Here is the email I received:
date Thu, Dec 17, 2009 at 6:33 PM
subject Porn in the open, where kids wander around.
Took this at the Brooklyn Public Library today in the popular section. When I told the people who work in the library they said that unless the material is something illegal, like child porn, all I can do is file a complaint. They said it is perfectly legal for people to look at whatever they want, as long as the material is not illegal, like child porn. The woman at the information desk who gave me the survey sheet to me said the same thing.
I have been involved with past Brooklyn Public Library problems, including one where I'm called a "library watchdog." I also wrote a 13 May 2008 blog post entitled, "Retarded Teen Raped in Library Bathroom and Library is Unaware." So I suppose that's partly why the patron reached out to me. Still, it's sad he felt that the library cared so little about "porn in the open, where kids wander around" that he reached out to me. The first two graphics on this page are the photos I was sent.
So let me comment. And I want Brooklyn political leaders to pay attention because the library obviously refuses to act for political reasons—there are no legal reasons why it could not act, such is by using Internet filtering software.
Here is evidence the library refuses to act to stop pornography viewing: "When I told the people who work in the library they said that unless the material is something illegal, like child porn, all I can do is file a complaint. They said it is perfectly legal for people to look at whatever they want, as long as the material is not illegal, like child porn." The photos are further evidence.
There is also evidence that the library may have fraudulently obtained federal funding that now, having been caught, may need to be refunded to the federal government.
Under the Children's Internet Protection Act [CIPA], "libraries subject to CIPA may not receive the discounts offered by the E-rate program unless they certify that they have an Internet safety policy that includes technology protection measures. The protection measures must block or filter Internet access to pictures that are: (a) obscene, (b) child pornography, or (c) harmful to minors (for computers that are accessed by minors)."
Library Executive Director and American Library Association [ALA] member Dionne Mack-Harvin, have you certified to this? The top photo shows no "technology protection measure" is in place. Further, the email I received from the patron supports the same conclusion. Dionne Mack-Harvin, has your library received E-rate funding for Internet access fraudulently?
Before you answer, I am sure you know the Universal Service Administrative Company's (USAC) Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) provides the means for determining the type of E-rate funding that was received, by whom, and in what amount. I did a search and found the following payments for "Internet Access" that appear to evidence you or another library representative have falsely certified CIPA compliance: $428,040.00 in 2008, $317,340.00 in 2007, $835.10 and $423,712.72 in 2006, $372,564.00 in 2005, $2,278.80 and $510,000.00 in 2004, and $1,920.00 and $504,000.00 in 2003, the year CIPA was found constitutional in US v. American Library Association.
The total amount of funds that may need to be returned to the federal government is $2,560,690.62. People might be interested in filing a complaint with the "Whistleblower Hotline" for the return of the misappropriated federal funding.
I doubt that ignorance of the law can be used as an excuse for this multimillion dollar swindle. Not only is ignorance not a defense, but there is evidence from Life magazine that the library knew or should have known of the CIPA requirements.
Pictured at right is a photograph from Life magazine entitled, "Supreme Court Rules On Internet Porn." The photo is dated 24 June 2003. The caption reads, "NEW YORK - JUNE 24: An Internet-enabled computer runs at the Brooklyn Public Library June 24, 2003 in New York City. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that the government can require public libraries to install anti-pornography filtering software on their computers. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images Jun 24, 2003."
As further evidence of the library's evasion of the law, look at the library's own statement: "Policy Statement: The Library will provide public access to the Internet and will comply with the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), including filtered Internet access for youth under 17 years of age." So the library claims to comply with CIPA. It must know what CIPA requires. It must have certified compliance with CIPA requirements. Yet it is evident CIPA requirements are easily circumvented, as the photos evidence, and the library refuses to apply CIPA requirements, as the reported statements of the librarians or library employees reveal.
"Guidelines for Parents and Minors We will comply with the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA). This will enable the Library to continue to be eligible for certain federal funding." Nice words, aren't they? Might those words evidence the library knew exactly what it was doing?
So, Brooklyn, what will you do about this? Naturally, everything I said should be considered to be my opinion. A full independent analysis should be undertaken before any action is taken in response to this apparent fraud. I will hazard a guess that the federal government will forgive the multimillion dollar amount if the library now applies the very Internet filters it apparently claims to have had and applied in accordance with CIPA all these years, which it has not. The filters are legal, and US v. ALA points out they may be used to extend existing book collection policies over the Internet. It is simply false when the library claims nothing can be done since legal porn is legal. It is, but as US v. ALA points out, that does not mean a public library need serve it up on a silver platter:
Internet terminals are not acquired by a library in order to create a public forum for Web publishers to express themselves. Rather, a library provides such access for the same reasons it offers other library resources: to facilitate research, learning, and recreational pursuits by furnishing materials of requisite and appropriate quality. The fact that a library reviews and affirmatively chooses to acquire every book in its collection, but does not review every Web site that it makes available, is not a constitutionally relevant distinction. The decisions by most libraries to exclude pornography from their print collections are not subjected to heightened scrutiny; it would make little sense to treat libraries' judgments to block online pornography any differently. Moreover, because of the vast quantity of material on the Internet and the rapid pace at which it changes, libraries cannot possibly segregate, item by item, all the Internet material that is appropriate for inclusion from all that is not. While a library could limit its Internet collection to just those sites it found worthwhile, it could do so only at the cost of excluding an enormous amount of valuable information that it lacks the capacity to review. Given that tradeoff, it is entirely reasonable for public libraries to reject that approach and instead exclude certain categories of content, without making individualized judgments that everything made available has requisite and appropriate quality. Concerns over filtering software's tendency to erroneously "overblock" access to constitutionally protected speech that falls outside the categories software users intend to block are dispelled by the ease with which patrons may have the filtering software disabled.
The library needs to comply with the law or return the money. Legal pornography may be excluded legally. Consideration should be given to whether honest library management should replace existing management, then library policy should be reevaluated.
By the way, in ACLU v. Gonzales, E.D. Pa., March 2007, the ACLU expert and the court agreed Internet filters are about 95% effective and no longer block out breast cancer and other health-related information—so effective that another law, COPA [Children's Online Protection Act], was found unconstitutional. I say this because another excuse the library may use is that filters do not work.
Another excuse will be that filters are not needed since an "acceptable use policy" is preferable. The library already has such a policy, it is evidently flouted with ease, and the library condones such behavior. "4. Users should not display images, sounds, or messages in a way that will negatively affect those who find them objectionable or offensive." Apparently the person who contacted me was negatively affected. Another acceptable use policy bites the dust.
"Privacy screens" are a failure too. They only provide the library CYA coverage for allowing what Internet filters would stop, and people can see through them anyway. Obviously, the following library policy is still more policy not enforced: "6. All adults using computers designated for adults must use privacy screens."
Internet filters are the way to go. But I eagerly await seeing how the people and political leaders in Brooklyn respond to this apparent fraud.
Hats off to the whistleblower who contacted me. I urge him to update everyone with anonymous comments to this blog post. Other whistleblowers will similarly get a receptive ear. Sadly, libraries can be tone deaf to complaints about pornography.