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Library panel says yes to porn filters with adult choice

Posted: Friday, August 29, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) The Fairbanks North Star Borough library advisory commission says pornography filters should be installed on borough library computers, but adults should have the option of shutting them off.

The final decision falls to the Borough Assembly, which will discuss the issue in September.

''I think if we say we are opposed to filters of any kind, we are not only out of touch with the community, we are being pigheaded,'' commission member Terrence Cole said Thursday when the panel voted to recommend limited filters.

Borough Mayor Rhonda Boyles has called for the filters to keep children from looking at inappropriate Web sites.

Critics say filters censor more than pornographic sites, limiting freedom of inquiry.

A borough ordinance, co-sponsored by Boyles and Assemblyman Rick Solie, does not provide the option for adults to shut off the Web site blocks.

Diane Borgeson, chairwoman of the library commission, said the panel's recommendation to allow adults unfettered Internet access is a compromise of sorts.

''This is just a real easy solution to providing everybody with what they want,'' Borgeson said. ''If people want filters, they can have filters. If they don't, they don't have to.''

More than 50 people attended a public hearing on the matter last week. Most told the commission they wanted unhindered Internet access for adults, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

The issue of filters emerged following a U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing the federal government to withhold funding from municipalities that don't have the pornography blocks. The federal government pays for the borough libraries' Internet service provider, a subsidy that will equal $2,795 this year.

Cost estimates for the filters are about $20,000. That's what the school district, which has filters for all of its 6,000 computers, pays.

The borough operates Internet computers at its Noel Wien Public and North Pole branch libraries.

The Alaska Civil Liberties Union in a letter recommended the borough maintain unfiltered Internet access or at least allow adults the option to ask that the filter be shut off.

The union warned that the borough could be subject to lawsuits if it prevented adults from accessing information.

The Municipality of Anchorage has filters on all of its municipal computers, including the libraries, and has not been challenged.



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