Wednesday, September 17, 2008

West Virginia Filters Libraries Statewide Using Federal CIPA Legislation - Sets Example that No Statewide CIPA Legislation Needed

West Virginia filters all public library computers statewide at the state level!  It does this using only the federal CIPA legislation.  This sets a national example of how libraries in other states could be filtered without the need for statewide CIPA legislation, if only the library associations did not oppose the public.

The filters work well, but the bad guys are constantly trying to bypass the filters, so West Virginia includes several means to deter criminal activity.  I love this one: "Shame is one of the best filters there is."  Indeed, according to US v. ALA, "the Constitution does not guarantee the right to acquire information at a public library without any risk of embarrassment."

Another terrific aspect of this story is that library staff identified and reported the criminal activity to the police--a rapist was viewing child p0rnography.  This is especially outstanding since the American Library Association [ALA] policy is to the contrary:  "As for obscenity and child p0rnography, prosecutors and police have adequate tools to enforce criminal laws. Libraries are not a component of law enforcement efforts...."  Well, ALA, apparently they are in Ohio and West Virginia.  I hereby nominate the Martins Ferry Public Library and the West Virginia Library Commission for Family Friendly Libraries Awards of Recognition.

Here is the media report upon which I base my statements.  It tells the truth that the ALA would not want you to know, so read it carefully.  I include it under the Fair Use provision of the US Copyright Act:

"Libraries Target Net P0rn; West Virginia Libraries Have Filters at State Level," by Gabe Wells, The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register, 17 September 2008, emphasis mine.

WHEELING - An accused rapist allegedly caught viewing child p0rnography at the Martins Ferry Public Library probably couldn't have done so in a West Virginia library.

Quentin N. Phillips was held Tuesday in the Belmont County Jail following his arrest Saturday on charges of rape and pandering sexually oriented matter involving a child. Phillips allegedly confessed to having sexual intercourse with a young boy "continuously for several years" after being taken into custody Saturday at the Martins Ferry library.

A librarian saw the 32-year-old Martins Ferry resident looking at the p0rnography and called police.

West Virginia Library Commission Executive Secretary J.D. Wagoner said his agency pays for the filtering of computers in all public libraries in the Mountain State. The filtering is done by the West Virginia Office of Technology, and Wagoner said it involves both site and key word filtering.

Ohio County Public Library Director Dottie Thomas said West Virginia libraries benefit from the filtering being done on the state level.

"It is very nice because we don't have to worry about installing filters on the computers," Thomas said.

Wagoner said the filters are effective. He noted, however, that those posting p0rnography work consistently to bypass those filters. He said people posting p0rnography have additional resources as well.

"Those who host p0rn sites have more money to invest in getting their content to people than we have to stop them," Wagoner said. "It is a constant security issue."

In addition to filters, Wagoner said there are additional steps that can be taken to prevent p0rnography from being downloaded on library computers. He said the computers should be placed where they can be seen clearly by library patrons and staff.

"Shame is one of the best filters there is," Wagoner said.

Martins Ferry Public Library Director Yvonne Myers said those using the Internet there must sign an agreement to not view inappropriate material. She said people who violate that agreement are either suspended or banned from the library. Myers said Phillips was coming to the Martins Ferry library almost daily.

"We are not an adult book store, we are a public library," Myers said. "They (staff members) suspected he was looking, but you hope your worst fears aren't true. We don't like to spy as a rule, but it's in a public area so you can't help but see what people are looking at."

Myers said she also wonders if Phillips was hoping to be caught.

"I don't know when it's so blatant," she said. "We do wonder. We didn't hesitate at all when (the librarian) saw what he was doing."

Police reportedly recovered a "flash drive," or portable computer memory device, from Phillips and found 173 photos and videos of naked children stored on it.

Some of those pictures showed children engaged in sex acts with each other and with adults. Several other photos were of children being sexually assaulted by adults, according to the city police report.

Martins Ferry Police Chief Barry Carpenter said Phillips is a former Michigan resident, but Carpenter does not know how long Phillips has lived in Martins Ferry. The chief said investigators do not believe Phillips has a criminal history.

A representative of Belmont County Children's Services was called along with police to execute a search warrant at Phillips' 1825 Hill St. home. Officers recovered a flash drive, a digital camera, a disposable camera, a camcorder videos and nude photos there.

Carpenter credited the staff of the Martins Ferry Public Library for contacting police. He said the situation is disturbing.

Fact Box


In U.S. v. American Library Association, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that a law passed by Congress could protect children from p0rnography on library computers without violating free speech.

"Because public libraries have traditionally excluded p0rnographic material from their other collections, Congress could reasonably impose a parallel limitation on its Internet assistance programs," Justice William Rehnquist wrote.

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