Subject: ALA Statement on library use of filtering software
From: Emanuella Giavarra (email@example.com)
Date: su 13 heinš† 1997 - 18:55:16 EEST
Dear List members,
The following statement was developed by the Intellectual Freedom
Committee at the ALA annual conference. The message was originally sent
to the US CNI copyright list.
> STATEMENT ON LIBRARY USE OF FILTERING SOFTWARE AMERICAN LIBRARY
> ASSOCIATION/INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM COMMITTEE
> July 1, 1997
> On June 26, 1997, the United States Supreme Court issued a sweeping
> re-affirmation of core First Amendment principles and held that
> communications over the Internet deserve the highest level of
> Constitutional protection.
> The Court's most fundamental holding is that communications on the
> Internet deserve the same level of Constitutional protection as books,
> magazines, newspapers, and speakers on a street corner soapbox.
> The Court found that the Internet *constitutes a vast platform from which
> to address and hear from a world-wide audience of millions of readers,
> viewers, researchers, and buyers,* and that *any person with a phone
> line can become a town crier with a voice that resonates farther than it
> could from any soapbox.*
> For libraries, the most critical holding of the Supreme Court is that
> libraries that make content available on the Internet can continue to do
> so with the same Constitutional protections that apply to the books on
> libraries' shelves. The Court's conclusion that *the vast democratic fora
> of the Internet* merit full constitutional protection will also serve to
> protect libraries that provide their patrons with access to the Internet.
> The Court recognized the importance of enabling individuals to receive
> speech from the entire world and to speak to the entire world. Libraries
> provide those opportunities to many who would not otherwise have them.
> The Supreme Court's decision will protect that access.
> The use in libraries of software filters which block Constitutionally
> protected speech is inconsistent with the United States Constitution and
> federal law and may lead to legal exposure for the library and its
> governing authorities. The American Library Association affirms that the
> use of filtering software abridges the Library Bill of Rights.
> WHAT IS BLOCKING/ FILTERING SOFTWARE?
> Blocking/filtering software is a mechanism used to:
> *restrict access to Internet content, based on an internal database of the
> product, or;
> *restrict access to Internet content through a database maintained
> external to the product itself, or;
> *restrict access to Internet content to certain ratings assigned to those
> sites by a third party, or;
> *restrict access to Internet content by scanning content, based on a
> keyword, phrase or text string or;
> *restrict access to Internet content based on the source of the
> PROBLEMS WITH THE USE OF BLOCKING/FILTERING SOFTWARE IN LIBRARIES
> *Publicly supported libraries are governmental institutions subject to the
> First Amendment, which forbids them from restricting information based
> on viewpoint or content discrimination.
> *Libraries are places of inclusion rather than exclusion. Current
> blocking/filtering software prevents not only access to what some may
> consider *objectionable* material, but also blocks information protected
> by the First Amendment. The result is that legal and useful material will
> inevitably be blocked. Examples of sites that have been blocked by
> popular commercial blocking/filtering products include those on breast
> cancer, AIDS, women's rights, and animal rights.
> *Filters can impose the producer's viewpoint on the community.
> *Producers do not generally reveal what is being blocked, or provide
> methods for users to reach sites that were inadvertently blocked.
> *Criteria used to block content are vaguely defined and subjectively
> *The vast majority of Internet sites are informative and useful.
> Blocking/filtering software often blocks access to materials it is not
> designed to block.
> *Most blocking/filtering software is designed for the home market. Filters
> are intended to respond to the preferences of parents making decisions for
> their own children. Libraries are responsible for serving a broad and
> diverse community with different preferences and views. Blocking Internet
> sites is antithetical to library missions because it requires the library
> to limit information access.
> *In a library setting, filtering today is a one-size-fits-all *solution,*
> which cannot adapt to the varying ages and maturity levels of individual
> *A role of librarians is to advise and assist users in selecting
> information resources. Parents and only parents have the right and
> responsibility to restrict their own children's access * and only their
> own children's access * to library resources, including the Internet.
> Librarians do not serve in loco parentis.
> *Library use of blocking/filtering software creates an implied contract
> with parents that their children will not be able to access material on
> the Internet that they do not wish their children read or view. Libraries
> will be unable to fulfill this implied contract, due to the technological
> limitations of the software, thus exposing themselves to possible legal
> liability and litigation.
> *Laws prohibiting the production or distribution of child pornography and
> obscenity apply to the Internet. These laws provide protection for
> libraries and their users.
> WHAT CAN YOUR LIBRARY DO TO PROMOTE ACCESS TO THE INTERNET?
> *Educate yourself, your staff, library board, governing bodies,
> community leaders, parents, elected officials etc., about the Internet and
> how best to take advantage of the wealth of information available. For
> examples of what other libraries have done, contact the ALA Public
> Information Office at 800-545-2433, ext. 5044 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
> *Uphold the First Amendment by establishing and implementing written
> guidelines and policies on Internet use in your library in keeping with
> your library's overall policies on access to library materials. For
> information on and copies of the Library Bill of Rights and its
> Interpretation on Electronic Information, Services and Networks, contact
> the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom at 800/545-2433, ext. 4223.
> *Promote Internet use by facilitating user access to Web sites that
> satisfy user interest and needs.
> *Create and promote library Web pages designed both for general use
> and for use by children. These pages should point to sites that have
> been reviewed by library staff.
> *Consider using privacy screens or arranging terminals away from
> public view to protect a user's confidentiality.
> *Provide information and training for parents and minors that remind
> users of time, place and manner restrictions on Internet use.
> *Establish and implement user behavior policies.
> FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ON THIS TOPIC, CONTACT THE OFFICE FOR
> INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM AT 800/545-2433, EXT. 4223, BY FAX AT
> (312) 280-4227, OR BY E-MAIL AT OIF@ALA.ORG.
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