October 02, 2001 08:33pm
San Francisco Bans Internet Filters
by: Kim Curtis
(SAN FRANCISCO, CA) -- Internet filters designed to keep pornography away from children were banned at city libraries despite a federal law mandating them.
San Francisco's Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Monday to ban the filters from library computers, a move that could cost the city $20,000 in federal funds. The board left it up to the Library Commission to decide whether to install filtering software in children's areas.
The Children's Internet Protection Act, passed in April, requires libraries to install the software by 2003. The $20,000 the city might not get would be a tiny portion of its $50 million annual library budget.
The American Library Association and the American Civil Liberties Union (news - web sites) have sued to overturn the law, saying it violates the First Amendment.
``Some people think that having a child exposed to objectionable material is so horrific that anyone's civil rights can be sacrificed to protect that child,'' said Emily Sheketoff of the American Library Association.
In San Francisco, city library computers currently provide unrestricted Internet access, even those in children's areas, library spokeswoman Marcia Schneider said. However, children under 8 must be accompanied by an adult at libraries, she said.
The American Library Association estimates about 20 percent of the country's 15,000 library systems use some type of Internet filtering.
Supervisor Mark Leno, who sponsored the city ordinance, said Internet filters only widen the digital divide.
``Internet access that the library provides is often used by folks from different ethnic communities who may not have computers in their own homes,'' he said. ``That's where the free speech issue is especially significant and unfair.''