AKCLU warns of filters on library computers

Posted: Thursday, August 07, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) A proposed ordinance to install continuous anti-pornography filters on the Internet computers in Fairbanks could cause an angry library patron to sue, according to the Alaska Civil Liberties Union.

That's because the filters also block nonpornographic sites, said executive director Jennifer Rudinger.

''We are not making a threat,'' Rudinger said. ''We are trying to be helpful.

''They open themselves up to a challenge by a patron who can't get information that they have a right to get.''

An ordinance sponsored by Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Rhonda Boyles for continuous filters has been forwarded to the borough's library advisory commission.

The measure follows a U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing the federal government to withhold funding from municipalities that do not have pornography blocks. The federal government pays for the borough libraries' Internet service provider, a subsidy that will equal $2,795 this year.

Rudinger wants the borough to maintain unblocked Internet access or adopt a filtering policy that allows adults to request the blocks be shut off. She says the Supreme Court called for minimal effect adult library patrons.

Boyles disagrees. She said the library has a choice in what information it provides.

''In the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision upholding the Children's Internet Protection Act, the plurality determined that (a) library's decision to use filtering software is a collection decision, not a restraint on private speech,'' Boyles said.

Anchorage has had continuous blocks on all of its municipal computers, including the libraries, for about five years. Rudinger said the AKCLU has asked that the filters be taken off its public Internet computers.

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