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Court Says Internet Filtering in Public Libraries Not Censorship

By The New York Times

May 10, 2010



A Washington state supreme court issued a decision yesterday [May 6, 2010] supporting a public library's decision to fully filter Internet content, stating that such filtering could be considered "collection development".

According to an article in Library Journal, the decision is the first of its kind and "may lead some libraries to adopt more stringent Internet filtering policies."

The disturbing part of this decision lies in the fact that more than 75 million people rely on the library for Internet access and, as a report by the University of Washington pointed out last March, the public library has become "a critical digital hub".

The decision answers the question of "Whether a public library [...] may filter Internet access for all patrons without disabling the filter to allow access to Web sites containing constitutionally-protected speech upon the request of an adult library patron." Of the 9 judges issuing the opinion, only three offered a dissent.

"The plaintiffs' claims of overbreadth, prior restraint, and that NCRL's Internet filtering policy is an impermissible content-based restriction all fail to account for this traditional and long-standing discretion to select what materials will be included in a public library's collection," the court writes in its opinion.

From The New York Times
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