IT trade group says government mandate not necessary to force librarians' choices on filtering technology
The Information Technology Association of America commended last week's
decision by three federal judges to abolish the Children's Internet Protection
Act (CIPA) because it required libraries to block content protected under
the First Amendment.
The law, enacted in December 2000, was designed to block minors from
accessing Internet pornography by the use of filtering software. Libraries
that refused to install the software risked losing federal funding.
"There are plenty of filtering software tools available," said ITAA
President Harris Miller. "If a librarian wants to make a decision on content,
they do not need government laws, they can use existing technology. A federal
mandate is not necessary."
The courts agreed. The ruling stated that the law forced schools and
public libraries to block access to Web sites that contained protected speech
that should have been openly available to the public. "Any public library
that adheres to CIPA's conditions will necessarily restrict patrons' access
to a substantial amount of protected speech in violation of the First Amendment,"
the ruling stated.
The courts also ruled that CIPA was taking away the anonymity of Internet
users because they had to receive permission before viewing a site that
was "blocked" from the public.
Miller said reliable and inexpensive products are readily available
that offer a variety of filtering features. "Librarians, parents, teachers
and others can take advantage of the equipment," he said.
Regardless of what software is being used, the severity of the censorship
depends on the community and its standards, he said.
The judges' May 31 ruling is expected to be appealed by lawyers from
the Justice Department and be reviewed before the U.S. Supreme Court.
NEXT STORY: Letter to the editor