Library board calls Net filtering 'censorship,' agrees to it anyway
By The Associated Press
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.
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