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Pornography Filters in Libraries

A bill is moving through the legislature that requires Florida’s public libraries to install filter programs that block out Internet porn.

Sponsors of the bill say they want to restrict children's access to obscene and pornographic Web sites. About 34 of 67 Florida counties don't have mandatory library policies stopping underage, Internet access. Committee members overwhelmingly approved the measure.

"We are empowering families today with the confidence that their children can go to a public library and not leave having been exposed to perversion and obscenity,” Rep. Dennis Baxley comments.

A similar bill passed a senate committee earlier this week. If the bills become law, public libraries will have until October to install the filter programs.

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Library Internet Filters

  • More than 95.7 percent of all public library outlets offer public access to the Internet.

  • Public libraries offering Internet access have or are developing Internet use policies.

  • For people without computers at home, work or school, libraries are the number one point of access to the Internet.

  • Research has shown filters block at least one of five sites containing legal, useful information. They failed to block an average of 20 percent of material defined as undesirable.

  • A survey of approximately 1,000 public libraries found that while 50 percent of libraries had received informal complaints about Internet access, only about seven percent of these were content-related (although not necessarily focused on pornography). Most were about faulty equipment or a slow response time.

  • The Supreme Court has ruled that communications on the Internet cannot be limited to what is suitable for children.

  • A federal district judge ruled that the use of filters on all computer terminals at the Loudoun County Library in Virginia was overly restrictive and violated the right of free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. The library now has a policy that permits adults to choose computers with or without Internet filters. Parents must sign a statement declaring whether their children are allowed to use the Internet with or without filters.

  • A judge in Alameda County (Calif.) Superior Court dismissed a suit by a mother demanding that the Livermore Library install Internet filters after her 12-year-old son downloaded sexually explicit images onto a disk. A second suit filed by the mother was also dismissed. An appeals court has upheld the final dismissal of her lawsuit.

Source: www.ala.org (American Libraries Association Web site) contributed to this report.


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