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Brazil Public Library will comply with computer law ruling, says librarian

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Supreme Court ruled Monday to withhold government funding from public libraries that refuse to install anti-pornography filters into their computer systems. The 6-3 ruling has libraries facing a difficult decision whether or not to abide by the rules.

It is recorded that over 14 million people use public library computers every year. This number includes a large number of children and the court says that users of every age were being subjected to the Web's steamy sexual contents. Yet libraries believe that blocking these sites will also ban information about science and medicine and other topics that may contain graphic material.

On the other hand, allowing this material to be viewed would cost the libraries a great deal of money because Congress has provided libraries with $1 billion dollars in technology grants since 1999.

The people and places that will suffer the most?

According to M. David Gelfand, a Tulane constitutional law professor it will be rural communities with small libraries and urban communities who have residents that cannot afford to have their own computers at home and rely on public computers for all of their Web-surfing needs. Meaning libraries like the Brazil Public Library may be doing a disservice to the public no matter what they decide.

Jill Scarbrough, Director of the Brazil Public Library does not seem to think that the library will have any trouble making their decision.

"If it becomes a mandate we will abide by the rules that are handed down to us because obviously we can't survive without government funding," she said.

The American Library Association voiced disappointment in the Court's decision to uphold the Children's Internet Protection Act.

According to the ALA's website, the association called for complete disclosure of sites that companies are putting off-limits and who is determining what is being filtered and what standards are being applied.

Its findings show that changes must be made because filtering companies are not complying with legal definitions to the term "harmful to minors" and "obscenity." The ALA will continue to research this information then review and share their new found knowledge with the numerous libraries choosing between government funding and the anti-porn filters.

The association will also provide the libraries with information on how different products work, standards to factor in when choosing a product and how a product can be used to its fullest potential in a public place. It is very important that users are able to view what sites are off limits and be able to request that the filter be shut-off with a minimal amount of intrusion into their privacy and without placing a burden on library service.

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