China Imposes Mandatory Internet Filtering

I’m not always one to hop right on the “ooh, bad China!” bandwagon, because I think a lot of those feelings stem from our fear of China’s rapidly developing economic power.  But this piece of news freaked me out a lot.  Starting July 1st, all PCs shipped in China will be equipped with an Internet filtering program called Green Dam, as required by Chinese law.  The filtering software supposedly blocks pornographic content, but it could be used to silence other voices on the Internet, too.  For instance, Chinese activist Ai Weiwei (artistic designer of the Beijing Olympics Bird’s Nest) has already had his blog shut down by the government for protesting this mandatory filtering.  For more information on “The Great Firewall of China,” please swing by the fantastic social networking blog, Mashable.

Tennesse Schools Unblock LGBTQ Websites

In May, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Tennessee filed suit against the Knox County and Metro Nashville school district for blocking lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer websites.  Two weeks later, on June 3rd, the school districts announced that they would stop filtering the websites of gay-friendly advocacy groups such as the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).  You can read the full article about the decision here.

A lot of schools and libraries filter their Internet to block explicit sexual or violent content.  In fact, post Children’s Online Protection Act (COPA) / and Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) legislation, many public libraries are required to use Internet filtering software if they want to receive funding from the federal E-Rate program.

Continue reading

Teens Need Intellectual Freedom, Too

Earlier this month, someone from the Pelham, NY, public library tattled to the high school principal after an eleventh grader was at the library researching gun conceal & carry laws.  The student was called into the assistant principal’s office and interviewed by the police.  After talking to the student, police Detective Kevin Campion assured everyone that there was nothing to be worried about and that the student had not broken any laws.

Many public libraries make a commitment to their communities–including teens!–that they will protect everyone’s privacy.  You may have heard of a little thing we like to call Intellectual Freedom.  The U.S. Constitution guarantees us the right to access any and all information without fear of persecution (excepting obscenity, libel and fighting words), and librarians have really taken that to heart.

Continue reading

Position Paper: Video Surveillance at Ivy Walls University

(This Position Paper is written from the point of view of the Information Department at the hypothetical “Ivy Walls University.”  It was written for the “Information Policy” course at the University of Iowa School of Library and Information Science. )

“University Administration is considering the implementation of video surveillance in the library to alleviate parent and librarian concerns that students are using library computers to access Social Networking Sites (SNS). Some parents think that SNS are a safety threat as well as a poor use of tuition dollars. Librarians have concerns about recreational computer use, too; at times they intervene on behalf of students who want to study when no other computers are available, and librarians feel that some students who use computers recreationally are rude or verbally abusive in these situations.

“Video surveillance in the library could encourage students to limit their recreational activities and to behave more appropriately towards library personnel and other students. However, cameras might also be viewed as overly invasive and could ultimately limit or even censor students’ information-seeking activities.

Continue reading

Position Paper: GLBT Internet Use and Filtering in Public Libraries

(This Position Paper is written from the point of view of a hypothetical public library  It was written for the “Information Policy” course at the University of Iowa School of Library and Information Science. )

“The library has received complaints that adult library patrons are using library computers to access websites with lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) themes, and that these websites are pornographic or at least unsuitable for children to see.  Concerned patrons have requested increased filtering on library computers.

“After looking into these complaints, the library staff has concluded that the library computer area does indeed have a strong LGBT presence.  However, the websites in question are neither explicitly sexual nor obscene.  They relate to activities and issues such as gay-friendly ocean cruises and LGBT housing options.

Continue reading