Virginia County Restricts Net Access

Lile Elam ((no email))
Fri, 24 Oct 1997 14:10:25 -0700 (PDT)

Hi folks,

I just saw this on the wired site. This is the first time that I
have seen a library forcing blocking software on adults....

-lile

http://www.wired.com/news/news/politics/story/7967.html

[[]
Virginians Weigh Library
Net-Blocking Suit
by Rebecca Vesely

11:46am 24.Oct.97.PDT
WASHINGTON - In what could emerge as
the first constitutional challenge to the use of blocking software in
libraries, a citizens group in
northern Virginia says it will
likely file suit against the county
library board regarding its strict new Net access policy.

The group, Mainstream Loudoun, is
protesting rules approved Monday by
the county's library board to
install blocking software on library
terminals. The board also decided,
in a 5-4 vote, that anyone under 18
must have written permission from a
parent or guardian to get on the
Internet, and that library computer
terminals must be installed "at
close proximity to, and in full view
of, the library staff."

"We believe there is a concerted
effort by an organized minority to
control protected speech that they
find offensive or controversial, and
the Internet policy is simply
another step in that direction,"
said Jeri McGiverin of Mainstream
Loudoun.
McGiverin said the group is
consulting with its attorneys, and
called the recent library board
rules restricting adult access to
materials on the Internet "clearly
unconstitutional."

But the powers-that-be in Loudoun
don't seem to agree. The county
board of supervisors last week
passed a resolution, also 5-4, in
support of the library board's new
policies. In the resolution, the
board of supervisors agreed to
"support efforts to limit public
funds from being used [to] purchase
magazines, books, or to access
Internet sites that are
pornographic."

Civil libertarians say the Loudoun
rules are the most restrictive in
the country. Not only will the
county library system block
obscenity, but "material deemed
harmful to juveniles under
applicable Virginia statutes and
legal precedents (soft-core
pornography)." And, in an unusual
twist, the board said the policy of
restricting soft-core porn is
protected by the Civil Rights Act's
provision regarding sexual
harassment.

"It was not a particularly glorious
moment," said Jim Burton, a member
of the board of supervisors who
voted against the new policy. "I'm
not interested in our county
becoming a test case, because it
would be very expensive. And the
sexual harassment argument is weak,
in my opinion."

Regardless of the civil-rights
argument, civil libertarians say
that because the blocking software
cannot be disabled by adults, the
library policy is a violation of
First Amendment rights.

"The Supreme Court has said that,
other than obscenity, the government
does not have a right to censor,"
said Kent Willis, director of
Virginia's American Civil Liberties
Union. "This is clearly a violation
of that."

Copyright 1993-97 Wired Ventures
Inc. and affiliated companies.