echoes sentinel

parent requests computer filters for explicit material

23 october 2003

long hill twp. - by jason goemaat, staff writer - © recorder newspapers 2003

the library board of trustees heard a concerned parent's request for anti-pornography filters on library computers and guidance from the board on the controversial topic at its wednesday, oct. 15 meeting.

township resident mr. plan2succeed told the board about his "grass roots effort of one" to rally other township parents of school age children in favor of installing antipornography filters on all its computers.

the filters would comply with congress's children's internet protection act (cipa), intended to prevent children from viewing pornography, which the supreme court upheld in a june 23 ruling.

cipa requires libraries to install the filters or lose federal funding, which long hill currently doesn't receive, said library director arline most.

plan2succeed said the filters should be installed regardless of any funding issues.

"what i'm concerned about is anyone coming in and using these computers for illegal activities," said plan2succeed.

this includes coming into the library to look at illegal child pornography or legal pornography and then "get excited and do illegal things," said plan2succeed.

plan2succeed said he can't address the issue by himself and ("some point" in the near future) he wanted to make other parents aware of the filtering issue and the "potential dangers" of not addressing it.

towards that end, plan2succeed said he may ask parents and other citizens to sign a petition if they're in favor of filtering.

plan2succeed has already started a website, www.plan2succeed.org, containing some of his views on filtering, a link to the united states vs. american library association (ala) supreme court decision on the matter and other related links.

plan2succeed told the board, based on the u.s. vs. ala case, installing filters presented no first amendment issues.  an adult patron could simply ask to have the filters turned off, plan2succeed said.

in order to make any petition for the filters as impartial and unbiased as possible, plan2succeed said he wouldn't circulate a petition without the board approving its wording.

board president donald kuhn said the cipa issue has so many facets, a petition question couldn't state all of them properly.

board reaction

at past meetings, board discussion has focused on learning as much about cipa as possible before making a decision about whether or not to install filters.  wednesday night was no different.

board president donald kuhn asked plan2succeed how installing filters would deter the "illegal things" he's concerned about, if a person could ask to have the filters turned off.

plan2succeed said by filtering, the people he's concerned about might be "steered" to a library or other location with no internet filters.

"maybe they will have the guts (to ask for a filter to be turned off), but at least an effort is being made to steer some potential criminal activity," said plan2succeed.

board members gave no indication about making a filtering decision, and most said several factor give the board time to make a decision.

first, the federal funding for "consortia," the 36 branches of the morris county library system joined together in shared database services, isn't effected if the township library doesn't put in filters.

also, consortia libraries that receive federal funding for "e-rates," a reduced price on telecommunications through the federal government, don't have to install filters until july 1, 2004, according the federal communication commission's (fcc) july 24 ruling.  the fcc oversees the "e-rate."

"we want to do this right," said most about taking time on a decision.

previous research

most said the library has researched several filtering options such as "net-nanny," which any home computer user can buy, to more complex systems costing "several thousands" of dollars.

she said no system is foolproof in filtering pornography, but not screening legitimate internet research.

the current library internet policy says patrons can't use the internet for "illegal or unethical" means.  however, it clarifies the library can't protect patrons from images which they others may find "offensive or disturbing."

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