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July 01, 2007

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The 'legitimate issues' raised at LibrarianActivist.org were in fact misrepresentations and distorted interpretations of Internet filtering cases undertaken by the ACLU.

In the interests of protecting Intellectual Freedom, the ACLU does not support Internet filtering for adults patrons of public libraries. The cases and arguments presented by the ACLU at this post speak for themselves.

Ah! Spirited debate! Excellent!

Sabina, have you read ACLU v. Gonzales? Filters are so effective that COPA was found unconstitutional precisely because filters are so effective. Yes, I used 95%, but I guess to make you happy I should have used a number of glowing statements made by the ACLU and the Court about the efficacy of filters.

You cited as evidence of your claim that filters are not effective a 2001 report revised in 2006 while ACLU v. Gonzales is from 2007 and is even based on recent ACLU expert testimony. Certainly one cannot argue that the ACLU is prejudiced in favor of filters; after all, the ACLU was one of the losing parties in US v. ALA. Therefore, your evidence is not persuasive and is quite literally out of date.

Oh, and your concern for overblocking is merely raising an issue already asked and answered in US v. ALA. But I suppose referring to it does confuse the average person who may not have read US v. ALA, so I can understand why the issue and others like it continue to be raised again and again by those opposing filtering.

Regarding my comments about the "Deep Web," your response was to make a joke about it. It was a cute joke actually. Quite funny. But it did not address the issue of librarians effectively blocking access to 87% percent of the Internet by not providing guidance on how to access it.

Regarding my comments on the arrogance of some librarians, you agreed! Here, here! But you then say it was misdirected because you can't poll the public on rights such as intellectual freedom. I agree with you completely!

However, you are guilty of your own misdirection here. Such a poll would not be on intellectual freedom. Your claiming it would be is essentially you rewording the argument in your favor. But, in reality, intellectual freedom is not the issue. The issue is the very material that the US Supreme Court says there is a "legitimate, and even compelling" interest in keeping children away from. It is totally appropriate to keep children from such material. Several SCOTUS decisions have said so. The ALA expressly disagrees with these decisions, and apparently so do you. Is the SCOTUS in violation of intellectual freedom? Is SCOTUS "arrogant"? Keeping inappropriate material as the SCOTUS cases discuss out of public libraries is not a violation of intellectual freedom.

Further, libraries are created by statute. The statues define the libraries. The statutes almost uniformly define libraries in a way that implicitly excludes inappropriate material. When libraries act outside the law of their enabling statutes to allow in inappropriate material, are their no consequences? Is intellectual freedom supposed to override those statutes so now libraries may provide inappropriate material at taxpayer expense despite the law just because some people keep shouting intellectual freedom? And, back on point, when libraries act outside their enabling statues, is there no recourse to control the libraries? Is it not allowed that citizens should be able to vote on whether libraries should use filters to stay within the enabling statutes under which the libraries were created by and on behalf of those citizens in the first place?

Thank you for commenting, Sabina. Everyone, please keep up this spirited debate.

Mr. Kleinman's summary of the "Final Adjudication" of the ACLU v. Gonzales case is blatantly incorrect. Kleinman wrote: "ACLU expert and court agrees Internet filters are about 95% effective." There is one mention of 95% in the Final Adjudication and it is on page 35: "Based upon the testimony of Dr. Cranor, which I accept, I find that filters generally block about 95% of sexually explicit material. Cranor Testimony, 10/24 Tr. 55:8-23."

Ninety-five percent of sexually-explicit content is very different from "Internet filters are about 95% effective." Ninety-five percent of sexually-explicit material filtered out provides no measure of overblocking -- that statistic on its own does not in any way suggest that blocking of health information is NOT taking place! Nor does it address any of the issues about access for "women, GLBTQ populations, radical thinkers, dissenters, suspect communities, women, the girl-child, and so on" as outlined by Dr. Toni Samek on the LibrarianActivist blog.

Furthermore, the comment about the "pure arrogance" of librarians who would reject having a ballot question to address Internet filtering is misdirected. Any comment that someone is "not sophisticated" enough to have a valid opinion is of course arrogant -- but that library administrator's comment doesn't address the issue at hand and to suggest it was the single and full response to Mr. Kleinman's proposal for a referendum on filtering software undermines the argument. In what cases does a referendum decide what goes and what doesn't go? Do we vote on rights? I don't think Internet filtering should be decided by a majority vote by the public. Just as I don't think there should have been a vote on if we should say the Lord's prayer in public schools or if people should have access to universal medical care. Likewise, intellectual freedom is not something we vote on: it's part of the rights package we're handed for being humans (with privileges, of course -- universal human rights are many things but universal).

