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« Bertha | Main | Brass creep »

Aug 12, 2010

Comments

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Michele Forrest

From the library's internet filtering recommendation:

"Adults 18 and over may choose filter or unfiltered access."

If the filter is voluntary, then what is the point? I'm bowing out of the discussion now. (What else is there to say?) But I will be watching Council...

Bubba

"If the filter is voluntary, then what is the point?"

The point is that GPL has no interest in solving the problem as completely as possible, and in a responsible manner.

Joe Guarino

I agree with Michele and Bubba. It was pretty clear to some of us that Sandy Neerman simply does not want to do filters. But the memo Roch posted makes that eminently clear.

This approach, while creating the appearance of wanting to do the right thing, is not even artful. Those adults who want to surf for porn will remain relatively free to do so unless caught. Minors and others will continue to be inadvertently exposed to that. The approach the library system advocates is primarily reactive instead of being proactive. It is entirely inadequate.

(BTW, it is amazing that, after all these years of internet access at the libraries, they are now proposing filters for children's computers, apparently for the first time.)

Bubba

I find the phrase "legally mandated access" interesting too.

Can someone point out to me what the basis is for such a thing, and where that basis might be found in law?

eric

By sheer coincidence, I came across this article about internet filtering in public libraries (based on a case study in South Dakota). From a quick skim, it doesn't seem all that informative. But one point in the conclusion did stand out: that public library wireless access means those who bring their own computers aren't filtered at all. I don't know if the GSO libraries offer wireless, but if they do, it would seem to factor into the effectiveness of filters as a means of keeping kids from seeing inappropriate stuff (which, as the parent of a young kid who loves the Central Branch, is a concern I don't dismiss lightly).

eric

As for "legally mandated access", it appears they're referring to the Supreme Court's decision in the American Library Association case challenging the constitutionality of the Children's Internet Protection Act. The Court held that CIPA was constitutional, as long as filters can be bypassed or shut off on request by an adult library patron.

cheripickr

"GPL respectfully asks the Council to consider a total computer management program which will filter Internet access for all children and for those adults who choose filtering, but will allow the possibility of appropriate, legally-mandated access for responsible adult customers who choose unfiltered access."


So if I understand this correctly, GPL would like its computers fitted with filtering technology with an icon where "responsible adults" could choose either the filtered or unfiltered product. Hey, it works for cigarettes... I guess that's what they call the public option.

cheripickr

"It is ludicrous to have pretend to be having a serious discussion of filtering porn when everyone skips the necessary step of explaining what they mean by "porn." It is not a trivial thing, but skipping it makes for trivial discussion."

Hey Roch, I didn't see anywhere in the GPL's request to the council where they defined what they mean by "porn" or "inappropriate material". Doesn't that make their pretentious discussion somewhat trivial and ludicrous?

Michele Forrest

I said I was done, but...

Eric: The library does offer wireless access. Our family filter worked on wireless, too.

CP: If all the adults who use internet at the library were responsible, we wouldn't be having a discussion, would we?

Bottom line: If the law requires library filters to be voluntary, then there's no use in going further. A voluntary filter is a joke, and a waste of time and money. And if the opt-out filter thing is true, then we've also wasted a lot of time discussing it.

Joe Guarino

Michele, my understanding of city legal's memo is that the law would require city staff to shut off the filter on customer request if a legitimate site is being blocked. However, it does not appear to me that it requires city staff to shut off the filter to provide the customer access to porn.

What city legal describes is a reasonable approach that most of us would have advocated anyway. I do not think effecting that type of policy would be excessively burdensome for library staff.

This is the cost of providing internet access in public libraries. You have to be willing to assure it is being used responsibly. Otherwise, you ought not have internet access in a governmental setting if you are not willing to make those assurances.

Thomas

It really is a good idea to read the link prior to commenting.

Jim Langer

Yes, a filter that can be shut off when a patron finds a legitimate site would be best, if cost-effective. Considering the current number of infractions, and the potential costs, the city council should listen to its constituents and make as wise a choice as they can. Thank you Roch and Ed, Eric and Joe, for clearing up some of the fog here.

Jim Langer

Of course, this means the notion of "legitimate" is up to the librarian in question. Would they find Matthew Barney's "Cremaster Series", shown during his retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum, appropriate? Ed, I have not embedded a link, since it definitely includes "adult content".

Ed Cone

I could have sworn I had once linked to a Matthew Barney site from this blog, but I can't find it.

I think little kids would find the goatman imagery more disturbing than sex.

I'm a parent and I hope a reasonably thoughtful person, and I would not want a little kid freaked out by stuff seen at the library.

