The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) is a much-debated Act that demands web filters to be installed on all school or public library computers, including patron and staff terminals, that receive federal funding. Its purpose is to protect minors from images that are 1) obscene, 2) child pornography, or 3) harmful to minors. Libraries that refuse to comply with this Information Policy will lose federal Internet funding. Due to this, some libraries have elected to forgo funding in order to maintain un-filtered web access. Within the libraries that have restricted web access, a recent stipulation to CIPA allows adult patrons to access restricted web content. However, the patron needs the permission of a librarian to do so, who must un-block the material in a timely fashion. Web software filters can vary in restrictions, with much innocent material being filtered in the process. An overview on different vendors available, along with the exact nature of what is being filtered, can be found at http://libraryfiltering.org/.
There has been much resistance to this Act, including from ALA and the National Coalition Against Censorship. The NCAC states, “…every trip to the library may entail a Big Brother-ish experience—being protected from unseeable material that an unknown reviewer has decided to block based on undisclosed criteria” (Bertin, Joan). In addition, the IFLA Glasgow Declaration on Libraries, Information Services and Intellectual Freedom has also issued a statement that can be applied to this debate. The Declaration states that, “libraries and information services shall make materials, facilities and services equally accessible to all users. There shall be no discrimination for any reason including race, national or ethnic origin, gender or sexual preference, age, disability, religion, or political beliefs” (“The Glasgow Declaration”). According to IFLA, age becomes a discriminating factor with the demand of software filters on library computers that receive federal funding.
A New York Times article “Tools to Keep the Web Safe for Children” reveals another side to the filtering debate, stating, “…by relying too much on technology, rather than education and supervision, children will be unprepared to deal with exposure to inappropriate content when it does eventually occur” (Tugend, 2007). The author believes parental supervision in their children’s web activities is beneficial, while web filtering in libraries opens a controversial topic.
“Children’s Internet Protection Act”
The American Library Association’s Q and A on CIPA
Questions for Discussion:
What are your views on web filtering software?
Is it appropriate that the public and school libraries receiving federal funding must comply with CIPA regulations in order to continue the funds?
Bertin, Joan. “Court Errs on Upholding Library Web Filters.” http://www.ncac.org/internet/related/20030805~USA~CIPA_-_Newsday_Childrens_Internet_Protection_Act.cfm
Tugend, Alina. “Tools to Keep the Web Safe for Children.” http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/14/technology/14shortcuts.html
IFLA. “The Glasgow Declaration on Libraries, Information Services and Intellectual Freedom.”