Net At Library?
An admiral and worthy endeavor or another step toward censorship?
What do you think? You may email
The Milpitas Post has been a-buzz with editorials and letters
about the pressure being put on the Library Commission by some
folks from Gilroy (a farming community at the south end of Silicon
Valley area). Now the Post, you know, is only recently online.
I'm not sure who at the post has even looked around the Internet.
Sometimes it's painfully obvious that the people there who write
about web sites have not visited the sites they write about.
Anyway, the editor, Mort Levine, has listened to these conservatives
from Gilroy who want to put filtering software on all library
public access computers. Chief librarian, Ed Cavallini, opposes
censorship of any kind. Steve Munzel, School Board member and
Historical Society chair, wrote a letter to the Editor concerning
the consequences of using filtering software.
First, let's see if the problem really exists. Are there hordes
of post-pubescent males crowding the five public access machines
that are in full view of librarians and any library patrons?
Yes, the stations are often in use, but also by girls and men
and women of all ages. The machines are in between machines dedicated
to looking up books in the library system. One is over by the
microfiche system, still in view of the librarians. How "turned
on" is anyone going to attempt to get in such a crowd?
Second, say the filtering devices were purchased and installed.
What would be the costs both "hard" and "soft"
to us all? I looked around the Library Surf web site, linked
below, and could not find exact pricing information. This is
not "off the shelf" software. You can guess it comes
with a "Service Technician" to install and maintain
The "soft" cost is what kinds of information would
be blocked from all of us using the library machines for research.
Like Steve Munzel pointed out, some of these filters look for
keywords. Did you know that the White House site gets blocked
because it uses the keywords "First Couple" and "Couple"
is a "dirty word?" This can be extremely frustrating
for those of us looking for untitilating information.
More sophisticated filtering systems rely on the RSAC rating
system. Web masters pay these folks to review their sites and
give it favorable rating so that most people can access their
pages. There are some "voluntary" rating systems, also.
If the folks who put up the City Hall website didn't know to
acquire a favorable rating, you won't be able to access it from
the library, if they are forced to filter.
With over 30,000 new web pages published every day, most without
any rating codes, the reality of filtering is daunting. My guess
is that Mary Jo Realtor didn't put in a rating code on her website.
I know my own personal page about homeschooling doesn't have
any special code in it. The pornographers, you can bet, can fake
the "voluntary" codes if they want to, though many
are in the business to sell their filth to older folks with fat
wallets. They have their wares behind forms asking for credit
card information and requesting big bucks.
Third, is true "porn" that easy for the average
kid to run across? I used to help out on AOL and have kids asking
where to find "pron." One thing about the internet
search engines: you have to be able to spell the words to be
able to find anything! Elementary aged children and younger are
not going to accidentally run into it on web sites.
So, where is the danger? The danger lies in parents who don't
have a clue and let their children roam unsupervised in online
chat rooms, which aren't filtered at all by this software! That's
where these creeps who try to seduce children lurk. Be aware,
too, that it MAY be your child trying to seduce some adult. This
does happen! I have been propositioned by young boys! You know
your child best. You allow them the use of other tools according
to their level of responsibility. If your child can't handle
being in the library without you nearby, then please, just go
with them! Don't block all the rest of the population of Milpitas
from information on the Internet.
Censorship In a Box
Why blocking software is wrong for public libraries. American
Civil Liberties Union white Paper.
Communications Decency Act of 1996
Supreme Court Ruling overturning the CDA. ACLU vs. Reno
History of a
This is SafeSurf's version.
Parental Control Act of 1996
(c) DEFINITION OF HARMFUL TO MINORS---- Section 223(h) of
such Act is amended by adding at the end the following new paragraph:
- "(6) HARMFUL TO MINORS.---- The term 'harmful to minors'
mean sexually explicit matter which meets all of the following
- "(A) Considered as a whole, the matter appeals to the
prurient interest of minors.
- "(B) The matter is patently offensive as determined
by contemporary local community standards in terms of what is
suitable for minors.
- "(C) Considered as a whole, the matter lacks serious
literary, artistic, political, educational, or scientific value
Software Advisory Council on the Internet [RSACi]
Allows site owners to register their site as to its relative
rating for children. but do most web owners do this? Is fee-based.
Those with lots of money can get a good rating. You probably
can't afford it.
Original filtering software system for the Net. A "Black