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In addition to legitimate medical sites, there are people who legitimately search out information about sexual crimes. As a paralegal at a criminal defense firm that handles sexual cases for many defendants who are wrongly accused, our website will not be found with filters in place. I'm certain there are many other examples of non-pornographic sites that will get filtered out improperly.

keep up the good work Dan...just added to my bookmark list

I would agree with you if I accepted the premise that filters effectively screened out porn and blocked only one medical site.

In fact, filters block out much more, and we don't even know the stuff is blocked. I didn't know I had a filter included with my typepad account for the blog. It filtered Dan's comment on this very post, probably because of the words "porn" or "sex"...

I want to post Dan's comment, and all discussion on this issue. In fact, I would not have known he'd even submitted the comment if he hadn't emailed me personally to alert me that he'd been blocked.

If filters worked, I'd be in favor of them. Seems like a great idea. Problem is they don't, and I don't see much of a future for them since they're based on our notoriously imprecise English language.

About ten years ago, I recall a pro-filter politician running for Congress, all upset at libraries for not installing filters. Well, he then discovered his OWN website was getting blocked (he was against child porn etc., and used the words on his site). He turned 180 degrees and lobbied against filters after that.

Your chart indicates pretty good filtering to my thinking. Librarians would rather have children viewing porn than have one medical search blocked--they are notoriously poor at protecting the values of the community and pursue only their own leftist agenda. At my blog, I write on every imaginable topic, including gender and sex, and I get almost no spam, and my site meter records very few odd searches finding me accidentally. I spend hours a day on the internet and I almost never come across porn. I have trash turn up only in my Ohio State mail box which doesn't provide a filter. My other two mail services apparently do.

Libraries are not safe places for children any more and unfortunately many are dumped there for after school care. My public library director has practically told parents they should accompany their children if they don't like the library's policy.

I disagree. Unfortunately the Supreme Court opinion was a plurality, so it's hard to piece together the actual holding. Nevertheless, Justice Breyer, in a concurring opinions wrote: "As the plurality points out, the Act allows libraries to permit any adult patron access to an "overblocked" Web site; the adult patron need only ask a librarian to unblock the specific Web site or, alternatively, ask the librarian, "Please disable the entire filter."

I've analyzed the opinion to the best of my ability on the First Monday site, in my article: Lawfully Surfing the Net: Disabling Public Library Internet Filters to Avoid More Lawsuits in the United States at http://www.firstmonday.org/ISSUES/issue9_4/minow/

It's an awful problem - not a clever argument. As I see it, the only way the Court could uphold a seemingly legal law (blocking child pornography, obscenity and material "harmful to minors") was to ensure that constitutionally protected speech was not blocked...that is, that the filters are unblocked, or even disabled, on request.

As to COPA, there is an important distinction. Filters used by parents do not raise constitutional problems. Filters that work "good enough" can be fine in a home setting. The parent is there, can fiddle with settings, unblock or disable whenever they like, etc. etc. There's no constitutional issue - the parent has his/her own right to free speech, and his/her own right as to how to raise his/he own child.

p.s. I can't resist pointing out the irony that your first comment on blocked by this blog's filter. I didn't even know my blog had a filter. It put the comment in a spam folder that I didn't know I had. I wouldn't even have known the comment was there unless you had notified me personally. I wonder what words triggered it.

Mary, you said, "The US Supreme Court acknowledges that filters overblock, AS LONG AS they are disabled on request. If they must be disabled on request, then why enforce their use in the first place?"

Two problems with that. First, disabling the filters is NOT a requirement. Another option is to unblock individual web sites. If unblocked, everything else remains filtered. There may be other options.

Second, the entire case of US v. ALA and all the time the SCOTUS spent on it would be for naught if it was made useless by such simple means. I really don't think the SCOTUS would have done all it did and expect to be sidestepped so easily by a clever argument, or allow itself to let that happen.

Oh I'm not saying you are making a clever argument to be tricky in any way. Rather, that clever argument is obvious to anyone. Why use filters if all you need is to ask to turn then off? But it's not that simple, either factually or legally.

I do not think US v. ALA can be so easily dismissed. Further, with some "harmful to minors" laws as applied to the Internet and COPA being shot down as unconstitutional, little is left to protect children if the perfectly valid case of US v. ALA is tossed aside because of a clever but misleading argument.

