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City of Phoenix, Arizona bans Internet porn at libraries

Sep 09, 2004 10:48 AM
by Daniel H. Caldwell

Some readers on this forum may find this of some interest.
I know Paul Johnson will.



Phoenix bans Internet porn at libraries
Council vote may lead to court battle for city

Ginger D. Richardson
The Arizona Republic
Sept. 9, 2004 12:00 AM

Permanent filters OKd on library computers
A determined City Council declared Wednesday that pornography will no 
longer be 
available at Phoenix libraries, an action that could lead to a 
courtroom showdown
with First Amendment advocates.

Phoenix's new policy, which will filter all Internet sessions for 
adult users, is
unusually stringent and appears to be the first of its kind among the 
nation's largest
cities, a number of First Amendment advocates say.

The new regulations, which take away library patrons' ability to surf 
the Web without
restrictions, took effect immediately and could be implemented today.

The City Council's unanimous vote disappointed many, including a 
visibly upset Toni
Garvey, Phoenix's public library director, and prompted the local 
leader of the 
American Civil Liberties Union to say, "This will end up in the 
Supreme Court."

Eleanor Eisenberg, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, stopped 
short of saying
that her organization would take the city to court in the near future 
but did say,
"We've heard from people who are concerned about this. We have 
several possible

The threat did little to sway Mayor Phil Gordon and Vice Mayor Peggy 
Bilsten, who
said they are fully prepared for a legal battle.

"I am willing to take this to court," Bilsten said. "Too many times,
we stop short of what we want to do because we are afraid of it going 
to court.

"I think this is a great case."

Gordon agreed.

"I don't believe that in our library, which is designed to be family-
we should be obliged to provide access to these materials," Gordon 
said. "If
we are to be sued, then let the courts decide this case."

The city moved quickly to adopt the policy, which was prompted by 
last month's arrest
of a child molester who told police that he had downloaded child 
pornography at 
the Phoenix Public Library.

The arrest "shook the very foundation of what I believe we are here 
to do, 
and that is protect families," Bilsten said.

The city's plan has received support from Maricopa County Attorney 
Rick Romley, 
dozens of residents who called and e-mailed the city, and Glendale 
Mayor Elaine 
Scruggs, who told Gordon she intends to bring a similar proposal 
before her own 

Previous Phoenix city regulations mandated that filters, which are 
designed to block
obscene materials and Web pages by targeting key words, phrases or 
graphical images,
remain turned on at all times in the libraries' children's areas and 
for patrons
under the age of 17.

But those rules, like those in most other municipalities nationwide, 
allowed adult
residents the option of disabling the filters.

The council's action Wednesday changes all that. Some opponents fear 
that the city
has had a knee-jerk reaction to one particular incident and, in 
adopting the new
policy, has gone too far.

The ACLU, the American Library Association and other staunch First 
Amendment advocates
say the filters the council is installing are overly broad and 
imprecise at best.
Eisenberg and others say that the filters might mistakenly, for 
example, block Internet
sites that deal with breast cancer, AIDS research or sexual education.

They also argue that installing such software puts the city at the 
mercy of software
providers' personal biases and prejudices.

For that reason, members of the city's Library Advisory Board advised 
Gordon last
week not to adopt the policy.

Garvey, the city's librarian, did not attend that meeting but she was 
present for
Wednesday's vote. She did not speak and left the meeting quickly, 
blinking back 

Later, she issued a statement saying that she "will of course follow 
the direction
of (the) City Council to make Internet use at the Phoenix Public 
Library safe and
enjoyable for all of our families and citizens."

Board member Robert Villaseņor Jr., however, told council members 
that he didn't
think they "could prevail on this."

"I am here as a citizen, but I am also a member of the library board,"
Villaseņor said. " . . . And I am telling you that you will be 
removing a great
wealth of information that ought to be available and is protected 
under the First

But resident Marti Winkler urged the council to proceed with the 
filtering, saying
the idea that pornographic material was available at the library "has 
alarmed me and disturbed me."

City Councilman Tom Simplot and other officials said they would 
support the library
board in any efforts it made to find the most up-to-date technology.

Simplot added that he hoped a filter would soon be available that 
would "block
only pornographic material."

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