echoes sentinel

censorship issues arise after library pornography incident

5 july 2001

long hill twp. - by john p. pavelec, staff writer - © recorder newspapers 2001

when d.s. was arrested friday, june 22 for allegedly viewing child pornography over the internet at the long hill public library, he may have become part of a growing trend in computer-related incidents.

according to police capt. mike peoples, such incidents in the township more than tripled, from 33 in 1999 to 105 last year.

after hearing a complaint from a resident using the library, police began an investigation, sending an undercover agent to the library to trace and copy the hard drive of the computer d.s. is accused of using.  he was then arrested.

d.s., 38, of pleasant plains road, millington, is one of a few arrested for viewing child pornography.  according to peoples, the most common computer-related incident is identity theft.

the library incident can also be considered a first amendment issue, as civil rights groups such as the american civil liberties union and "parental rights" groups such as the family research council debate whether pornography is considered free speech.

arlene most, director of the long hill library, said that if someone was caught looking at pornography at the computer stations, they would be asked to leave or to move to a computer where they could view the images by looking down through the table, thus making it harder for others to see.

people 'very reasonable'

"most people are very reasonable," she said.  "this is a family environment and there are children here."  most said there may have been five such complaints since 1993.

if someone is caught viewing child pornography, that person could be investigated and, if there is enough evidence, arrested.  according to state law, viewing child pornography is a fourth-degree felony; a person caught viewing it can be sent to prison for up to 18 months.

but what if a person is caught viewing adult pornography?  it's considered protected speech.

the library's internet policy is in line with the law:  "because this (the internet) is a vast and unregulated information network, it also enables access to ideas, information, images and commentary beyond the confines of the library's collection, mission, selection criteria and collection development policies.  because of this and the fact that access points on the internet can and do change often, rapidly, and unpredictably, the library cannot protect individuals from information and images which they might find offensive or disturbing."

some have advocated filtering technology.

"filtering is not the end-all to this problem," most said.  "you can't eliminate it (pornography).  it's something that's been there forever."

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