March 30, 2017

Internet Porn Statistics at Dallas Central Library Prompt City Concern

By Norman Oder

  • 7.5% of Internet traffic is pornography
  • Statistics seem higher than in previous analyses
  • City Council to examine issue next month

    A local newspaper’s analysis of web pages accessed at the Dallas Public Library’s central library showed that some 7.5 percent of the web pages viewed during one 45-minute period contained pornography, prompting concern from city officials and a new debate about whether to install software filters. On February 11, library officials will brief the Dallas City Council. “We will explain our procedure for dealing with inappropriate behavior at the library,” assistant director Miriam Rodriguez told LJ, and will explore “any new technology available.”

    The 7.5% statistic, which Dallas Morning News reporter Dave Levinthal confirmed to LJ was representative of several samples studied, seems somewhat high compared to other analyses. In his 2000 survey, Dangerous Access, librarian/activist David Burt estimated that “between 0.5 percent and 2.5 percent of Internet use in public libraries is probably for pornographic purposes,” though some larger libraries may have higher statistics. The Chicago Public Library in 1999 reported that less than five percent of its traffic went to sexually explicit web sites.

    While the newspaper reported that the mayor and deputy mayor said software filters are probably warranted, Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm, trained as a librarian, told the newspaper the city was concerned about the issue but doesn’t support filtering. The library requires patrons to click on an Internet Acceptable Use Policy before using the Internet, and uses a Code of Conduct to police “behaviors that disturb the normal activities or environment for other users or city staff;” computer privileges can be withdrawn or customers ejected. Also, computers are in clear view of library staff, who can send pop-up messages to the customer telling them “the materials they are looking at are inappropriate, please close the site,” Rodriguez noted.

    The library has barred 36 people for violating library policies. Morning News columnist Jacquielynn Floyd acknowledged that filtering or more intense monitoring are not ideal solutions, but argued that “doing nothing is worse than not ideal.”

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