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Library assoc. opposition to filters criticized for ‘peep show’ results

WASHINGTON (BP)–Family groups meeting for Victims of Pornography Month May 2 in Washington have strongly criticized the American Library Association’s opposition to filtering software for its computers, saying the ALA policy puts both librarians and patrons at risk of sexual harassment.

“We are seeing our tax-funded public libraries becoming peep show booths open to kids,” Jan LaRue, senior director of legal studies with the Family Research Council, told CNSNews.com.

LaRue is part of a coalition of congressional leaders and groups, including Morality in Media, Concerned Women for America and the Traditional Values Coalition, which met to kick off Victims of Pornography Month and call on librarians “to take back their libraries from the ALA.”

Librarians are frequently the improbable victims of sexual harassment when male library patrons become sexually aroused viewing pornography on unfiltered library computers, LaRue said.

The opposition of libraries to filtering devices also is attracting “pedophiles that know libraries are a good place to access and download porn, and sit next to a small child while they do it,” she said.

The Family Research Council has documented cases of men harassing women by leaving porn images on display on computers, or by summoning women librarians for assistance while viewing pornography.

Libraries should not be required to make material available on computers that are banned from their shelves, such as hard-core videos or magazines, LaRue said.

“That’s like saying a bookstore that wants to stock the Ladies Home Journal also has to take Hustler magazine. Librarians have always applied selection criteria in books, magazines and videos,” she said.

The filtering devices made for schools and libraries “do an excellent job” of blocking out offensive material while allowing legitimate material, she said. “They’ve been tested and the arguments raised against them are outright lies, and they’re outdated.”

To say patrons can’t get breast cancer information because the word “breast” would be programmed to block pornography “is nonsensical.”

The ALA and the American Civil Liberties Union have long opposed filters, which they say are ineffective and a violation of First Amendment rights to free speech.

“The ALA’s policy is that filters are ‘over-inclusive’ and ‘under-inclusive,’ that there are better ways to protect children from material and information that their parents do not believe are appropriate, but filters are not one of those ways,” said Judith Krug, director of the ALA’s office for intellectual freedom, told CNSNews.com.

“Over-inclusive” means the software eliminates legal, bona fide, useful and valuable information, Krug said. “Under-inclusive means that these mechanical devices that do not think and have no judgmental capabilities do not do the job that their manufacturers say they do. They let through a great deal of information that many people would like to have eliminated,” she said.

The FRC, together with other groups opposed to pornography, recently filed a friend-of-the-court brief before the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that the 1996 federal ban on computer-generated child porn images is constitutional.

The groups filed the brief after the Free Speech Coalition, a California association of adult-oriented filmmakers and Internet providers, challenged the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996, which expanded federal child porn statutes to include a ban on “virtual” or computerized child porn.

While federal child pornography laws prohibit the use of minors “in any sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing any visual depiction of such conduct,” pedophiles are using computer technology to produce a new form of child pornography, which is not included under the statutes.

Congress expanded the definition of child pornography in the 1996 bill to include computer-generated images of sexually explicit conduct if they are, “or appear to be,” of a minor engaging in that conduct.
Morahan is a senior staff writer with CNSNews.com. Used by permission.

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  • Lawrence Morahan