Censorship and libraries


The Keene Sentinel ran this editorial about censorship in libraries.\"Well, in Nashua, library officials have installed computer-filtering software to prevent anyone of any age from exposure to materials they deem inappropriate. And that\'s not judgment; it\'s censorship.\"\"The New Hampshire Library Association asked Nashua library officials to reconsider the policy, to no avail. Now an organization called the First Amendment Legal Defense Fund has decided to take the library to court. Citing a federal court decision in Virginia, the Nashua-based organization says that adults have a constitutional right to read and view any materials they wish.\"

\"Constitutional arguments aside, there are two big problems with the Nashua policy.\"

\"The first is the fact that computer-filtering software is as dumb as a post. In recent years, various screening programs have blocked access to Web sites offering information about breast cancer, to Web sites run by various groups with controversial opinions, even to the congressional Web site containing the independent counsel\'s report on President Clinton. A Washington law firm involved in the Nashua lawsuit says that library\'s program blocks a religious article about Jesus because it confuses the title -- \"The Helpless Babe\" -- with pornography. (Early Sonny and Cher music is probably also out of bounds.) A New York Times article on the current wave of reality TV shows was also blocked, because its headline referred to \"television\'s new voyeurism.\"

\"But even if filtering software weren\'t so ham-handed, public-library censorship of the Internet would still violate the principle of free inquiry. Shouldn\'t people be able to do research on controversial groups or pornography or other delicate subjects? Indeed, shouldn\'t people be able to examine such materials without having to explain their motivation to anyone\"

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