February 25, 2018

Supreme Court Upholds Internet Filters

By Debra Lau Whelan

The Supreme Court June 23 upheld a federal law requiring public libraries to install antipornography Internet filters on all computers or lose federal subsidies and grants. The court’s 6 – 3 ruling on the constitutionality of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was a blow to public libraries and other advocates of First Amendment rights.

The American Library Association (ALA) was one of the groups that brought the First Amendment challenge against CIPA, which is designed to keep children from accessing pornography on the Web. ALA denounced the decision saying it forces libraries to “choose between federal funding for technology improvements and censorship.”

“[The] Supreme Court decision forces libraries to choose between federal funding for technology improvements or censorship,” said a statement released by ALA. “Forcing Internet filters on all library computer users strikes at the heart of user choice in libraries and at the libraries’ mission of providing the broadest range of materials to diverse users.”

Libraries receive $200 million in federal funds annually from two programs – one that provides Internet access at a discount and another that supports setting up and linking to electronic networks.