This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, April 11, 2001

April 11, 2001 - Colorado Library Association Opposed to Internet Filtering Bill

State Representative Tim Fritz (R-Loveland) has recently introduced House Bill 1376. This bill mandates the use of "electronic protection measures" — commonly known as filtering software — on all Internet terminals that can be used by minors. It also allows for the disabling of that software, whether for adults or for children, if, in the opinion of the librarian, the person is doing "bona fide or legitimate research."

The Colorado Library Association is opposed to this bill. Here's why.

First, we're doing a great deal about this issue right now.

1. We build age-appropriate web sites that steer children to solid information. Check out our children's page, from www.dpld.org.

2. We buy authoritative content. As you'll also see on our website, we have paid for some high quality, commercial databases for kids, adding significant value to the Internet for your children.

3. We offer regular classes in safe surfing — both for kids and for adults. You'll find class listings on our website, too.

4. We actively experiment with various Internet management approaches. Some libraries use Internet contracts with students. Some use expensive "smart card" equipment and software. Some, as we do, use filtering software in the children's room only.

5. We supervise public space. We always have. We always will.

Second, here's why we think this bill is bad public policy.

1. This is an unfunded state mandate.

2. The bill overrides local decision-making. Most libraries in the state have gone through extensive public review of this issue, and hammered out solutions that work for them.

3. This bill overrides parental control. Englewood Public allows the parent to set the level of Internet access for his or her child. Under this bill, the state decides.

4. This bill requires case by case governmental approval (by librarians) even for adult use of the library. So if someone is searching for information on venereal disease, penile dysfunction, or drug abuse treatment, they must first explain this to one of our reference librarians — an outrageous breach of privacy by the state.

5. The bill ignores personal accountability. Yes, the Internet has some extreme content. In our experience, people rarely just stumble across it — they go looking for it. If people persist in being crude and lewd in public, they should lose their public Internet privileges. But everybody else shouldn't have to give up their privacy, or their freedom of inquiry.

6. Internet filtering doesn't work very well. Like language translation software, filtering software rarely understands context. So it lets a great deal of pornographic and violent content through. On the other hand, it often randomly blocks useful and even authoritative content. Filtering restricts information from both liberal and conservative sites, as recently discovered by a conservative candidate for Congress from Oregon, whose whole site was blocked because, in his statement about opposition to abortion, he used the words "rape" and "incest." Such stories are both real and common.

7. This bill attempts to intrude on and interfere with the market place. As noted above, all kinds of products and solutions are being tested by librarians in the field. In this, the fastest-changing area of technology in the world, the state has neither the expertise nor the wisdom to decide, as of 2001, the one correct solution for all libraries.

For more information, please feel free to contact me, or your State Representative.

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