Important developments in Bradburn library filtering case
Big developments in the ongoing library filtering case Bradburn v. North Central Library. On Monday, both the library and the ACLU motioned for summary judgments. The motions are on my Bradburn page here. The ACLU and the library’s motion, along with statements of fact and memorandums in support can all be found here. There are a bunch of declarations to work through that I’ll post later. The most interesting of which is Dr. Paul Resnik, a library science professor who has published several pieces of research on filtering (see my research page here, specifically the Kaiser Foundation study he authored and his research paper on filtering testing). Resnick found that out of 60,000 actual pages accessed by library patrons, only 20 were incorrectly blocked – sounds like almost the definition of “de minimus” to me. I’ll add Resnick’s new work to my filtering tests page later.
What’s at issue is that the library will unblock sites upon request, but will not disable the filter. The ACLU essentially wants the courts to rule that libraries must disable filtering for adults, and unblocking isn’t enough. As I pointed out earlier, no reasonable reading of the U.S. Supreme ruling in ALA v. U.S. can be interpreted this way:
It’s not true that the Supreme Court interpreted CIPA so as to “require” disabling the filter. From Justice Rehnquist’s plurality opinion:
Assuming that such erroneous blocking presents constitutional difficulties, any such concerns are dispelled by the ease with which patrons may have the filtering software disabled. When a patron encounters a blocked site, he need only ask a librarian to unblock it or (at least in the case of adults) disable the filter.
And from Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion:
If some libraries do not have the capacity to unblock specific Web sites or to disable the filter or if it is shown that an adult user’s election to view constitutionally protected Internet material is burdened in some other substantial way, that would be the subject for an as-applied challenge, not the facial challenge made in this case.
While the Supreme Court seems to be suggesting disabling or unblocking of websites as a way to avoid First Amendment problems, it definitely is not “requiring” it. Further, even if one does assume this is a legal requirement, note how both the plurality and concurring opinion both specifically state that either unblocking of specific websites or disabling the filter meet the same ends. So the library concerned about First Amendment considerations can unblock specific sites request by patrons if they don’t want to disable the filter. Certainly, no “requirement for disabling” can be read anywhere here.
New to my Bradburn page:
04/05/08 Plaintiffs motion for summary judgment
04/05/08 Defendants motion for summary judgment
04/05/08 Plaintiffs issue statement of facts
04/05/08 Defendants issue statement of facts