November 19, 2017

CIPA Commentary: Much Criticism

By LJ Staff

Much comment on the Supreme Court’s decision in the
Children’s Internet Protection Act decision criticized the court. Though the
court said libraries can simply disable filters upon request by adults – -as
opposed to the language of the law, which required “bona fide research
purposes,” a questionable standard — that won’t be easy. Many libraries filter
at the server or system level rather than at the workstation, so it won’t be
easy to turn them off — a criticism picked up in a New York Times
editorial. Libraries should also consider bringing another challenge to the law,
the Times said, and American Library Association lawyer Theresa Chmara observed that further litigation may ensue: “There is no doubt, therefore, that libraries that refuse to disable filters at the request of an adult patron or that impose substantial burdens on a patron’s ability to have the filter disabled risk an individual litigation in which the library will be a defendant.”

“Communities across the USA might think their libraries
are run by local boards,” editorialized USA Today. “But increasingly,
their authority is being usurped by paternalistic guardians in Washington… As
institutions that get three-quarters of their money from local government —
compared to just 1% from Washington — public libraries are in the best position
to know what their local communities want.” The conservative Weekly Standard,
however, criticized the dissenting judges: “They admit that public libraries
have always been free to exclude print pornography from their shelves, as most
of them have. Yet these practical realities fade away beside the dissenters’
First Amendment absolutism, and so they balk.”

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