Magazine article American Libraries

ACLU Reports on Use of Filters in R.I. Libraries

Magazine article American Libraries

ACLU Reports on Use of Filters in R.I. Libraries

Article excerpt

Rhode Island public libraries are inconsistent in how they comply with the Children's Internet Protection Act (AL, Aug. 2004, p. 17), and in some cases discourage access to constitutionally protected material, the state's American Civil Liberties Union affiliate revealed in an 18-page report released April 19 (www.riaclu.org/friendly/documents/2005libraryinternetreport.pdf).

In "Reader's Block: Internet Censorship in Rhode Island Public Libraries," Amy Myrick, state ACLU program and development coordinator, describes "a mixed, but surprisingly troubling, picture" of the use of internet filters in public libraries. Among the findings:

* some libraries block material beyond the minimum needed for CIPA compliance;

* the statewide consortium Cooperating Libraries Automated Network (CLAN) has taken an unnecessarily expansive view of CIPA standards and has given libraries confusing information about the law and the filtering technology installed; and

* some libraries haven't adequately made patrons aware of their legal right to access wrongly blocked information.

"In effect," the report charges, "libraries have inadvertently or sometimes voluntarily expanded their role as censors, and have placed in the hands of private commercial businesses--the companies that make 'blocking software' for computers--the monopolistic ability to decide what patrons may and may not view."

Myrick described one incident at the Providence Public Library when a librarian refused to remove a filter to allow her to do a Google search on nudism. "She insinuated that I was looking at porn," Myrick said in the April 21 Providence Journal. "I felt judged."

PPL Marketing Director Tonia Mason assured American Libraries that "Providence Public Library takes seriously our responsibilities to our patrons with regard to the policies we implement in conjunction with the Children's Internet Protection Act. …

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