By the way, COPA was shot down precisely because the court and the ACLU expert found filtering to be over 95% effective. If filtering is really as ineffective as the LibrarianInBlack claims, then perhaps COPA is not as unconstitutional as the court said and the COPA decision should be reconsidered.

There's an inconsistency somewhere with a clever argument that US v. ALA doesn't really apply. Filters work well enough to stop COPA from protecting children, yet filters can be turned off in a snap so US v. ALA is useless.

But there is a consistency. What is consistent is somehow children end up on the losing end of the stick every time either because laws are invalidated or people are misled into believing existing laws don't apply or are useless.

Can you see what I'm saying here?

Dan -

The US Supreme Court acknowledges that filters overblock, AS LONG AS they are disabled on request. If they must be disabled on request, then why enforce their use in the first place? It's just a giant staff drain to install filters to block the sites and then have to turn around and unblock/disable the filters.

Sarah responds to the filter efficacy issue here: http://librarianinblack.typepad.com/librarianinblack/2008/02/sjpl-internet-f.html

I corrected the date - thanks for pointing that out.

As to privacy screens/recessed desks - I agree in part here :> I prefer the recessed desks, whenever space/money permits.

As to the crime reports, men have been flashing and masturbating in libraries long before the Internet was there. If actual child porn is found on screen, police are called and whenever possible arrests are made.


Jackie -

The security guards are the first line of defense at SJPL. When they see illegal activity (child porn, indecent exposure, masturbation), they call the police officer to stop/arrest. They don't prevent people from looking at constitutionally protected sites, though the security guards/staff may ask the patron to put a privacy screen on or stop looking at the site. Patron's choice.


A clarification question: What exactly does the police officer do at SJPL? Is he stopping people from looking at particular sites? What are his/her guidelines? If they are preventing people looking at particular sites, how does this differ from a filter?
Or, are we talking about behavior issues rather than viewing issues? Such as masturbation, enticing others etc.
Thank you,

Thank you for drawing attention to the study and work that the SJPL & SJSU library staff did to address the council member's proposal and concerns. We hope to, at some point, publish a more formal and library-audience-driven piece about our study and process.

I support what you are doing Dan.

Our children should remain innocent the way that Jesus Christ intended them to be. Pornography is against God, homosexuality is against God - he destroyed Sodom and Gamorah because of their sexual sins. Children should not be exposed to porn or other things on the Internet. The library needs to block those sites.

The schools do not protect our children either. The library in the public schools is filled with books on abortion, homosexuality, witchcraft, etc. All of that stuff is against God and Jesus Christ is coming back soon to judge this world and all of their sins. All of life is a choice whether to receive Jesus Christ or not and listen to him and give your life over to him. The only 2 choices that we don't have in life is we are born and we die, that's it.

The libraries and the schools do not care about the children but God cares about the children.

My website is schoolawareness.org

From Laura Lopez

Your doing a great job Dan.

You are absolutely right. The libraries are not protecting our children from pornography and all the other stuff that they should not be seeing at a young innocent age. In fact, pornography is against God. It destroys marriages because the other spouse puts expectations on the other spouse and if they don't do that it causes problems. It's lust to look at the opposite sex naked other then your husband or wife. The Bible says if you lust after the opposite sex then you have committed adultery in your heart. God did not intend for little innocent children to be exposed to things that adults know about like sex and God made sex only for marriage. It should not even be discussed in front of children. The library is not protecting our children at all. There should be protection on the Internet also. Kids should not be allowed to view pornography, violence, guns, etc. It is very disgusting that we live in a culture that the majority does not care about kids and keeping them innocent the way that God intended it to be.

