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Library board calls Net filtering 'censorship,' agrees to it anyway

By The Associated Press

10.01.01

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CHARLESTON, S.C. — They called it government blackmail and state-sponsored censorship. Nevertheless, members of the Charleston County Library Board agreed to install Internet filters to block pornography and controversial Web sites from most of the library's public-access computers.

"It's a new Victorianism," said board member Sam McConnell.

Under a new state regulation, libraries must install filters to block such sites or risk losing half of their state funding. In Charleston County, that means $250,000 a year.

The entire board opposed the requirement on Sept. 27 but went ahead and approved installing the filters on about 90 of the library's public-access computers in order to meet the requirement.

Some board members questioned the value of the filters because no system blocks out all offensive materials. While filters can block computer users from gaining access to offensive sites, other information might also be blocked, such as sites that discuss breast cancer or mention certain body parts.

"It's censorship, and ... it's not effective," said board member Lynn Skilton.

About 12 libraries statewide have honored the filter requirement, said Jan Buvinger, the local library director, although some opposed it. Charleston County board members said it's a decision for local library boards.

They said they would contact local lawmakers as well as provide contact information for Gov. Jim Hodges and Attorney General Charlie Condon if the public wants to contact them.

New local library rules require that anyone who intentionally breaks through a filter to get to a controversial site could lose computer and library visitation privileges.

It will initially cost about cost $2,250 for the filtering software for the county, although about 30 computers must to be replaced to accommodate the filters.

Since it was passed as a proviso to the budget, the filter requirement will have to be ratified again next year or be approved as a separate, permanent law.

Related

Federal panel refuses to dismiss suits against library filtering
Judges reject government's argument that plaintiffs challenging Children's Internet Protection Act have no valid First Amendment claim.  07.27.01

San Francisco bans Internet filters at public libraries
Decision by Board of Supervisors may cost city $20,000 in federal funds; city’s annual library budget is $50 million.  10.03.01

Massachusetts libraries debate restricting patrons' Internet access
Staffers say issue presents immediate dangers because of local, federal filtering mandates and worries over public voyeurism, obscenity.  08.13.01

Library filtering debate goes before federal panel
Judges must decide whether law aimed at keeping objectionable material away from children censors constitutionally protected speech.  03.25.02

Judges hear testimony opposing Internet filtering at libraries
Linguistics researcher says federal law can't be enforced because no technology exists that can block access to all objectionable Web sites without infringing on free speech.  03.27.02

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