More filtering BillS from Florida


mdoneil writes "A bill in the Florida legislature attempts to require libraries to install filtering software.

The description of the bill is here:

Internet Screening in Public Libraries: Requires public libraries to provide technology that blocks or filters Internet access by adults to visual depictions that are obscene or that constitute child pornography and by minors to visual depictions that are obscene, that constitute child pornography, or that are harmful to minors; allows adults to request disablement of the technology; bars a public library from maintaining a list of persons who request such disablement; requires a public library to post notice of its Internet safety policy; provides for enforcement, including fines, and for assessment of attorney's fees and court costs; provides a finding of important state interest.

The whole Bill and its history may be followed in real time here

Now as a human I am opposed to the obscene and even more opposed to child pornography. As a librarian I have removed people from the public computers because they have visited sites that offended others around them and thus the community's standards. (As a governmental employee I am unable to be offended - you probably are too, we are mere instruments of the State not subject to taking offense when working.)

I really have no opposition to filters if the community in which the library is located wants filters. Any method to determine what the community wants that involves citizen input and due proscess is fine with me.

However, as a librarian, software designer, programmer, data base administrator and computer user I know that the 'technology' to which Baxley's bill refers does not exist. It will never exist because the porn peddelers are one step ahead of the librarians and legislators.

Will they ever learn that a child's best protection is an interested and caring parent?"


When filtering software works -- when it doesn't block library networks, breast cancer awareness sites, competitors'>, and other useful information, and when it successfully blocks all porn (hint: there's more money in getting around blockers than there is in building them in the first place) -- then maybe this will be reasonable. Not to mention the assumption that porn is something we all agree kids she be protected from. Personally I'd want my kids to be protected from hate literature, but the best way to do that is to educate them so they'll know what to do when they encounter it, not to trust that the software manufacturers, librarians, teachers, and other babysitters I lean on will agree with me about what's inappropriate. *sigh*

Yes of course, but I doubt it would make it to a jury. It would have to be a criminal trial and I am not giving anyone anything I think would be obscene.

Florida has no provision for a civil jury to evaluate material for obscenity.

Would I, yes.

We have 28 public computers (far more per capita than any other public library in my county). If they can't find a computer far enough away from other patrons (that is an option if one patron complains - and some do they hate kids playing games)so they don't disturb several of them then they have to stop whatever behavior that is causing the disturbance.

However that has never happened. Multiple people have never complained about someone and not had that person stop the offending behavior. I doubt it ever will.

Florida Statutes § 847.011 and § 847.0133 also address this and by reference are made part of our AUP.

Beneficial to children is not binary. All materials are beneficial, benign, or detrimental. Libraries should avoid giving children access to things detrimental to them.

You are correct there is no way a computer can tell the (sexual) nature of an image on a computer. Anyone who claims it can as a viable filtering option is “full of it� However it can be blocked by blocking the url.

The Internet existed “non -commercially� if you assume there are not commercial interests involved in the military and the universities. I'm not willing to make that assumption but I guess it depends on how you look at it. The idea that for profit business is bad and salaries are good doesn't make any sense to me. Money exchanged for services is business regardless of how you define it.

Porn loves the net because it provides nonvenomous access at an affordable price.
These are also the 3 A's of porn addiction therapy...Anonomous, Affordable and Access.

Commerce is fueling the net. Porn is an aspect of commerce. Lots of Software is delivered over the net. It would be foolish for a small company to manufacture product and ship it to stores and go through all of that only to have it become obsolete in the next update.


That is interesting I never thaught of that...

I would have thought that pride was an internal thing that you applied to your activities.

  You seem to be saying it is an "identity" that comes with that particular job and would end with it.

  Am I getting this right ?

  You might be interested to know that as a filter producer my experience with the porn industry is that they do not like us (filtering manufacturers) because of the "free speech issue. They do not mind us blocking them because kids going on their site is legal "heat". Also they are in the business of making money so they don't really want to use band width on adults
who are not interested and will not spend money.

Many porn sites submit their url to us and request that they be blocked. Apart from stammers (and spam is another matter all together) I don't know of any players in the porn industry that have put any effort into circumnavigating a filter.

Do you know of anything specific. I would be interested in that information.

Do you include as behavior, sitting at a terminal and quietly viewing something?

If society had come up with a general sense of what is appropriate, would you then be willing to not "impose your values" upon patrons?

How do you determine that society has reached a general sense (or consensus) on a particular behavior.. in the absence of an actual vote?

Should they do so in such a way that restricts the abilities of adults to access material?

I disagree, however, books are many things to many people. I might find a book about Wicca to be benign. Someone else might find it to be detrimental. If I live in a same-sex family, I may find Heather has Two Mommies to be very benificial. There are a large number of people who would consider that book to be detrimental to their views on families.