In schools they can go to the library and read a book about homosexuality, abortion, witchcraft, etc. They are going to start bringing in pamphlets in the schools that talk about homosexuality as being alright and that is the way they were born. That is not God's way and he destroyed Sodom and Gamorah because of their sexual sins. That is also not the way they were born, it's a choice just like all of life is. When we are born we are not born thinking homosexual thoughts, that is just stupid for anyone to think that a baby will have homosexual thoughts. The only choices that you don't have to make in life is you are born and you die. Serving Jesus Christ and everything else is a choice, free will. There are many scriptures in the Bible that talk about homosexuality for a man or a woman as wrong. It says not for a man to lie down with another man, lie down means sex. They are also teaching evolution in the schools which has been proven to be not true. Even Charles Darwin said in order for his theory to be true there must be millions of in-between stages, transitional forms in the fossil record and if within 100 years we don't find those transitional forms that his theory should be discarded. More then 100 yrs. has gone by & those missing links, the transitional forms, the in-between stages are still missing.

I have a website and an online petition. My website is schoolawareness.org

I fully support what Dan is doing. Thank you Dan for all of your work for the kids.

I corrected the date of the library's filter study - 2008, not 2007. Sorry about that. Thanks for thoughtful comment.

Hi Mary,

I just attempted to post something on your blog. It's below. But it said, "An error occurred... We're sorry, your comment has not been published because TypePad's antispam filter has flagged it as potential comment spam. It has been held for review by the blog's author." Now that's ironic!



What a well-written article, and I would have like to have attended that meeting as well. I have some points I'd like to raise to see what you think.

First, the city councilman has written online exactly why he is taking the stand he is. It adds to this discussion so I'll add it here and ask you to read it, if you haven't already:

http://www.sjdistrict1.com/newsletter/NewsletterArticles/ 2008-Februrary-LibraryFiltering2.pdf

Second, you say, "In practice, however, there are no filters that can do this. [T]he bigger problem is ... filters invariably overblock legitimate sites, especially health sites, gay and lesbian sites, etc." Now this has two problems, I believe. First, it makes an implicit assumption that filters must be near perfect before they should be used. The US Supreme Court in US v. ALA acknowledged they would never be perfect, being as they are just some software, so anyone can ask for the site to be unblocked or for the filter to be disabled. So to imply filters must be near perfect to be used when the US Supreme Court has already asked and answered that question seems misleading to me.

The second problem with that statement is factual. The ACLU was a party with the ALA in US v. ALA. But now, even the ACLU admits that filters are over 95% effective and no longer block health-related web sites. So I think it is misleading to say what you said when the ACLU and the courts say the opposite. See ACLU v. Gonzales, E.D. Pa., March 2007 [ACLU expert and court agrees Internet filters are about 95% effective and no longer block out breast cancer and other health-related information—so effective that another law, COPA [Children's Online Protection Act], was found unconstitutional] here:


Third, you provided data from a report dated February 4, 2007. Well the ACLU case discussed is more recent than your suggested report, and it has been found trustworthy in a court of law. Indeed the court was swayed by the ACLU's argument. I think the ACLU case is a better ruler to use to discuss these issues. At a minimum, both could be discussed, but the ACLU case should not be excluded, as it was here (likely for innocent reasons such as no one can know everything in the world).

Fourth, you say, "Privacy screens generally block images from passersby." Do you really believe this? This is false. Even Judith Krug of the ALA's OIF said privacy screens do not work as well as recessed desktops. But even with that, news reporters have shown that privacy screens are a total failure by showing that everything can be seen clearly, only a little darker, but it's still all there. Privacy screens are effective only in providing a feel-good approach that will fool the public into accepting them. Here's that news report, and watch the video. ABC7's Dan Noyes: 'I've seen the [privacy] screens and I see how they work and the stuff is visible from behind. You can see everything.' Jane Light...: 'So you can avert your eyes.' Watch for yourself the head librarian's attitude when she is caught in the lie:


Fifth, you say, "Be sure to notice in the library's response that in fact there have been very few porn incidents in San Jose." But you do not point out that this is false, neither do you point out that some libraries regularly mislead the public as to the true nature of the problems caused by unfiltered computers. As to this being false, I reference the above news story just linked, and I provide this summary:

San Francisco Bay Area, CA: "Porn, Sex Crimes At Libraries; I-Team Investigation," KGO, 29 Nov 2006, "[T]he Martin Luther King Library has a problem with pornography. They have no rule against viewing photographs or full-screen sex videos from Internet sites, even with children nearby. Chief librarian Jane Light says it's a matter of free speech. .... ABC7's Dan Noyes: 'I've seen the [privacy] screens and I see how they work and the stuff is visible from behind. You can see everything.' Jane Light...: 'So you can avert your eyes.' .... San Jose's police blotter over the past year lists several arrests for child porn at the library, at least ten cases of child molestation or other sex crimes involving kids and several cases of men viewing porn and performing a lewd act, right at the terminal. .... Sgt. John Laws, San Jose library police: 'It showed him sitting at the computer terminal and ... masturbating.' .... Marcia Stacke, Child Quest International: 'You know, sometimes I wonder if we're just too afraid to be, I don't know, sued in this country. We've got to step out and protect our kids. Enough is enough.'"

