CIPA Policy Tracking Paper
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  • 1. Emily WardLIS 50228 March 2011 Policy Tracking Paper: Internet Filtering in LibrariesBackground: Development of CIPA and Supreme Court Decision On December 21, 2000, President Clinton signed a law that would require libraries receivingcertain federal funding to disregard nearly every tenet of the American Library Association’s Bill ofRights. This law was known as the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), and kicked off the majorcontroversy surrounding Internet filtering in libraries. The Act was first proposed by Sen. John McCain in 1999 and would require that any school orlibrary receiving federal funding would have to install filtering software on any computers that canaccess the Internet. This bill, and several others with similar intention, was dropped before any actionwas taken. However, by the close of 2000, supporters of the Act finally found the support they neededand the bill became law. The final wording of CIPA was more specific than originally proposed by McCainin 1999. According to the language of Public Law 106-554, any libraries or schools that use E-ratefunding to provide Internet access to patrons or that receive certain federal funding under the LibraryServices and Technology Act or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act must now develop Internetsafety policies that include filtering software on computers that can access the Internet. This softwaremust filter images that are 1) obscene; 2) child pornography; and/or 3) harmful to minors (when viewedby minors) (Susman). This legislation was particularly worrisome to public and school librarians alike for multiplereasons. As noted above, the basic implications of the law go against many of the gut instincts oflibrarians and library services. Filtering information that is otherwise freely accessible opposes manyprinciples that librarians use to guide their service, as is laid out in the Library Bill of Rights, including
  • 2. that “materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval”, thatlibraries should resist “abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas”, and that “a person’sright to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views”(Library Bill of Rights). Perhaps even more troubling, however, are the deficiencies of the available filtering software.Software is yet to be developed that will block only the images required to be blocked by the Public Law.Instead, filters are blocking many legitimate, information-rich sources that students, educators, andpublic patrons are thus missing out on. In a report published by the Free Expression Policy Projectsummarizing some 70 studies testing the effectiveness of filtering software, it was found that filterswere significantly over-blocking websites, mostly due to the “broad and vague blocking categories” usedby software manufacturers (Heins, et al. i). Other problems librarians encounter include filters causing afalse sense of security (when users assume that if a website got through the filter, it is a reliable source),and the fact that filtering software manufacturers are not held accountable, meaning theirdiscriminations and biases can affect the blocking (Willard 58). Libraries now had to make the choice ofwhether to forgo federal funding (and thus find funding to support certain programs elsewhere), or riskcensoring information from their patrons. Understandably, many libraries were unhappy with the position in which this law placed them.Filtering websites, no matter the good intentions, is an active form of censorship that libraries aresupposed to fight, and fight they did. In a civil action suit the American Library Association broughtagainst the United States, et al., the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania found thatCIPA “is facially invalid, since it will induce public libraries, as state actors, to violate the FirstAmendment” (188). It seemed as if the ALA had won, and that filtering software would no longer be
  • 3. legally required. However, the case was appealed and then appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court,which met with a different conclusion. According to the June 23, 2003 decision, six of nine Supreme Court Justices found that requiringfiltering software on computers supported by federal funding was not a violation of the FirstAmendment because adult patrons are able to request that the filters be turned off. Justice Kennedywrote that librarians should unblock any site or disable the filter at an adult patron’s request “withoutsignificant delay” and without requiring an explanation from the patron (U.S., et al. v. ALA, Inc.).Requiring Internet filters to receive certain federal funds would remain law.Recent Developments The decision upheld by the Supreme Court not only placed libraries back in the position theywere when the law was first written, but also introduced a new potential problem. By specifying thatlibrarians have the responsibility to disable filters quickly and at any time, the door was left open for“additional challenges if libraries do not adopt an adequate unblocking system” (American Civil LibertiesUnion). Libraries can now risk facing challenges from the federal government and unsatisfied patronsalike. Indeed, in 2006 in the case Sarah Bradburn et al. v. North Central Regional Library District, apatron sued her library for not adequately responding to her requests for disabling the filter. Thedefendants argued that the library’s policy for filtering was in line with their collection developmentpolicy and limited confrontation between patrons and staff. They argued that unblocking websites foreach and every individual request is inefficient and costly. Although the decision made on May 6, 2010,favored the library, ruling that the policy was not unconstitutional, three justices dissented, arguing thatthe ruling went against the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Oliver, et al. 42-43). Although there have been no additional federal laws regarding Internet filtering in libraries andschools since Public Law 106-554, twenty-five states now have Internet filtering laws for organizations
