that this would fulfill the requirement of the law in a nearly transparent way (of course I haven't read the actual law in detail so I could be wrong).
  • by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <> on Monday June 23, 2003 @12:07PM (#6273971)
    I'm a sysadmin at a public library. I have been following these fights for a few years and see only one solution. Kill SLC.

    Eliminate the Schools and Libraries Corp and the tax that supports it and the problem goes away. These eternal attempts at control by the FedGov are only possible by the indirect method of tying it to Federal Money. The actual number of dollars our library gets that can be traced directly to SLC is small enough we would just tell them to shove it, but when we looked into it we found it intermingled throughout the state and other misc funding to the point we would lose a buttload of money. Kill SLC.

    • by egarland ( 120202 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @01:13PM (#6274627)
      The states should all get together and collectively sign a deal that sais we won't take any money from this federal departement or any federal money that has fredom restricting requirements in it.

      The basic strategy the federal government employed here was to use money to bypass the fact that it would be unconstitutional for the federal government to pass laws that do these things directly. Forcing censorship on Schools and Libraries is way outside the bounds of what the federal government is allowed to do. They get arround this by not requiring states to do these things directly but by tying these things to money behing handed out. Of course, ripping money out of a state with income tax and then not giving it back unless they comply is a powerful force of extortion that states don't typically resist. It's all very sneaky and underhanded and very effective. The only way to resist would be on a national organized level. States would have to band together and refuse to accept the tainted money. The temptation would be wildly strong to go back of the agreement after it was made so the agreement would need strong teath.

      It's doable but I haven't seen anyone in government lately who is good enough to get something like this done. Until that time comes, the federal government will probably keep using this carrot and stick approach that they have used for years.

      In the past this tying of things to federal money has been used
      to create 55 MPH speed limits, drunk drving laws and I think abortion clinic rules recently. Does anyone else know what this has been used for? I'm interested.
  • From the inside (Score:5, Informative)

    by 99bottles ( 257169 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @12:09PM (#6273994)
    I'm the IT Manager of a fairly large public library, and I've seen every aspect of the filter battle. For several years we've offered an optional filter, which the user has the ability to turn on or off for their browsing. We only block two "categories" of content: sexually explicit and extreme/obscene

    We actually turn down about $50K of funding due to CIPA, but in the past 3 years I can count on one hand the number of complaints we've had about the filter. We run it from a proxy server and there's no quick trick for someone to circumvent it.

    The suggestion of publishing the logs of what gets filtered. Bad idea! You wouldn't believe what people will surf for. We process about 2GB of patron Inet traffic a day, and have between 100-500 blocks on average. Nearly all of them very legitimate.

    I hate big brother dangling the carrot as much as the next guy, but blameing the filter isn't the right approach.

  • by PincheGab ( 640283 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @12:11PM (#6274013)
    I agree in the spirit of the law (protect children), mainly because I am close to being a father myself, and what I can handle on the web a child certainly cannot. I think unrestricted access to the internet can be a dangerous thing for children, specially if unsupervised.

    My main objection is with the companies producing the stupid-assed filters and closed/encrypted blocked sites lists. Is it feasible to think that there could be an open source blocking software? Who would maintain the list of blocked sites? Whose moral standards would such a list enforce? How would categorization be done such that, for example, you could allow non-explicit sexual content (ie, educational and health sites), and not explicit content?

    In other words, is there a way to make this work somewhat well, now that the law passed the Supreme Court test?

  • Victory! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by brettlbecker ( 596407 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @12:11PM (#6274026) Homepage
    Ahh, the sweet sweet smell of innocence protected.

    Kudos to those who support censorship and who are policed by fear and shame. It makes me so proud!

    Thank you for trying so very hard to clamp your hands over the eyes, ears, and mouths of our tender youth... it's a good thing that saying that something is bad stifles curiousity!

    It's so caring to uphold the belief that children should be led blindfolded into the world and only exposed to the reality of the people around them in bite-sized pieces... it's easier on the digestion!