Mary, that police blotter proves the library's claim of "very few porn incidents" is false. Mary, it's just plain false. I know you are very hard working, honest person dedicated to her work. I am certain you will admit at least that the police blotter does appear to contradict the library's report.

As to libraries and even the ALA's OIF,misleading the public, I would count this San Jose case as one instance. Additional examples include the Illinois library that would not report crimes against children to the police:

Naperville, IL: "Library Confidential: Crimes Kept Secret; Indecent Acts, Violent Attacks And Sex Crimes Not Reported To Police," WBBM-TV, 2 Nov 2006 [ http://cbs2chicago.com/westsuburbanbureau/local_story_306153622.html ] ("He visibly had his hand down his pants," McNichols said. And for a second time they say library officials did nothing. .... "It is atrocious what is going on in some of these libraries throughout the metropolitan area," said Naperville Police Chief David Dial.); and "Your Library May Be A Safe Haven For Criminals; Library Confidential: Police Say Library Law Hinders Their Ability To Nab Offenders," WBBM-TV, 3 Nov 2006 [ http://cbs2chicago.com/westsuburbanbureau/local_story_307173446.html ] (The current law prohibits library staff from revealing the identity of a patron to police once they have left the library. .... "We have helped these laws be created and passed because they balance the right of the users of the libraries with the rights of law enforcement officer," said Judith Krug of the American Library Association.).

And another really egregious example. Here a library is invaded by criminals for about three years with almost daily incidents of criminal activity [ http://www.safelibraries.org/adamson/ ], 47 librarians and coworkers speak out publicly about this, and Judith Krug of the ALA's OIF scoffs because, she claims, falsely, that only one of the 47 is an actual librarian. Who cares about the nonlibrarians, right? Look:

"Dangerous Access 2000: Media Coverage, ALA's Reaction," by David Burt, FilteringFacts.org, 17 Mar 2000. [ http://lists.webjunction.org/wjlists/publib/2000-March/048232.html ] "ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom Director Judith Krug was caught spreading false information as she tried to discredit 47 employees at the Minneapolis Public Library protesting being subjected to pornography on a daily basis at their workplace." .... "Krug also told the Times that, 'We have almost no evidence of any influx or even a small number of concerns about accessing pornography on the Internet by anyone.'"

So leading people to think that librarians can be trusted for accurate information in such matters is not a wise idea, in my opinion. Especially in San Jose where the head librarian is seen on the news report openly lying. What kind of example does it set when even the ALA's de facto leader for over 40 years "was caught spreading false information as she tried to discredit 47 employees at the Minneapolis Public Library protesting being subjected to pornography on a daily basis at their workplace."

What do you and your blog readers think of what I provided here? I know you are a professional but sometimes other people really launch on me for presenting this information and its sources, though it has never happened to my knowledge on your blog. So let me head some of them off ahead of time by saying I am not the issue -- ad hominem argument is not effective. I have simply provided alternate views and information and, more importantly, cited to the sources that allow me to make the statements I do.

I applaud Pete Constant for taking the stand he has. It is very hard to stand up to political correctness, especially when one needs votes and the PC crowd is allowed to wield great weight by the majority.

I hope Pete Constant's constituency learns the truth of the issues involved, not just the library's misinformation that is often echoed by the media, then makes the right decision based on that accurate information. I feel they would then choose to use the filters that are nowadays very effective and no longer block out health-related information. The hoped for result, of course, is that we no longer have to report "San Jose's police blotter over the past year lists several arrests for child porn at the library, at least ten cases of child molestation or other sex crimes involving kids and several cases of men viewing porn and performing a lewd act, right at the terminal."

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