Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Possible filtering in Royal Oaks, Michigan and more...

Royal Oak's elected officials want pornography-blocking filters added to library computers after the arrest of a homeless man on charges of viewing child pornography at the public library.

City commissioners stopped short of ordering the library to install filters, but they voted March 3 to have the city library board tackle a question faced by nearly every library: Should First Amendment rights to uncensored information trump a need to block obscenity from public computers?
The Detroit Free Press article provides an interesting snapshot of the debate on web-filtering and varying approaches to access as the situation evolves in Michigan. Although many of the librarians interviewed in this article seem opposed or cautious and yet accepting of filtering, there does not seem to be a clear alternative on offer for resolving this issue.

Meanwhile, the staff of Gwinnett County Libraries will now be able to use software to capture the browsing histories of patrons after a change to the library system's Internet safety policy:

"The responses include counseling users on appropriate Internet usage for less serious situations, ordering users to stop viewing obscene materials, or calling police and capturing the computer's browsing history as possible evidence in the case of child pornography."

This policy also raises the age at which patrons can use unfiltered computers to 18.
These changes were effected after a woman complained that another patron was viewing pornographic materials and staff informed her that they were unable to respond.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Gwinnett County Libraries should use i-SAFE. Their resources are FREE and don't cost Gwinnett County Libraries any money. www.isafe.org

SafeLibraries.org said...

More Royal Oak stories here:

del.icio.us/plan2succeed/RoyalOakMI

beepboopbeep said...

With respect to the two posters above, filtering is not the best approach to simultaneously protecting the safety and freedom of educational inquiry of children online! Commercial and non-commercial filtering softwares can be subject to undefined or concealed ideological influence. The algorithms that they use can mistakenly limit access to legitimate health information.
The best defense online is knowledge and the exercise of good judgment, but a blocklist cannot teach either of these things. Children need to be educated on how to use discretion and critical thinking when approaching web resources or social networking situations, and this needs to occur in the classroom, at home, and in the library.

For more information, please have a look at Dr. Varnhagen's work on children, critical thinking, and the web.

SafeLibraries.org said...

The comment by beepboopbeep suggests US v. ALA is irrelevant. However, the US Supreme Court already asked and answered that stated concern of who is writing the filtering rules. All one needs to do is request a librarian to unblock the site or disable the filter. See US v. ALA at http://laws.findlaw.com/us/539/194.html

Further, the comment suggesting the limitation of access to legitimate health information is wrong as well. See ACLU v. Gonzales, E.D. Pa., March 2007 [ACLU expert and court agrees Internet filters are about 95% effective and no longer block out breast cancer and other health-related information—so effective that another law, COPA [Children's Online Protection Act], was found unconstitutional]. http://www.paed.uscourts.gov/documents/opinions/07D0346P.pdf

Lastly, the concern over what children view is not the only concern. Rather the filters address the issue of attracting in criminals to view unfiltered computers who then go on to attack children. No amount of educating children to use critical thinking will prevent criminal activity by adults.

Filters are the only means to prevent criminals from being attracted into the libraries in the first place. Look at New Bedford, MA, where the public library had security cameras to prevent such things. Did they? No. A 6 year old was raped within feet of his mother. The library director admitted no one looks at the monitors because usually nothing happens. How about Des Moines, IA, where a toddler was raped in the public library bathroom by a regular user of unfiltered p*rn. The library had education programs and an "acceptable use policy." Did they deter the criminal? No. Shall I go on? Filters are the only means to prevent criminals from being attracted into the libraries in the first place. And people who raise arguments already asked and answered are either misinformed or are actively misinforming.

Anonymous said...

"Filters are the only means to prevent criminals from being attracted into the libraries in the first place"?
I don't think so. Pedophiles are attracted to places where there are children.

SafeLibraries.org said...

You are correct. I should have said the best means, not the only means.

sandra w. said...

"...and no longer block out breast cancer and other health-related information"

I'm not concerned about people accessing breast cancer health information - it's easy to come by and well covered in most library collections. I'm concerned about people having access to sexual health information and information relating to gay, lesbian, bi, trangender, etc. issues. While gay and lesbian health and lifestyle issues are better represented in library collections then they were 10 years ago, it is damned near impossible to find resources relating to transgender issues (what it is, etc.) and sexual reassignment surgery, so patrons need to be able to access this type of information via the internet, but filters often block this type of information ... and for the record, most transgender people know they are transgender and need information before they turn 18

"Rather the filters address the issue of attracting in criminals to view unfiltered computers who then go on to attack children. No amount of educating children to use critical thinking will prevent criminal activity by adults."

While it is true that educating kids may not save them from being victims, filters are not going to save them from being attacked either. As a previous poster mentioned, child molesters go the the library for the kids, not for the internet porn.

"Filters are the only means to prevent criminals from being attracted into the libraries in the first place."

I don't believe that they are even the "best" means. A child molester will attack a child even if he/she did not look at internet porn at the library. Have all incidents of child molestation in a library occurred after the perpetrator looked at internet porn? Have all people who have looked at internet porn at the library followed their web show with molesting a child? I highly doubt it. Internet porn does not create child molesters.

Furthermore, if people who are 18 years or older can ask to have the filter disabled, then how is the filter stopping these child molesters from looking at porn on the web? Filters are only protecting the kids, which I understand (I wouldn't want my kids to be watching hardcore porn on the internet), but as a previous poster mentioned, educating children (or, gasp, paying attention to your kids while they are in the library because librarians are not your babysitters) is a far better and long lasting solution.

SafeLibraries.org said...

Sandra W, I largely agree with you in your first paragraph. The rest of your comments show less of a grounding in reality.

When you read the news, the molested kids are either attacked by someone who first viewed material that would have been blocked but for the library's adherence to ALA policy instead of local community policy, or there is no mention this. In cases where there is no mention of this, it is often because the reporter was not even aware that this could have happened, so did not even ask questions along these lines. So, sadly, the Internet seems to be the jumping off point for the criminals.

Now the libraries might have been filtered thanks to US v. ALA, but for their adherence to ALA policy. Sometimes a library proclaims it will follow ALA policy, then a kid gets raped by someone who just used unfiltered computers for looking at material the library would not have otherwise allowed in, then the library learns its lesson and installs filters.

Does it take a rape in every community library before people will realize they can have good, working filters that they do not have now because the library adheres to ALA policy?