But it wouldn't depend upon what you consider obscene... it depends upon the prosecutor. If you are second guessing what may or may not be considered obscene, you are illustrating, quite well, the "chilling" effects of censorship.

Well deborah

I could not agree more. You have in my view exposed a real view of the danger's of filtering. A software solution will not successfully overcome parental neglect.
However, it can be a support tool for a caring parent.

For many in your profession filters are compulsory and they have to be dealt with. So I will comment on a few points that I think are not "quite on".

A good modern filter will have a bypass option so
there really is no problem getting to the 2 fine ladies who run a maple sugar farm and in fact if a library does not use that bypass (click through) option they are stepping up to the shortlist for a lawsuit.

The reason why porn is singled out as “the bad one" is most likely due to "religiosity" which defines sex as "double plus ungood" with a secondary issue of women taking a dim view on their husbands having a sexual alternative to them.
That is just an opinion based upon my 10 years experience with this industry. No scientific facts on this.

I wonder why you characterize filter manufacturers as "anonymous for -profit software manufacturers".

We are a legal incorporated companies and I sign my real name on all correspondence including this Lis Serve. As far as I know all other filter companies do the same thing. I do not know of any exception to this. Do you ? Are you not paid for your services as a librarian. Would you like to be called a "anonymous for profit wage earner" and what would be the point in that? would not at all be fair and accurate. Is making money "dirty words" in America ?...and when did that happen?

It is a strange choice of characterization. With so many other choices available I'm curious as to why you would make that particular choice. Could you explain that to me please?

What are stammers?

I think spell check replaced "spammers" with stammers and I didn't notice it....


I'm sure you're a good guy, and your company does a good job. But I've spent ten years in the software industry, and for the most part, people in the industry who make the decisions do not think of themselves as public servants. They're answerable only to customers, stockholders, and boards of directores. While it's important in the software world to make a saleable product, the bells and whistles that sell a shrink-wrapped box are not necessarily what's best for a library. That's what I meant with my comment about anonymous for-profit companies -- not that making a profit is a dirty word, but that filtering companies have different priorities than libraries, and those priorities are rarely transparent.

Again, it's a parental perception problem. As you say, a filter can be a good supportive tool for a caring parent (assuming the filter has open and modifiable blacklists and whitelists, as far too few of them do). But when parents are trusting someone to do the babysitting for them, at the very least that someone should be a librarian (a public servant who at least theoretically has the primary goal of serving the community) as opposed to a for-profit company (which, let's face it, has the primary goal of trying to sell its product, and which is unlikely to be local and know the community standards).

Somewhat. There's a meshing here of pride and responsibility so it would be hard to distinguish where one ends and another begins.

Do you include as behavior, sitting at a terminal and quietly viewing something?

Of course. Do you ever take into account that you're dealing with a public building, an open environment? You seem intent on avoiding that detail.

If society had come up with a general sense of what is appropriate, would you then be willing to not "impose your values" upon patrons?

If that general sense was completely in opposition to my own then I would find another place to be. I think I'm pretty safe in saying however that is not the case.

How do you determine that society has reached a general sense (or consensus) on a particular behavior.. in the absence of an actual vote?

Some of it is hardwired, some of its parental, some is groupthink.
Are you incapable of making a decision without consulting a law book first?

Also, two of the most contentious issues to date are 'legal' here in Massachusetts, abortion and gay marriage. I wasn't given a vote on either.


I completely undestand this now that you have
"put it" this way.

There are ways, other than banning or filtering, to greatly reduce the incidental viewing of what other people are surfing: recesed monitors and privacy screens. Also, placement of the terminals can be arranged in a way to help. These are not perfect, but I also don't believe that incidental viewing of your average garden variety pornography is harmful.

LOLOL, yes, I am capable of making a decision without consulting a law book first. But I also think it is important to consult someone, say the city attorney, to make sure that we are not setting ourselves up for liability down the road. I work for a governmental institution, not the Library of Robert, consequently, I feel that it is necessary that I take into account the laws, and make a good faith effort to follow them.

I was talking about how do you make that determination in your official capacity as a librarian. When set policies, or decide to limit some aspect of our library, how can we be sure that we're not just operating on our own preconceived notions and ascribing them to "society"? For instance, the city council has determined that we have an AUP that forbids the viewing of pornography, and the policy was written by the city attorney (we have a tap-on-the-shoulder policy). It is not how I would do it, but I enforce the policy because it is part of my job. I could attempt to sabotage the policy because it disagrees with my personal views. However, an elected body made that decision, and I feel that I am required to implement it. I hope that it will change... but in the meantime, I ask people to jump off of sites that I feel are pornographic in nature (yes, it is a very subjective decision).

A little more context if you please:

"I will and do gladly and proudly "impose my values" on patrons. If society is not capable of coming up with at least a general sense of what is appropriate behaviour in a public building then I guess I would be better off in the long run losing my job and dropping out of society if that is where my actions take me."