    I for one am thankful that the Supreme Court has my future children's vigin minds on the top of their priority list.

    Time to check that banned book list, too! Banning, burning... whatever. Maybe the Nazi's weren't crazy after all!

  • by pberry ( 2549 ) <> on Monday June 23, 2003 @12:15PM (#6274053) Homepage

    The report [] is out, has tons of data about blocked sites. Here is the executive summary:

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Online Policy Group (OPG) have cooperated to study and analyze the accessibility on the web of information related to state-mandated curriculum topics within public schools that operate Internet blocking software. This study measures the extent to which blocking software impedes the educational process by restricting access to web pages relevant to the required curriculum.

    The abstract is online in HTML [] as well. The whole PDF [] is 10.6MB.

  • give it up (Score:4, Insightful)

    by polyphemus-blinder ( 540915 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @12:15PM (#6274059)
    oh, come on. who seriously thinks it's a big deal to have a filter on computers in schools?

    they have every right to provide no internet access at all if they want, so why can't they limit access if they're good enough to provide it?
  • by gosand ( 234100 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @12:16PM (#6274064)
    Why filter content? Maybe this already exists, but why not do a password protection scheme instead of filtering? If someone tries to access a blocked site, they are presented with password dialog to gain access. If they want the password, they have to go to the librarian and get it.

    Of course, it couldn't be one password for everything. I wonder if they could manage to have a password per site. When the dialog comes up, the user is given a number to give to the librarian, and they can in turn look up the password for that site. (and see what the site is if they so choose).

    There may be holes in this idea, but it seems to me that they could be worked out. The idea behind filtering is a good one, but the facts are that it doesn't work that well.

  • by warpSpeed ( 67927 ) <> on Monday June 23, 2003 @12:17PM (#6274079) Homepage Journal
    The decision will be posted on the US Supreme Court website later today.

    And will be promtly filtered out by most schools.

    Can't have the kiddes reading about the Supremes with out some filtering and "contextual" information being provided/(force fed) to them. They might actualy start to think on thier own... ooooh, the evil that would ensue...

  • by Deagol ( 323173 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @12:17PM (#6274081) Homepage
    What I want to see is a law that if these filters are mandated in places which consume public money, then the filter lists and methods must be available for public scrutiny (that means anybody). We've had people try to reverse engineer the lists out of certain packages, but they've been sued into oblivion (see for a starting place for this topic).

    Personally, I'd prefer that open source be mandated (say, squid and squidGuard), but I'd rather they be used on their merrits.

    All this law does is keep these nanny software vendors alive and kicking. I'm sure they're laughing all the way to the bank.

    Ideally, these filters wouldn't be required anyway. Welcome to the Nany State.

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Monday June 23, 2003 @12:21PM (#6274123) Homepage Journal
    And if you are an adult, they should give you a password or what have you that enables full access. For instance, Net Nanny (I have installed and tested version 5) will let you set up different accounts which are passworded, and have different rights. Just change the passwords weekly or so and give out the password to those persons over 18 who request it. Meanwhile, to make sure they aren't surfing porn, just make sure all the computer screens face a library employee's desk.

    The library doesn't have pornography on its shelves, though they do have some moderately racy material. After all, sex scenes are in just about everything these days. Filtering is probably a good thing, since one expects one's children to go to the library and not have access to pornography. Yes, there are false positives, and the library should be sending the examples in to the makers of the filtering software who are, in the end, only human.

  • by supton ( 90168 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @12:23PM (#6274139) Homepage
    If you buy this logic, Renquist is just a two-bit terrorist with the wonderous decoration of a black robe. Makes the Critical Legal Studies [] folks seem more right every day.
  • by crashnbur ( 127738 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @12:24PM (#6274154)
    I can understand this in some schools, but why a high school full of teenagers who are old enough to know better should be denied the freedom to make the right (or wrong) choice is beyond me. They are at the age where they should be given the chance to taste freedom with such inconsequential tasks as surfing the Internet. Let their transgressions on a school computer set the example for what happens when/if they choose to break the rules later in life.

