Saturday, April 26, 2008

Burlington IA Library Director Misleads Public About Internet Filters

The library director in Burlington, Iowa, is misleading the public about Internet filters in the Burlington Public Library. At least as quoted, Library Director Rhonda Frevert sounds like someone mouthing the words of the American Library Association [ALA], a powerful organization that holds it is "age" discrimination to keep children from any material they wish.

In "Resident Advocates for Filters to Catch P0rn," by Darcie Hoenig, The Hawk Eye, 26 April 2008, Burlington resident Francis Hicks learned from a child that library computers in recessed stations were being used to view p0rnography. So he told the library's director who refused to do anything. Instead, the director said the library board already voted against filters. She then listed the exact same excuses the ALA advises local libraries to use. Paraphrasing for brevity's sake:
  1. Internet filters are not reliable.
  2. Internet filters underblock.
  3. Internet filters overblock.
  4. Internet filters often block health information, such as breast cancer.
  5. Internet filters are turned off for a "good deal of time" based on her own mini survey.
  6. Internet filters are easily foiled by "teens getting their kicks."
  7. P0rnographic files have deceiving file names.
  8. Internet filters create a "false sense of security."
  9. Internet filters "imply to parents that children will not find inappropriate material."
  10. Internet filters are not needed because in "only a handful of instances" out of 59,000 computer log-ins was "illicit material" "caught being viewed."
  11. Internet filters are not needed because uses must first "accept the library's policy on proper Internet usage."
  12. Internet filters are not needed because "library policies outline proper safety, behavior and electronic resources use."
  13. Internet filters are not needed because the library "encourages children and families to use the facility together."
  14. Internet filters are not needed because "it's ultimately up to parents to supervise what their children are doing at the library."
Phew! That's a lot of excuses to pack into a single news article. The ALA must have really prepared her well for how to handle media inquiries. ("'Bridge' to the positive. When asked a 'negative[' sic] question, answer briefly without repeating any 'hot' or negative words. Add a positive statement. Example: Q. Isn't it true librarians allow children to get p0rnography on the Internet? A. Absolutely not. Our role is to help children learn to use the Internet wisely and to help guide them to all the great sites that are out there.") But such excuses only serve to advance the interests of the ALA; they leave the Burlington community without the legal protections needed to protect its citizens from harm, namely, Internet filters.

The truth is Internet filters are now extremely effective. Even health-related sites are no longer blocked. (See ACLU v. Gonzales.) And since no computer software of any kind will ever be perfect, the problem with overblocking, to the extent it still exists, is easily avoided by asking the librarian to temporarily disable the filter or unblock the site.

And all this is constitutionally approved by the US Supreme Court in the case of US v. ALA. The ALA lost big in that case on these very issues; it's no wonder the ALA tries, usually successfully, to get local librarians to reraise the same issues already asked and answered by the US Supreme Court.

As to her mini survey that filters are usually turned off, hogwash. Filters are used successfully in many, many communities nationwide, often without so much as a peep.

Now part of the reason for using Internet filters is to prevent criminals from having access to the material that gives them the impetus they need to commit that library rape or child molestation. It happens in library after library that refuses to filter effectively.

Iowans have direct experience with children raped in public library bathrooms as a result of ALA-engendered unfiltered Internet computers. Anyone remember the Des Moines case? I was directly involved in uncovering that, so even though I'm from New Jersey, I know whereof I speak. See "Media - Wake Up to Library Crime Source" for more.

So if part of the goal of filters is to not attract criminals in the first place, to cause them to move on to another community misled by the ALA, then many of the Burlington Public Library director's arguments are irrelevant.
  1. Teens can foil filters? Irrelevant. Criminals are usually not the brightest bulbs. The filters will stop them.
  2. Got a "false sense of security" that your child won't see anything bad? Irrelevant. Besides, isn't the library supposed to educate parents about the risks? Remember: "library policies outline proper safety, behavior and electronic resources use." Criminals are expected to respect that, but not parents?
  3. Might Internet filters "imply to parents that children will not find inappropriate material"? Irrelevant. Besides, parents are supposed to be smart enough to "supervise what their children are doing at the library," so why are they considered so stupid as to think filters are 100% perfect or to get a "false sense of security."
Are you getting the point so I don't have to address each of the library director's false and misleading statements?

I can't resist adding one more--yes, the library director must think people actually are stupid because we are expected to believe that library usage policies or the need to "accept the library's policy on proper Internet usage" before using the computer will actually deter the child molesters and rapists. "Excuse me, Mr. Rapist, I know you might have your eye on my little toddler, but you did click the button on the computer to accept our usage policy, so please play nicely." I'm sure I don't need to say this but acceptable usage policies haven't stopped a single crime.

Let's look again at the library director's actions. Someone brings to her attention that people are accessing p0rnography at the recessed stations and children are seeing this. My reaction would be how, where, we have to stop it. I'll bet that's the reaction of the majority of citizens. I'll bet the law that created the library implicitly or explicitly excluded p0rn. (P0rn is perfectly legal to exclude under US v. ALA.) Instead, she makes at least fourteen excuses, essentially excuses for p0rnography in the public library, and totally leaves out anything about or in US v. ALA.

She even tacitly admits p0rnography should not be allowed--she said p0rnographic files have deceiving names. Deceiving names? Who's deceiving whom? Claiming p0rnographic files have deceiving names and get past Internet filters anyway implies p0rnographic images are not appropriate in the public library, and they are not (depending on the community and its laws), yet she merely makes excuses when such material is brought to her attention! Who cares about the kid when there are ALA directives to follow, right? Talk one way, walk another. I mean this lady is really an expert on spinning stories to make them look different than they are, a model ALA acolyte.

I am hereby putting the Burlington, IA, community and government on notice. Should any criminal activity occur as a result of unfiltered or improperly filtered Internet computers in your public library, you stand a good chance of a lawsuit that may result not only in consequential damages, but also punitive damages. If it is determined your library knew or should have known following ALA policy instead of local community interests and laws would result in harm, there may be liability. Further, if it is determined your government knew or should have known the library was acting outside the law that created the library but did nothing to require the library to adhere to that law, the government itself may be separately liable.

You know what's really sad? Remember I said the ALA holds it is "age" discrimination to keep any material from a child? Well that comes from the ALA's so-called "Library Bill of Rights." These "Rights" were first drafted in 1938 by Forrest Spaulding, director of the Des Moines Public Library. The word "age" was added in 1967 and "reaffirmed" in 1996. It's really sad that the addition of that word may have come back to haunt the toddler raped in the same Des Moines Public Library where the "Rights" originated. Does anyone think Forrest Spaulding would be happy with what has become of his "Rights"? Will the citizens of Burlington be the next victims lulled into complacency by the ALA acolyte's prepared excuses and misinformation?

If anyone know Francis Hicks who plans to attend the library board meeting May 22, please ask him to contact SafeLibraries. I will attempt to help him wake up his community to what's going on. "This isn't a fight I plan to give up easily," he said. "It's not just me, but I'm going to be the one to stand up and fight until the end."

Anybody have anything to say about this? Thank you.

1 comment:

  1. In "Council Looks at Study Funding," by Jeff Abell, The Hawk Eye, May 5, 2008, we hear:

    "Library officials say there have been only a handful of instances where illicit material was caught being viewed out of about 59,000 log-ins last year."

    Obviously library officials oppose filtering out p0rnographic web sites and would rather wait until a child (or an adult patron or librarian) is victimized before taking any action.


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