Friday, May 31, 2002

the children's internet protection act

Public libraries were required to install filtering software on public computers having access to the internet by July 1st of this year, or risk losing federal funds. In many ways, the internet is fast becoming the world's library, and computers in a library can add a great deal to their holdings. But, the filtering software available these days isn't up to the task of distinquishing between speech that is obscene, and speech that is constitutionally protected. A federal court in Philadelphia overturned the law earlier today.
"There is no correction to the law that can be made here to save it," said Stefan Presser, the American Civil Liberties Union's legal director in Pennsylvania. "The technology cannot block simply obscene speech, or speech that is harmful to minors, without blocking an enormous amount of speech that is constitutionally protected."

The judges, who heard nearly two weeks of testimony in April, wrote that they were concerned that library patrons who wanted to view sites blocked by filtering software might be embarrassed or lose their right to remain anonymous because they would have to ask permission to have the sites unblocked.
The 195 page long opinion in the case is at (via The Shifted Librarian)

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