echoes sentinel

residents' views vary on computer filters

29 july 2004

long hill twp. - by patricia llerena - © recorder newspapers 2004

a handful of residents attended a meeting of the library board of trustees wednesday, july 21 to comment on a report on filtering internet access at the library.  [p2s note:  there will be another meeting in 2 months, september 15.]

the board is considering installing filters on at least some of the library computers.  [p2s note:  this is a minor victory for plan2succeed, but the battle is not over because the criminals will still get unfiltered access on "adult" computers.]

of the five attendees, three said they were in support of having computer filters installed on all of the computers, mainly citing a concern about their children being exposed to pornography online.

"i don't [think] there is a majority opinion [from] the town," said dan maguire, of stirling.  "i thought there would be a very large crowd here, taking up the cause."

stephen a. delia of stirling said he agreed with the report's recommendation to have filters installed on the computers in the children's department, but disagreed with the idea that filtering all internet access would be oppressive.

delia said the federal supreme court supports "the use of filters when they can be turned off on request, with no reason given."

"i don't know if it is so easy to turn off filtering," said brian boylan, chairperson of the committee that prepared the report.  he said it would require the librarian having to track people and remembering to turn the filtering software back on.

delia said the committee did not fully review software intended for libraries, and that considering software meant for home use was a "poor choice."

the library may only use software that is approved by the morris automated information network, according to boylan.

"filters will not prevent certain material from being accessed, but [only] allowing it when an adult requests the filter disabled," delia said.

in regards to the fact that most libraries do not filter internet access, which was cited in the report, delia said "we have the opportunity to be the leader, to do something to protect our children."

karl schlegel of stirling said he didn't have a problem with people viewing pornographic material, but was worried about inadvertently exposing it to children and teens.

"i would be surprised if the majority of parents are not in favor of filtering," schlegel said.

he suggested that each computer is kept private so people walking by are unable to view the monitors.

another problem is that it's too easy for programs, or cookies, to be downloaded on the library's computers, without the user's knowledge, according to schlegel.  this could lead to unwanted windows popping up, he said.

"i don't want my children exposed to something that we've filtered out [at home]," said schlegel.

he also brought up a concern about the security of personal information, such as banking details and personal passwords when "hidden stealth programs" can access the public computers.

"we should filter everything," [one plan2succeed member] said.  [he] distributed a copy of an article written by the president of morality in media [note by p2s:  to show, among other things, the argument made by librarians that they have no responsibility to keep our children from seeing pornography is intentionally false, and we quote, "in ginsberg v. new york, 390 u.s. 629, at 639-640 (1968), the supreme court held that two governmental interests justified the limitations that new york's harmful to minors law placed upon the availability of 'sex materials' to minors:

"the legislature could properly conclude that parents and others, teachers for example, who have this primary responsibility for children's well-being are entitled to the support of laws designed to aid discharge of that responsibility.... the state also has an independent interest in the well-being of its youth....'  the knowledge that parental control or guidance cannot always be provided and society's transcendent interest in protecting the welfare of children justify reasonable regulation of the sale of material to them.'" [emphasis added]]

and information from [plan2succeed's] web site.

[he] said that if the library were to install filters that could be turned on and off, that would not be considered censorship.

[he] spoke about the dangers of children encountering inappropriate content on the internet, from child pornography to "go ask alice," a web site created by columbia university's health education program, in new york.

"it seems prudent not to wait until we have another incident," [i] said.

in may 2001 a township man was arrested for viewing child pornography at the library.  he was found guilty and sentenced to jail time on sept. 21, 2001, according to library director arlene most.

there haven't been any more incidents like that one at the library, according to most.

a copy of the draft report is available at the library or on their web site  the board will continue its discussion at a wednesday, sept. 15 meeting.

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