Nor would I want my public library to make unavailable material displayed at a major museum.

There is a balance.

Bubba

"However, it does not appear to me that it requires city staff to shut off the filter to provide the customer access to porn."

I agree, and that interpretation forms the basis for concern over the following:

"GPL respectfully asks the Council to consider a total computer management program which will filter Internet access for all children and for those adults who choose filtering, but will allow the possibility of appropriate, legally-mandated access for responsible adult customers who choose unfiltered access."

This phrase is key to understanding the mindset of GPL on this issue. There is no requirement that "responsible adult customers can choose unfiltered access" of and by itself. The default "choice" of whether filters are on or off is up to those who set policy. If the policy is that uasage is automatically filtered, adult customers need to request, if appropriate, that the filter be turned off.

From Terry Woods' opinion, pg 5:

"....The ALA Court stated that '[a]ssuming that such erroneous
blocking presents constitutional difficulties, any such concerns are dispelled by the ease with which patrons may have the filtering software disabled.´ The Court was specifically referring to 'erroneously blocked´ images. It was not talking about properly blocked obscene or pornographic images.

In sum, I conclude that the City may block obscene and pornographic images from internet websites in the public library, and the librarian is not legally required to allow adult patrons to view obscene or pornographic images in the public library."


JC

My company uses third party filtering software for the internet, including sites related to porn, guns, alcohol, and gambling . I'm pretty sure it works at the firewall point, so you should be able to make it work for wireless access too. I have once wanted to go to a site that shouldn't have been blocked but was being blocked. You can contact via web or email if you feel a site has been blocked in error. It's not a difficult task, and the library has no obligation to provide instant access to material - think of the days when the book you needed was checked out. There's probably a similar way to add a site that should be blocked. A voluntary filter or opt-out isn't really achieving what you're hoping to achieve.

Other potential is to make people apply for a library card before being able to log onto a library computer. If a user is found to be violating the use policy, you can suspend their card/username's access.

Ed Cone

"make people apply for a library card before being able to log onto a library computer. If a user is found to be violating the use policy, you can suspend their card/username's access."

This is existing policy, and it was published here last year.

Along with other existing policies and a good sense of the scope of the actual problem and the trend lines of that problem, this info should have been part of the Council discussion before anyone voted on anything.

glenwoodobserver

Under Council Directive in Ms. Neerman's report, it says that City Council directed her to apply a filter. Now I know much of the focus was on that particular focus at the meeting, but I was pretty sure the final motion did not mention filters. Anyone recollect differently?

Michele Forrest

Thomas, if that comment was directed at me, I did follow the link and read the report, hence my comment, which began: "From the library's internet filtering recommendation: 'Adults 18 and over may choose filter or unfiltered access.'"

Also in the Request to Council, is this, "Every library customer age 18 and over signing on to the computer for the first time after the filter is installed will have to make a filtering choice."

That sounds a lot like voluntary filtering to me.

According to the City Attorney: "The City's public libraries may install software on all of its computers... so long as the policy allows for an adult to have the software disabled or the site unblocked upon the request of an adult patron for 'bona fide research or other lawful purposes.'"

Does that mean:

1.) A. to have the software disabled [period, just because you don't want to use the filter]; and/or B.) to have the site unblocked upon the request of an adult patron for 'bona fide research or other lawful purposes.

OR

2.) A. to have the software disabled upon the request of an adult patron for 'bona fide research or other lawful purposes and/or B. to have the site unblocked upon the request of an adult patron for 'bona fide research or other lawful purposes.

GPL's Request to Council seems to be predicated on the first interpretation, unless I'm missing something.

JC

If you are going to use filters, there is no circumstance under which the filters should be able to be completely shut off. You should be able to request a certain page be unblocked immediately, but that should be up to a library worker. You should also have the ability to request a text-only page. I would assume all objectionable content is in picture or video format, so text-only pages with reasonable font sizes (no F--- in 80pt) should always be OK. I think this is in the spirit of the first amendment. Providing text-only pages means that someone wanting to find criticisms of Barack Obama or George W Bush would be unencumbered. One may want to have an opt-in text filter that would prevent kids from accessing certain literature.

Jim Langer

Images trump words. That's why we artists rule.

Michele Forrest

So said the artist. I'd rather have words. Pictures are for those readers who lack imagination. ;)

Bubba

"GPL's Request to Council seems to be predicated on the first interpretation, unless I'm missing something."

I think it's pretty clear that GPL is advocating for "choice". The language they used cannot reasonably be interpreted any other way. And indeed, it defeats the purpose of the effort under discussion.

Jim Langer

Touché, Michele. And blogs do not let me scribble my thoughts as I do in real life.

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