Our View: A good law under attack
Three years after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it, the Children's Internet Protection Act is again under attack. Opponents, including the American Library Association, have argued all along that forcing libraries to install filters on their comp...
Three years after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it, the Children's Internet Protection Act is again under attack.
Opponents, including the American Library Association, have argued all along that forcing libraries to install filters on their computer terminals is an unacceptable limitation of the First Amendment.
After the law was passed by Congress in 2000, the American Library Association filed suit and the matter went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in 2003 that the law could stand if the filters could be disabled on request of adult library users.
The law, and its impact, is moot locally because the Mitchell Public Library receives its funds from the city and county. Only libraries that receive federal funds are obliged to comply -- or lose their funding. No filters have been installed at the Mitchell library, according to Library Director Jackie Hess, but parents of children under 18 must sign the library's Internet policy, which specifically prohibits the use of pornographic Web sites for all patrons, not just minors.
Those supporting a new act to supplant the present one argue that libraries are supposed to provide a free flow of information unimpeded and uncensored by federal law. They also say that many libraries are so dependent on federal money that they are being forced to comply with an act that is not in the public's best interest.
However, we believe the Children's Internet Protection Act is just what it says it is. Its intent was to prevent children from accessing harmful images and information on the Internet. For all of its usefulness, the Internet is filled with enough garbage and pornography to fill the world's largest landfill. Adults can do what they want, but children, being children, need some protection.
We're not saying the act is perfect. Advocates point out that filters also may remove access to valuable sites that offer useful information on sexually transmitted diseases, for example. However, we're not convinced that all medical sites would be screened by the required filters and moreover, if a patron searching for information wants it badly enough, he can go to the periodical or bound volume sections of the library. That's what they are for.
There's no prediction from this corner on whether opponents will be able to muster enough support to overturn the Children's Internet Projection Act. What we do know is that the act represents an honest effort to provide some protection for our children from a world that increasingly bombards them with obscene, unhealthy material.