ITAA hails Internet filter ruling

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.

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