  • 4. that are publicly funded, like libraries and schools. While the majority of these state laws only requirethe adoption of Internet safety policies that will protect minors from obscene or harmful materials,some states do require filters to be installed to receive public funds. Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Ohio areamong those states that require filtering software to be used on all public school computers. To date,Illinois does not have a law detailing the use of Internet filtering software on publicly-funded computers(State Internet Filtering Laws). Although CIPA was signed into law in 2000 and upheld by the Supreme Court in 2003, the issueis still hot at hand, and continues to be of importance as our dependency on the Internet foreducational, informational, and entertainment purposes grows. As the ISTE National EducationalTechnology Standards encourage our teachers to “collaborate using digital tools and resources” and“participate in local and global learning communities”, educators are attempting to embrace Web 2.0technologies, many of which are inaccessible with installed filtering software (Willard 56). Even the U.S.Department of Education admits in the National Educational Technology Plan 2010 that filtering“creates barriers to the rich learning experiences that in-school Internet access should afford students”(54). Until filtering software becomes more effective or Public Law 106-554 and state laws requiringInternet filtering are repealed, students and patrons will continue to meet barriers preventing their useof more modern technologies.Staying Current on the Issue Librarians wanting to stay informed on developing issues surrounding Internet filtering inschools and libraries should regularly review various library and technology periodicals, as well aswatching for new updates on relevant organizational websites. The following sources can be referencedto stay current:American Civil Liberties Union website: http://www.aclu.org/
  • 5. The ACLU takes an active role in protecting citizens’ rights, particularly those upheld in the FirstAmendment. As such, issues of censorship (like Internet filtering), is a major concern of the ACLU. Tofind information on this issue specifically, users can search for “Internet filtering” in the search bar onthe home page, and will be shown thousands of initiatives, blog posts, and articles the ACLU has putforth. These results can be sorted by relevance or date, so users can access the most recent informationeasily.American Library Association—Children’s Internet Protection Act website:http://ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/advocacy/federallegislation/cipa/index.cfmThe ALA has an entire section of their website devoted to resources librarians can access to learn moreabout CIPA and its implications, including ideas for how to adhere to the law, while keeping as muchinformation as possible available to patrons. Users can also search the ALA website for “Internetfiltering” to find current memorandums and articles related to the issue.Knowledge Quest: Journal of the American Association for School LibrariansThis bimonthly journal provides information relevant to school librarians and librarian educators. Therecent September/October 2010 issue focuses entirely on issues of online intellectual freedom.Members of the AASL have full access to the journal, as well as those with access to EBSCO and WilsonLibrary Lit databases.Library Journal: http://www.libraryjournal.com/csp/cms/sites/LJ/Home/index.cspLibrary Journal is the oldest and arguably most respected journal covering issues related to libraries andlibrarians. Past issues, articles, and blog posts are easily searchable by “Internet filtering” or “CIPA” andwill allow access to recent and relevant information. Although the print version of Library Journal costs,nearly everything is accessible for free online.Library Lit & Information Science Full-Text alertsFor those that have access to Wilson’s Library Lit, an alert tool is available to let the user knowwhenever a new article has been posted related to a specific search term. Once the user has a personalaccount (which is easily set up), an alert can be created by searching for “Internet filtering software”,clicking “Create Alert”, and filling in the resulting form. E-mails will then be sent to the account youentered whenever a new article is available.BibliographyAmerican Civil Liberties Union. “ACLU Disappointed in Ruling on Internet Censorship in Libraries, But Sees Limited Impact for Adults.” 23 June 2003. Web. 26 March 2011. Accessed from http://www.aclu.org/technology-and-liberty/aclu-disappointed-ruling-internet-censorship- libraries-sees-limited-impact-ad
  • 6. American Library Association, Inc. v. United States, et al. No. 01-1303. US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. 31 May 2002. Web. 26 March 2011. Accessed from http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/advocacy/federallegislation/cipa/internet.pdfThe Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). American Library Association. Web. 24 March 2011. Accessed from http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/advocacy/federallegislation/cipa/index.cfmHeins, Marjorie, Christina Cho, and Ariel Feldman. “Internet Filters: A Public Policy Report.” Free Expression Policy Project. New York: Brennan Center of Justice at NYU School of Law, 2006. Web. 24 March 2011. Accessed from http://www.fepproject.org/policyreports/filters2.pdfLibrary Bill of Rights. American Library Association. 23 January 1996. Web. 24 March 2001. Accessed from http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/intfreedom/librarybill/index.cfmState Internet Filtering Laws. National Conference of State Legislators. 13 January 2011. Web. 26 March 2011. Accessed from http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=13491Oliver, Kent, June Pinnell-Stephens, and Barbara Jones. “All or Nothing: Hardly the Facts.” Library Journal 136.1 (2011): 42-43. Web. 23 March 2011. Accessed via Library Lit, http://www.library.illinois.edu/lsx/Susman, Thomas. “Children’s Internet Protection: A Summary.” American Library Association. 13 January 2001. Web. 24 March 2011. Accessed from http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/advocacy/federallegislation/cipa/cipasummary.pdfUnited States, et al. v. American Library Association, Inc. No. 02-361. US Supreme Court. 23 June 2003. Web. Accessed from http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/boundvolumes/539bv.pdfU.S. Department of Education. “Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology [Draft].” National Educational Technology Plan 2010. 5 March 2010. Web. 26 March 2011. Accessed from http://www.ed.gov/sites/default/files/NETP-2010-final-report.pdfWillard, Nancy. “Teaching Them to Swim.” Knowledge Quest 39.1 (2010). Web. 26 March 2011: 54-61. Accessed via Library Lit, http://www.library.illinois.edu/lsx/