Vice Squad
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Library Internet Censoring in Rochester

Thanks to CIPA (Children's Internet Protection Act) and its Supreme Court blessing, many public libraries throughout our land already have filters aimed at blocking smut placed on all of their internet-connected computers. Monroe County, New York, intends to go CIPA one better, according to this (not work safe) article about the new library smut policy:
The policy, which is expected to extend to all libraries in the county, calls for use of the library's Internet-filtering system to block all pornographic sites unless — after a written request — an administrator deems a site appropriate for a patron to view. While the county library board adopted the policy, there was no clear sense of how to implement it.
They also finessed the matter of what exactly constitutes a pornographic website.

Despite the CIPA precedent, I believe that there is a chance that the Monroe County policy could be found to violate the First Amendment. CIPA survived a per se challenge, but Justice Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion specifically for the purpose, it seems, of pointing out that CIPA might later be challenged not on its face, but as applied, if the method of disabling the filter for an adult patron proved onerous: "If some libraries do not have the capacity to unblock specific Web sites or to disable the filter or if it is shown that an adult user's election to view constitutionally protected Internet material is burdened in some other substantial way, that would be the subject for an as-applied challenge, not the facial challenge made in this case." Sounds to me like having to ask permission from an administrator in writing, and possibly even being turned down, burdens an adult's choice to view constitutionally protected material in a substantial way.

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