Magazine article Information Today

Teh New Internet Filtering Legislation

Magazine article Information Today

Teh New Internet Filtering Legislation

Article excerpt

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.-The Constitution of the United States of America, Amendment I, 1791

When I was 10 years old, I became curious about sex. My parents endured a barrage of questions that often occurred during dinner. My dad would blanch and leave the table after telling me to talk to my mother. My mother would draw diagrams of the human anatomy, usually stick figures with the parts under discussion greatly exaggerated. As the subject continued to baffle me, my mother decided I needed to read a book.

We went to the local public library where the librarian pulled out a key from a locked desk drawer. She proceeded to unlock a glass bookcase behind the circulation desk and retrieved a title suitable for my age. We checked the book out and went home. I read it in one sitting. Curiosity sated, I resumed playing with my Barbie dolls.

Eight years later, I started my first public library job. When I saw a similarly locked bookcase and asked the library director what was behind the door, I instantly recalled my childhood experience. He opened the cabinet and, to my consternation, not only was the library's collection of anatomy books locked up, but so were Catcher in the Rye, Huckleberry Finn, and Ulysses.

There's a connection between these early memories and the recently passed filtering legislation. For me, they recall a time I thought had long since gone by. The government has succeeded in passing a law that violates the public's First Amendment rights of free speech. Unless we become fierce opponents of this legislation, censorship may forcibly return.

Children's Internet Protection Act Late last year, Information Today reported on the filtering bill in a NewsBreaks Weekly News Digest (http://www.infoto day.com/newsbreaks/wnd001226.htm). On December 15,2000, Congress approved legislation mandating that schools and libraries receiving federal funds to purchase technology for Internet access must install software that filters or blocks "objectionable" material (H.R. 4577). President Clinton signed the bill into law on December 21, 2000 (Public Law 106-554; http://thomas .Ioc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d106:HR4577); the law became effective on April 20, 2001.

If the targeted institutions don't implement an Internet safety policy or install filtering technology, the law restricts the use of federal funding made available through the Library Services and Technology Act, Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and the Universal Service discount program known as the E-rate (a federal funding program to promote universal Internet access). If libraries comply with the law, children and adults will be prevented from viewing Internet sites that contain material meeting the legal definition of obscenity.

Specifically, the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) mandates that school and public libraries install "technology protection measures" that block or filter "Internet access to visual depictions that are (A) obscene, as that term is defined in section 1460 of title 18, United States Code; (B) child pornography, as that term is defined in section 2256 of title 18, United States Code; or (C) harmful to minors." "Harmful to minors" refers to "any picture, image, graphic image file, or other visual depiction that (A) taken as a whole and with respect to minors, appeals to a prurient interest in nudity, sex, or excretion; (B) depicts, describes, or represents, in a patently offensive way with respect to what is suitable for minors, an actual or simulated sexual act or sexual contact, actual or simulated normal or perverted sexual acts, or a lewd exhibition of the genitals; and (C) taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value as to minors. …

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