The issue of Internet access in libraries is a controversial issue - especially as it relates to children. In 2000, Congress passed the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), requiring public libraries to install filters on computers in order to block web sites that contain offensive materials. This requirement is a condition for receiving federal funds. The law was challenged in the courts, and on June 23, 2003, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the government (United States v. American Library Association).
While the intent of the law is to protect children from pornography, most librarians view the law as a violation of the First Amendment. They contend that, by censoring information, the law violates the principle of equal access for all. In addition, because no filter is perfect, some legitimate web sites will be blocked.
However, the Supreme Court ruled that the law does not violate the First Amendment, because libraries can disable the filters for any adult patron who asks.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) administers e-rate funds and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) administers LSTA funds. Librarians will want to keep informed on developments associated with filtering. The ALA web site is a good source for information on CIPA.
Another web site that is tracking the impact of the court ruling is "FAQ on E-rate Compliance with the Children's Internet Protection Act and the Neighborhood Children's Internet Protection Act", by Robert Bocher, Technology Consultant with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Division for Libraries and Technology.
Click the arrow below to continue to the next page