I think it's far more arrogant to install a filter than it is to give members of the public the tools with which to analyze the information they get over the Internet and ensure their children are protected from online predators. It's also arrogant of Mr. Kleinman to misquote a court decision.

Filters block access to information. As the Brenner Centre for Justice concluded in its 2006 revision of its 2001 "Internet Filters: A Public Policy Report": "Despite the superficial appeal of filters, they are not a solution to concerns about pornography or other questionable content online. Internet training, sex education, and media literacy are the best ways to protect the next generation."

Finally: "What’s improper is that librarians do no work harder to make available at least portions of over seven eighths of the Internet." Yeah well -- we're too damn busy trying to protect access to that first eighth.

Mary,

I am happy you posted this here. And I'm happy you describe the issue as "heating up" as I was the one who raised legitimate issues at the LibrarianActivist.org blog. I will discuss something about Dr. Roma Harris's letter here that I did not raise at LibrarianActivist.org. But first, allow me to comment on Samuel E. Trosow's letter.

It appears to me the gist of his argument is that filters are "not consistent with generally accepted values in the library community, such as the Canadian Library Association’s Code of Ethics and Statement on Intellectual Freedom, and it creates an unreasonable burden on your patrons’ rights to seek and receive information." The second portion of his sentence about the "unreasonable burden" is essentially one of the same arguments made by Dr. Roma Harris. Therefore, I have the same answer as I did at LibrarianActivist.org.

The first part of his sentence, however, is revealing. He says talks about filters not being consistent with "the library community." This is the kind of attitude I see again and again. I see in this a total disconnect from the people this person should be serving, namely, the local community.

Today I spoke with a library trustee in Pueblo, CO, USA, where the library just decided to chuck aside existing practice and switch to allowing children to borrow any video, no matter the rating. The ALA's Library Bill of Rights was cited as the reason. I asked him if he and his fellow trustees asked the community first if the community wanted to switch from the existing community standards to those promoted by the top leadership of the American Library Association. The answer? No. He said they all get the newspaper and if they have any complaints, they can raise them if they wish.

And in my own community, I asked the library trustees for help in drafting a public question to place on the ballot as to whether the public wanted library filters or not. I was told the public was "not sophisticated enough" to understand the legal issues involved. So no help was provided and no question was ever asked.

I may be wrong, but I see pure arrogance in these kinds of statements. The issue should not be how filters are viewed by "the library community." We all know where it stands, even in the face of US v. ALA and the like. The issue is really what's best for the community, and when librarians display such blatant arrogance, one has to question if the community is being served or if the ALA or, in this case, the Canadian equivalent is being served.

By the way, Trosow's suggestion that "[s]taff should be requested to evaluate less restrictive measures such as rearranging the furniture, placing privacy screens on terminals, or clearing the content of terminals more frequently" completely ignores that these techniques fail spectacularly. For example, one reporter on TV showed how the "privacy screens" are essentially useless, and the librarian was at a loss for words. And less restrictive measures totally fail to stop paedaphiles from attacking children.

Now back to Dr. Roma Harris. I think you'll find this interesting.

That document to which Dr. Harris links at citizenlab.org (that I read for the first time after posting on that other blog) appears to be from the very case I cited as evidence filters work and don't block health-related info too much, just as the ACLU expert and the Court said and ruled. Yet she is using it basically to claim the filters *do* block too much health-related info.

Now I'm not going to dig into it more than that, but it appears it is possible the folks in Canada may have an issue with a doctor in a prominent position *purposefully* misleading the public. I do not know that, though. I'll leave it for the Canadians to decide if that's worth investigating.

But why is she citing something from the case that may be taking the opposite view of what was ultimately ruled while not disclosing that the case ruled differently than the document she asserts to support her erroneous claims? Curious, huh? I've reread what she has to say about that document and the context in which she applies it. Personally, I find it is totally misleading where she does not disclose the final ruling in that case, ACLU v. Gonzales.

I'm glad I mentioned ACLU v. Gonzales at that other blog, not realizing at the time that she just took a small piece of it to mislead the public and the London Ontario Public Library Board, or at least so it seems to me.

Interesting, no?

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