Monday, June 23, 2003
Westport Public Library DistressedӔ Over Supreme Court Internet Decision
An official of Westports Public Library says the library views with distress a divided Supreme Court decision today that Congress can require public libraries to equip computers with antipornography filters.
George Wagner, the libraryҒs assistant director, commenting in the absence of Maxine Bleiweiss, the librarys director who was unavailable, told WestportNow:
ғI think I can safely say that Maxine would be distressed by the Supreme Court decision today.
From what IӒve read so far, it didnt make a distinction between the types of sites that filters attempt to block and valid informational sites that may be useful to adults as well as students doing research on topics.Ҕ
In its 6-3 decision, the court rejected arguments from civil libertarians who said that allowing Internet controls infringes on free speech.
The court said the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), passed by Congress in 2000, did not violate the First Amendment guaranteeing free speech because libraries will have the capability to disable the filters for any adult patron who may ask.
The law, which did not take effect pending the legal challenge by public libraries and civil liberties groups, required libraries to equip their computers with filters as a condition for receiving federal funds.
The ruling was a defeat for a coalition of libraries, library patrons and Web site operators, led by the American Library Association and the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the law as unconstitutional censorship.
We do not use filters at the Westport Library,Ӕ said Wagner. We believe that parents are responsible for guiding their childrenӒs Internet use, and we provide guidance to parents in doing so through literature and workshops.
We also believe that users of the library, both adults and children, have the right to find information uncensored by any commercial provider of filtering software.Ӕ
Wagner said the library does not receive federal funds under the Universal Service Fund or under any other program.
We may be pursuing grants from the National Science Foundation for a demonstration project on the public library in the Internet age, and if the CIPA requirements are part of the application, Maxine and the Board will likely uphold the freedom to read,Ӕ he said.
The New York Times, in reporting on today’s decision, noted that libraries receive $200 million a year under two federal programs, one that provides Internet access at a discount and the other that gives grants for setting up and linking to electronic networks.
It added: “Although libraries are free to reject the money and ignore the Children’s Internet Protection Act, budgetary constraints make that quite unlikely. ”