Fighting Internet Filters

For the fourth year in a row librarians across Florida are fighting legislation that would require Internet filters. Librarians say they are already doing a good job of keeping inappropriate material away from the curious eyes of children.

More than 100 Friends of Florida libraries walked the capitol's hallways. Their message to anyone who would listen was “we already protect kids, don't force us to meet a single standard of filtering porn from the Internet.”

"Filters out there can't do the perfect job, we are using filters in our system now it's just an unneeded extra layer of bureaucracy when we are already taking care of it at the local level," says Beverly Bartlett, library trustee.

The librarians are more concerned than ever. New legislation imposes fines if filters are not installed and working. It also allows libraries to be sued for damages if something slips through the cracks.

Sponsor Dennis Baxley argues the libraries aren't doing that good a job.

"I mean, I've had parents come to me and tell me about perverts going in and pulling up a site and tilting the screen so other people could see it and walking away," Baxley says.

Baxley also can't understand why the libraries are fighting so hard.

"In our libraries 97 percent of what they do is wonderful for children, and why they want to obsess and protect those three percent of perversity, and I can't understand that."

The answer to that question is that libraries fear a slippery slope, first Internet filtering then meddling when it comes to book purchases, and finally legislative control of their boards. Similar bills have cleared the House in the past, but not the Senate.

The librarians worry politics will make protecting kids from porn too good a campaign issue to ignore this year. In addition to fines and lawsuits, librarians could also be charged with perjury if they certify porn filters are in place and then complaints are filed against them.