FC: San Jose rejects censorware in libraries (fwd)

Rohit Khare (khare@w3.org)
Mon, 29 Sep 1997 16:50:22 -0400 (EDT)

Date: Thu, 25 Sep 1997 08:22:38 -0400
From: Dave Banisar <banisar@epic.org>
To: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>

San Jose rejects
library computer filters

`Children Internet zones' an 8-3 loser in city council vote

Previous coverage: Families, Libraries and the Internet

Published: Sept. 24, 1997

Mercury News Staff Writer

Software designed to block pornography on the World Wide Web
will not be installed on computers in San Jose libraries, the city
council decided Tuesday after a 90-minute debate that invoked
comparisons to everything from the iron grip of Communist China
to the demented mind of Ted Bundy.

``I can't think of anything worse than government and politicians
getting into the role of censors,'' said Mayor Susan Hammer, as
she led an 8-3 vote to reject a proposal by Councilwoman Pat
Dando to create ``children Internet zones'' in which the software
filters would be installed.

Dando argued that filters are necessary to keep kids from seeing
obscene material that courts clearly have declared to be illegal. To
make her point, she distributed to her council colleagues a printout
of a Yahoo! search that produced 219 Web addresses in response
to a request for sites with the words ``XXX Naked Pictures.''

Modifying an earlier proposal that would have prohibited children
younger than 18 from using Internet terminals without filters,
Dando said Tuesday she wanted children restricted to filtered
machines unless they had received permission from their parents to
use unfiltered computers.

But council members who voted in the majority said they
supported the library's policy of unfettered access to all materials
for all San Jose residents. They also indicated that the installation
of filters might amount to fixing a problem that doesn't really exist
because people generally don't look at pornography on library computer
terminals that purposely are
located in open areas to discourage such use.

``I have not heard any evidence that we have problems in the library,''
said Councilman Frank Fiscalini.

City Librarian Jane Light told the council that she had received ``far
more calls from the media than from
citizens or parents about this.''

San Jose has about 60 terminals with Internet access in its 18 libraries.

Light said that although the idea of keeping children from seeing harmful
material has merit, the
installation of filters would put the city on ``a slippery slope of
censorship.'' She also argued that
parents alone have the right to determine what's appropriate for their

Filter opponents said software that blocks web addresses on a site-by-site
basis -- after the filter provider
has reviewed the content -- requires the provider to exercise judgment on
what people should or
shouldn't see.

And, filters that block sites automatically based on whether they include
particular words can prevent
access to valuable information -- on subjects such as safe sex or drug
abuse -- while failing to block out
some pornographic sites.

Members of the city's library commission, which has only an advisory role,
came out in force against
Dando's proposal.

The filtering proposal ``reminds me too much of Red China, where every
person who has an e-mail
account has to register with the police,'' said Polly Kam, a former
library commissioner originally from
Hong Kong.

``The latest trend in politics is to pass legislation to protect the
children,'' said Commissioner Stephen
Ferree. ``All too often, this results in removing the rights of the parent
and the rights of the child.''

On the other side, Beth Beebe, a parent of a three-year old, testified
that restricting children's access to
pornography is much like keeping them from buying alcohol or tobacco. She
said pornography also is
addictive to those who sample it.

``There is a Ted Bundy. . . to show the extreme example,'' Beebe said,
referring to the Florida serial

Members of a Gilroy parents group who are fighting to get the Santa Clara
County Library system to
install filters also testified in support of Dando's proposal and said
they were prepared to mount a
community campaign to back an idea that to date has been pushed mostly by
a single politician.

Entirely absent from the debate in the self-proclaimed Capital of Silicon
Valley was input from the
companies involved in the business of the Internet -- whether producers of
Internet hardware, filtering
software or World Wide Web content.

Dando was joined in her support for filters by Council members David
Pandori and Alice Woody.

Pandori said the city could ``set up a system that accommodates
everybody'' by allowing parents the
opportunity to choose whether their children could use filtered or
unfiltered machines.

Light, the city librarian, said such a system would be difficult to
implement in a city as large as San
Jose. She predicted most parents wouldn't act one way or another, leaving
it to the library to decide
whether children could or couldn't use unfiltered terminals.

Posted at 10:47 p.m. PDT Tuesday, September 23, 1997

David Banisar (Banisar@epic.org) * 202-544-9240 (tel)
Electronic Privacy Information Center * 202-547-5482 (fax)
666 Pennsylvania Ave, SE, Suite 301 * HTTP://www.epic.org
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