    Children must understand what happens when they break the rules! If you deny them this freedom, then they will instead grow up seeking ways not to break the rules, but to change them altogether and perhaps even to overthrow the system.

    I'm not paranoid or anything, it's just that I was once one of those kids, and luckily I was smart enough to find ways to change the rules without working behind the backs of the supposed authorities. Those with fewer opportunities and poorer guides, however, need to be shown the difference between right and wrong -- not shielded from wrong.

    Shielding them from the atrocities of life, no matter how light they may be, only makes them incapable of handling it when they inevitably confront it at some later time.

  • by Scalli0n ( 631648 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @12:26PM (#6274176) Homepage
    It's interesting to see what they censor. I went to FCPS schools in fairfax virginia, they censor out but also pro-gun sites. Even more interesting is that they will not censor out gun control sites; it's deciding what kids see. I don't know how else I was effected, but an extreme (very!) pole of this could be whether or not maybe were blocked as opposed to or any other news site.

    just interesting.
  • by retro128 ( 318602 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @12:31PM (#6274212)
    Well, on one hand, it's the fed's money, so they can pretty much do what they want with it. It's pretty lame to make that money conditional based on these filters, but when someone is giving you free money, you're pretty much in their house.

    On the other hand, libraries should be allowed to deal with such things in their own way. I volunteered at a public libary for awhile, and their policy was to cruise by the terminals to shoulder surf the users. If we saw pornography, we were to turn off the monitor and inform them that surfing pr0n was not allowed and if they continued they would have to get off the computer. If they raised a stink all we had to do was point to the police station right out the window.
  • by swordofstars ( 682648 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @12:36PM (#6274257) Homepage Journal
    As a Webmaster for a library, I found that the Internet filters, and security programs installed are possibly the least effective programs I have used. If one wishes to find 'filth' then they are only a minor inconvenience. If one wishes to find legitimate information that has not yet been sterilized, then they are a firm roadblock, as there are many sources of filth, but precious few of real information. Fortunately, the library at which I work has filters installed on only two of it's computers, and these are clearly labeled. I think this solution is a very sane answer, as if a parent wishes to have their child protected, they can put them at the filtered computer, however, adults still have full access to the web. "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." -Benjamin Franklin
  • by night_flyer ( 453866 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @01:17PM (#6274681) Homepage
    but where is internet access a right?
  • by db ( 3944 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @01:26PM (#6274774)
    I get a laugh out of people complaining that their rights are being violated because they can't go to a public library and look at pornography. Are you insane?

    A library is a public place. There are also public indecency laws. These are the same laws that prevent you from walking down the sidewalk with your penis hanging out of your pants, or waving your private parts at bus-fulls of old ladies and puppy dogs.

    So why should you be allowed to expose pornography (which, by and large, is a VISUAL medium - yes there is written pornography, but you can't look over somebody's sholder and immediately tell they're reading smut quite as easily as you can look over somebody shoulder and see a double-fist-penetration scene.) to those who do not want to see it?

    "Turn the computer the other way!"

    Horse shit, and you know it. It's still a public venue. It amazes me that people will go to such lengths to support things like being able to go to a library and get their jollies on a computer. Nobody is making pornography ILLEGAL, they're making it more difficult to view in a public place.

    Think of it as an open container law for porn. Can you crack open a beer, walk down the street with it? In a few places, sure, but by and large this is a law thats in place to prevent things like drunk driving. You can drink beer in a bar or in your house, sure. So go home if you want to yank your franklin, keep it out of the library.

    thanks, chances are I'm getting modded down for making sense.
  • by Helmholtz ( 2715 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @01:35PM (#6274871) Homepage
    I have _real_ issues with my tax money being used to puchase and utilize software that is designed to block citizens from accessing content. While this alone I might be able to stomach under very strict and specific circumstances, when you add into the mix that the lists of sites that citizens are not only restricted from the view of citizens, but it is also a _federal_crime_ for a citizen to surreptitiously attempt to glean what sites this blocking software is restricting from view.

