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Subject: [IP] Supreme Court Reviews Speech And Library Pornography Filters

  • From: Dave Farber <>
  • To: ip <>
  • Date: Wed, 05 Mar 2003 17:34:27 -0500

------ Forwarded Message
From: Bob Frankston <>
Date: Wed, 05 Mar 2003 17:28:06 -0500
To: David Farber <>
Subject: Supreme Court Reviews Speech And Library Pornography Filters

I presume you already have this WSJ article. How can one help on this? I¹m
worried that the concept that bits have no intrinsic meaning and that words
only make sense in context is simply not accessible to these people. I
wonder if Mein Kampf is allowed? Is it illegal to tell children that there
is no Santa Claus? What is a dirty picture anyway?

My problem is that I don¹t know how to explain the concepts to people who
believe they can identify good and bad electrons. How do you explain that a
DNS name is just a character string? This is part of the medieval assumption
that words have intrinsic and invariant meaning and represents a huge
generation gap, many generations.

But I guess it¹s part of the shift from the attitude that you should risk
allowing a thousand guilty people to go free in order to avoid convicting
the innocent to the view that better to convict a thousand innocents than to
allow on guilty person to escape. Or one innocent web site.

The Supreme Court may surprise me but Breyer¹s comment about being able to
ask for permission to explore is worrisome. I hope it was just a question to
the lawyers and not representative of his views.

I cannot help but wonder what the censors are worried about. Is looking at
such picture so terrible that we would rather have ignorance? Is this a
result of the failure to educate those who set the rules?

Supreme Court Reviews Speech
And Library Pornography Filters

Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court on Wednesday considered how the government
can protect the public from the seamy side of the Internet without muzzling
free speech in public libraries.

Justices will decide before July if Congress can require public libraries to
install software to filter out pornography as a condition of receiving
federal money.

Paul Smith, an attorney for the American Library Association, told justices
that the filters block tens of thousands of nonpornographic Web sites that
include important information.

Justice Stephen Breyer said that Web surfers can ask librarians to disable
filters to get to a particular site. "You can have it, you just have to go
up to the front desk to get it," he said. But Mr. Smith countered that it
stigmatizes a person doing legitimate research. "You've got to go up and say
'Please turn off the porn filter.'"

The Bush administration argued that just as libraries decline to collect
X-rated movies and pornographic magazines, they shouldn't have to offer
access to pornography on their computers. "Public libraries may reasonably
conclude that it best furthers their missions to use a resource that is
effective in keeping out pornography, even if that resource keeps out some
material that is not pornographic," Solicitor General Theodore Olson argued
in a court filing.

Mr. Olson said Wednesday that the court should recognize the long tradition
of libraries deciding what to offer to patrons.

Librarians and civil-liberties groups contend that filters are censorship,
plain and simple, and that they filter out vast amounts of valuable
information along with the dirty pictures.

A three-judge federal panel in Pennsylvania agreed a year ago, ruling that
the Children's Internet Protection Act violates the First Amendment because
the filtering programs block too much nonpornographic material.

The law would affect more than 14 million people who use public-library
computers to do research, send and receive e-mail, and, in some cases, log
onto adult sites. The law has been on hold since Congress passed it in 2000.

The law would be particularly unfair to lower-income people who cannot
afford their own home connections, the library group and its backers claim,
and those in rural areas where Internet access may be expensive or difficult
to get.

The lower court judges recommended less restrictive ways to control Internet
use, such as requiring parental consent before minors are allowed to log in
on an unfiltered computer or having a parent monitor a child's Web use.

Congress has passed three child-protection laws since 1996, but the Supreme
Court struck down the first and blocked the second from taking effect. Those
dealt with regulations on Web site operators. Legislators tried a new
approach with the 2000 law, arguing that Congress should be able to regulate
government property.

The law governs money from two programs Congress had previously approved to
help libraries take advantage of the Internet. One program helps public
libraries get affordable Internet access and the other helps link libraries
and buy equipment. The government spent about $107 million on those programs
nationwide in the 12 months that ended in October.

About 17% of libraries already use filtering software on at least some of
their computers, with varying degrees of success in screening out only
objectionable material.

The case is United States v. American Library Association, 02-361.

Copyright (c) The Associated Press 2003



Bob Frankston


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