Virginia library battle rages

John Walker jwalker at
Wed Mar 11 23:49:35 EST 1998

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It has a section titled "Universal Accessibility" which is intended
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Virginia library battle rages

   By Courtney Macavinta
   Staff Writer, CNET NEWS.COM
   March 10, 1998, 5:10 p.m. PT

Free speech advocates in Virginia today are trying to halt passage of
a law that would force public libraries to install filtering programs
on all computers with Net access.

The move is the latest twist in a battle raging in that state--and
elsewhere in the nation--regarding the constitutionality of public
institutions' restricting access to certain Net sites.

Most policies target sexually explicit or illegal material, but civil
liberties groups have long argued that the technology used to block
such sites also bars content with redeeming social value.

People For the American Way (PFAW) today called on the Virginia state
legislature to reject an amendment buried in a House appropriations
bill that would mandate all Virginia public libraries to install
blocking software on library computers to get state funding. A
similar provision was pushed in Ohio last year.

"We've found that censoring software has blocked things like
information on breast cancer--because it contains the word
'breast'--and information on Middlesex County, because it contains
the word 'sex.' This amendment is an unconstitutional 'solution' in
search of a problem," PFAW president Carole Shields said in a

In December, PFAW filed a lawsuit against Loudoun County Public
Library over its policy, which prohibits accessing child
pornography--already illegal in the United States in any form--and
obscenity, but further bans access to any "material deemed harmful to
juveniles," regardless of the patron's age. The American Civil
Liberties Union is now fighting alongside PFAW.

But some state lawmakers are working to expand the contested policy
throughout the state, the local civil liberties group charges.

Delegate Bob Marshall of Prince William County introduced the
amendment that the House of Delegates has passed. The state House and
Senate are now discussing the bill and could vote on changes before
midnight. Then both houses of the legislature will have to vote on
the revised appropriations bill. The session is scheduled to adjourn

The amendment is tied to about $16 million in state financial
assistance for public libraries.

"The governing board of a local public library receiving state aid
from this item, or under this act, shall by September 1, 1998,
implement guidelines designed to prevent, to the extent technically
feasible, the selecting, acquiring, accessing, or downloading of
obscene materials or child pornography through any computer owned,
leased, or controlled by the local public library and used by the
general public," Marshall's amendment states.

"Nothing in this item shall be construed to prohibit any library
board from developing and implementing other lawful guidelines that
are more restrictive than the provisions described above in this
item," it continues.

Congress is considering a similar proposal. Sen. John McCain
(R-Arizona) introduced legislation requiring schools that apply for
federal Net access discounts to filter out indecent Net sites. The up
to $2.25 billion in annual discounts, also known as "e-rates," are
supposed to be doled out to schools and libraries starting this year
by the Federal Communications Commission, under direction from the
Telecommunications Act of 1996.


Welcome to People For the American Way URL:

Virginia Legislature - Introduction (Home) URL:

Ohio bill rewrites library law URL:,4,11203,00.html

Loudoun Public Libraries URL:

Loudoun County Public Library DRAFT Internet Use Policy URL:

ACLU: American Civil Liberties Union URL:

THOMAS -- U.S. Congress on the Internet URL:

proposal URL:

Senator John McCain URL:

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Home Page URL:


Also in this issue:

- N.D. Says E-Mail Not Always Private
    BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- A workday e-mail conversation seems innocuous
    enough. When state officials are involved, however, it could be a
    matter of public record.
- Virginia library battle rages
    Free speech advocates in Virginia today are trying to halt passage of
    a law that would force public libraries to install filtering programs
    on all computers with Net access.
- Netscape tools customize browser
    Netscape Communications today released a software toolkit that lets
    developers create their own customized versions of the Communicator
    software suite and the Navigator browser.
- Challenge To Net Porn Law Brews
    Free-speech advocates are already preparing a challenge to a New
    Mexico Internet decency bill signed into law on Monday, promising to
    block it before it goes into effect this summer.
- Zona Predicts Surge In Internet-Based Selling
    Companies involved in developing software and hardware products to
    support electronic commerce will reap the benefits of a booming
    business over the next five years, according to a report released
    Monday by Zona Research Inc.
- The Internet's Impact on Medicine
    Q: Will the Internet affect the practice of medicine? How? --Karima
    El Korri, Morocco
- French Organize Resistance To U.S. Net Plans
    The relationship between Americans and the French has long been a
    curious mixture of love and hate, and nowhere more so these days than
    in cyberspace.
- Australia angry over U.S. plan to register Internet sites
    Australia on Tuesday joined the European Union in protesting a
    plan that would set up a U.S.-based public corporation to register
    major Internet sites.
- New Lists and Journals
    * SPOL - Single Parents OnLine Mailing List
    * FAMSAFE - Family Safe Online Services Promotion and Discussion
    * Renewal - for those searching for renewal


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