    This country was founded on the ideals of freedom and individual worth. I find it extremely distasteful that the very tools of law that were designed to help us all become all we could ever want to become are now being used to to tie about our necks the stone of faschism.
  • The issue here is that Congress has side-stepped the Constituion. They've legislated through the back-door what they can't through the front.

    They have no put a ban on such sites, nor told schools that they have to block such sites. They've said that if the schools don't do this, they won't give them Federal funding. They do the same thing with taxes. You couldn't pass a law criminalizing smoking, but you can tax it to high heaven. This is why Libertarians want states to be in no way dependent on Federal gov't funding.

    So, the question here is, is it ok for the government to side-step the intent of the US Constituion. The USSC's answer is hardly affirmative, with a 5-4 decision. Such a weak decision is susceptible to being over-turned. The answer to it, of course, depends on whether you are a strict constructionalist or a loose constructionalist.

    Quite frankly, I think that the government shouldn't be able to regulate through the back door what it can't through the front; that mandate should be written into the US Constitution.
  • by TygerFish ( 176957 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @03:11PM (#6276270)
    I'm sure that someone else must have noted this by now, but one of the greatest things about our system coupled with one of its worst problems for dealing with technological innovation is that the Supreme Court is our "Court of Last Appeal."

    In the real world, Once the Supreme Court has ruled, a change in the law requires considerable political pressure and motion through a federal appelate court system that the administrations of the last two decades have stacked with appointees who were often picked more for their ideological reliability than for their objective jurisprudential acumen. That is, more for how likely it is believed that they would rule 'against' on cases involving issues disliked by conservatives; issues like affirmative action, privacy, worker-safety or reproductive issues.

    Having travelled through that minefield, the Supreme Court would then have to collectively acknowledge that there was some new issue at stake for the Court to examine and then finally, the decision would have to overcome the ideological-stacking of the court by previous conservative administrations. Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas have often worked to generate some truly hideous law IMHO, and their finding the 'protection of children,' of greater weight than publicly-available access to information from sources paid for by the tax-payer is not surprising.

    In the final analysis, a successful review of the matter would all come down to a question of how small the issue was as a hotspot in an ideologically polarized judicial branch where a partnership between wealth, religion and the desire for social inertia in the face of social change have worked together to produce a court capable of making, um, uh... counterintuitive rulings on important issues.

    All things considered, don't hold your breath and hope the border to Canada stays open for as long as possible.

  • by geekotourist ( 80163 ) on Monday June 23, 2003 @07:41PM (#6279048) Journal
    I'd like to see a law applying the same rules to all congressional computers. Of course, as this is the same congress that exempts itself(*) from other regulations, it wouldn't happen.

    The CCPA Law of 2003: As the US Congress is 100% federally funded, all congressional computers must have a protective filter installed. That filter shall be identical to the filters used on adults' computers at a randomly selected, federal-funds-receiving US library. All requests to lift the filter or unblock sites must be forwarded to a librarian at the selected library, and if delays occur because that librarian is already overworked due to budget cutbacks, Congress shall just have to wait. All requests to lift the filter or unblock sites shall be a matter of public record.

    (Of course one could say that Congress is different because CIPA is all about protecting the children, but... 1. Shouldn't we care almost as much about Congress as we do about children? Now that we've got children protected, why not Congress next? 2. Doesn't Congress want to show that it won't force laws on other adults that it isn't willing to take for itself as well? 3. What about Take Your Child To Work Day? Do we want the innocent children of Congresspeople (or their staff) to be Harmed?

    (*)Pre-recorded phone spam is bad except for political messages, OSHA rules apply to everyone but Congress, Labor rules apply...FOIA rules apply...

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972