echoes sentinel

library board weighs against computer filters

27 november 2003 - page 1, above the fold, full spread

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

the library board of trustees made its first attempt at formally stating the library's position against installing anti-pornography filters on its computers while receiving more input from a resident in favor of the filters at its wednesday, nov. 19 meeting.

at the oct. 15 board meeting, board president donald kuhn had said he would draft a position statement on federal legislation, known as children's internet protection act (cipa), intended to prevent children from viewing pornography, by installing internet filter software on its computers.

the supreme court upheld the act as constitutionally valid in a june 23 ruling.

on wednesday night, kuhn was looking for feedback on his one-page draft stating why, at this time, the library won't put filters on its computers.

the statement notes the "considerable controversy," about currently available computer filter systems because the companies which make them don't publish the criteria used in deciding which information should be filtered.

"were the library to install a filter, it is, in effect, allowing censorship of materials without having an understanding of the basis for exclusion," the statement reads.

the statement emphasizes that, because the township doesn't receive federal funding, it "is not legally bound by the provisions of cipa."

the statement also says the board is "sensitive to and supportive" of parents concerns about children viewing "inappropriate material" on unfiltered computers.

kuhn outlined the steps the library takes such as a "child safety on the information highway" brochure it provides to help parents talk to their kids about what material to avoid on the internet.

he also emphasized that library patrons can't use the computers for "illegal purposes" and that library staff members have the right to ask a patron to stop looking at disruptive information.

public reaction

the statement concludes that the board will amend its position on cipa "when it is convinced that it is in the best interest of the community to do so."

on wednesday night, township resident mr. plan2succeed, who has publicly expressed his support for computer filters for several months, again said the filters are in the community's best interest now.

plan2succeed said the draft was a "good attempt," but took exception with several points.

"there is no censoring of materials going on," said plan2succeed, referring to language from the united states vs. american library association (ala) supreme court decision.

plan2succeed paraphrased the court's language, saying all an adult has to do is tell a librarian they're using the internet for a "lawful purpose" and the filter would be turned off, according to the court decision.

after the meeting, plan2succeed said he will wait to see what language the board approves for the position statement.

he said he won't drop the issue of installing filters in order to discourage the "criminal activity" that may result from people being able to easily view pornography on an unfiltered computer.

he referenced a june 2001 incident, where a township resident was arrested and charged with allegedly viewing child pornography on library computers.

plan2succeed said he will not "sit around" and wait for a second incident to occur.

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