In December, Congress passed the Children’s Internet Protection Act, which will mandate that libraries and schools participating in the federal eRate program use filtering software on all computers to which minors have access. This regulation, which covers public libraries as well as schools and school libraries, has widespread support in many quarters, but has raised some concerns, too.
To date, many libraries have tried to accommodate parents’ concerns about pornography and violence on the web by installing filters on some computers, but leaving other computers unfiltered. Apparently, the new law would require filters on all computers to which minors have access.
Many school districts and individuals schools use filters, but some do not. School boards have said they consider filtering to be a local issue, not a federal issue. Schools that do not use filters believe that teacher and librarian monitoring of students’ online use is a more effective, and more educational, method of addressing the issue. They point out that among the law’s many flaws, it assumes that filtering systems are infallible and that a “one-size-fits-all” rule is appropriate for a diverse universe of schools.
Librarians have criticized the law as a form of censorship, especially as it may put off-limits certain information that is available in print form at those same facilities. The American Civil Liberties Union has vowed to fight the law in the courts, and ACLU representatives noted they have won similar lawsuits in the past few years. The American Library Association may fight the law, too.