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Daily News Article - May 15, 2007

Opposing Filters, Ill. Libraries Prevent Internet Access

(by Monisha Bansal, CNSNews.com) – Blocking access to the Internet, libraries across Illinois participated in a “Day of Unity” Monday to protest pending state legislation requiring public libraries to install Internet filters designed to block pornography and inappropriate content.

“We know what filters do, and we don’t really see how we can even provide service knowing what filters do,” Jane Schulten, an administrative librarian at the Crete Public Library told Cybercast News Service.

The Crete Public Library is one of at least 10 libraries in Illinois to shut down Internet access Monday.

“We thought it was very important [to block access] because I think people think filters are a black-and-white solution to controlling the Internet,” Schulten said. “As librarians, we’re finding that filters end up blocking a lot of things that are perfectly legitimate and valuable, and we thought that it was important to make people aware of this.”

David Smith, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute, said the Internet Screening in Public Libraries Act “helps protect children from viewing obscene and illegal material over the Internet in neighborhood public libraries.”

“Sexually graphic websites — including child pornography — would no longer be able to flood your local public library,” he said. “Internet filtering technology would help clean up communities and protect children and families from being exposed to these harmful and illegal materials in their neighborhood public library.”

The bill passed the state House and is currently before the Illinois Senate’s Rules Committee.

Calling them “little dictators,” Smith said library boards should be held accountable by the taxpayers who fund them. “An overwhelming percentage of parents and law enforcement officials support this common-sense legislation.”

“This is a denial of service to the taxpayer public for an extremist agenda that the public does not support,” said Smith, arguing that filters are 95 percent effective. “I am shocked at the depths they are willing to go to maintain unfettered access to obscene and illegal material, including child pornography and bestiality.”

The Illinois Library Association and the American Library Association strongly oppose the bill and called for the Day of Unity. According to the Illinois Library Day message board, other libraries planned to distribute flyers and petitions to library patrons.

The Illinois Library Association argued that filters don’t work and provide a false sense of security.

“Study after study has demonstrated that filters consistently block important information on science, health, political and social issues and regularly allow objectionable material to get through,” the group said in a statement.

“Paying for filters diverts scarce resources from limited technology budgets — money that could go to buying more computers and paying for more reliable and faster Internet access,” it said.

Smith disagreed, saying “the fact that 21 states now have similar library Internet filtering laws, and that the libraries in these states continue to offer their library patrons Internet access without X-rated websites, is conveniently ignored.”

He also disputed the idea that installing filters would be too costly for public libraries.

“The fact of the matter is that once they filter, they qualify for CIPA [Children's Internet Protection Act] funds — federal money — at an average of $17,000 per district, which is more than enough.”

But Schulten remained cautious. “I think it’s important that people understand public libraries are under no obligation to provide public Internet access, and if they think they are being cut off today, they should be very aware of what will happen if filters are installed,” she said.

All original CNSNews.com material, copyright 1998-2007 Cybercast News Service. Reprinted here with permission from CNSNews. Visit the website at CNSNews.com.

Questions

1.  Why did some libraries in Illinois block access to the internet yesterday?

2.  Why do these librarians oppose the pending legislation?

3.  For what reasons does David Smith, director of the Illinois Family Institute, support the legislation?

4.  How does Mr. Smith refute the following arguments made by the Illinois Library Association (ILA) for why they oppose the Internet Screening in Public Libraries Act?
a) The ILA says that studies show that filters consistently block important information on science, health, political and social issues and regularly allow objectionable material to get through.
b) The ILA says that paying for filters diverts scarce resources from limited technology budgets -- money that could go to buying more computers and paying for more reliable and faster Internet access.

5.  Read the summary of the Illinois State Legislature proposed bill "Internet Filters for Public Libraries", Bill #: HB1727
Bill Summary:
Creates the Internet Screening in Public Libraries Act. Provides that each public library must have a technology protection measure to prevent the display on a public computer of any visual depictions that are obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors. Authorizes enforcement by the Attorney General or an individual. Provides that each public library must annually certify, under penalty of perjury, its compliance with this Act. Allows a public library to disable the technology protection measure for an adult engaged in legitimate research or some other lawful purpose. Amends the State Finance Act to create the Internet Screening in Public Libraries Fund. Fines under the Act are to be deposited into the Fund. Amounts in the Fund are to be used by the State Librarian, subject to appropriation, to implement and administer the Act. Amends the State Mandates Act to require implementation without reimbursement.
Do you support this law?  Explain your answer.

6. With which side do you agree: 
--Librarians (and the American Library Association) who say that filters don't work - they filter out legitimate information, they are too costly, and also that they infringe on a person's first amendment rights, or
--parents, legislators, law enforcement who say that filters are necessary in libraries because they prevent children from viewing sexually graphic websites, as well as prevent pedophiles from viewing child porn in the library
Explain your answer.