Also an added note to one and all: You may not like my statement or how I said it but if you support filters in any way shape or form you do in fact agree with it. That includes my fellow neo Blake. Double Ha!

Sounds like a nursery rhyme for adults:

Porn Peddlers Peddle Porn Pictures in Portland. (Oregon, not Maine...)

I'd no longer be a Librarian so it would no longer be my responsibility.

The pride in my profession would end with the job.

Internet Explorer crashed on me three times today. Meridian [doc management program] lost several files, Excel won't allow me to format cells I want, and my Access Db got corrupted.

My car breaks down, my computer crashes, my cell phone drops calls all the time.

There's now a bug in an Anti-virus program that allows a virus to be executed rather than deleted.

Apache crashed this morning and LISNews was down for at least an hour before I noticed. I have no idea what went wrong, it could happen again at anytime.

Somehow I doubt filtering software will ever work any better than anything else.

Just something to think about, I guess.

There is actually a difference between pornography and obscenity. Obscenity is illegal pornography that fails the Miller test... and in order for it be obscenity if must fail ALL 3 parts of the test:

"1. Obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment. Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476, reaffirmed. A work may be subject to state regulation where that work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest in sex; portrays, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and, taken as a whole, does not have serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. Pp. 23-24.

2. The basic guidelines for the trier of fact must be:

(a) whether "the average person, applying contemporary community standards" would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, [Roth, supra, at 489,]

(b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and

(c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. If a state obscenity law is thus limited, First Amendment values are adequately protected by ultimate independent appellate review of constitutional claims when necessary. [Pp. 24-25.]"

Three Prong Obscenity>

Actually, requiring a patron to close down a site because it is offensive to community members around him/her would not satisfy the Miller Test. In fact, it could be argued that those patrons are not necessarily representative of the community. My understand is that only a jury can determine if the material in question is actually obscenity.

Most patrons, however, are not going to stand there and make a stink. If they do, the library may find itself on the losing end of a law suit.

Good point Blake.

And raises the question "why is filtering software expected to be "less worse" than all the other products out there?"

Just because it might not be perfect does not mean it is not useful.

This comment would be directed to someone who might want to use it and not to someone who wants to "hate it" as a way of proclaiming their political identity.


mdoneil writes

" I know that the 'technology' to which Baxley's bill refers does not exist. It will never exist because the porn peddelers are one step ahead of the librarians and legislators. "

My question to you are the "porn peddlers" ahead of the librarians and legislators? Do you also mean they will stay ahead of the technology? If so then how? The answer to that would be of great interest to me and possibly to others.

Indeed you are correct twisted librarian. In fact heavy handed behavior such as refusing an adult access to information in a public library will be the grounds of the lawsuite(s) which will be inevitable.

Step right up librarians and impose your values on a patron and you will be on the short list. Some lucky library system will be the first.

Step right up...step right up....

deborah writes

"(hint: there's "more money" in getting around blockers than there is in building them in the first place)"

This sounds "outrageous" to me deborah. Who is making more money or even "any money" in getting around filters?

I will and do gladly and proudly "impose my values" on patrons. If society is not capable of coming up with at least a general sense of what is appropriate behaviour in a public building then I guess I would be better off in the long run losing my job and dropping out of society if that is where my actions take me.

But if you lost your job and dropped out...who would you "gladly and proudly" impose your values upon.

Where would that pride take you? Do you have anywhere in mind?

Not to be rude but who really gives a darn about the obscenity test. A delightful academic discussion or legal argument, but not applicable in my library.

Our acceptable use policy states that users are not to access material that offends other patrons. If you offend other patrons, and don't stop the offensive behavior out you go. It is important to note that one must offend other patrons not simply one other person. This solves the problem of petty disputes.

People who argue that adults have a right to view pornography annoy me. Sure go view it, but do it at home.

Just because something is not obscene does not make it acceptable for the public library. Look at Ginsburg v. NY.

Showing pictures of naked people engaged in marital relations provides no benefit to children, and if you want to look at them then don't use my library.

I'm not afraid of being sued because some pervert wants to look at dirty pictures at the library and I won't allow it. Gather up your First Amendment attorneys and bring it on. I have common decency on my side.

So the 3 prong test may be rock, but our AUP is paper and I keep scissors locked in my desk.

Porn peddelers peddle porn pictures.

There is currently no viable way of indexing a picture without descriptive text. To put it plainly a computer can't tell a dirty picture from a landscape.

There is research underway to better index images by analizing shapes, colors and patterns. However these are still investigations not commercial products. Until theses are developed simply using images that lack description will foil the filters.

After image indexing is perfected steganography will be used to mask the image so that it will pass the filter test but be decodable by an application at the users end. For example TV news shows often blur the face of witnesses or children involved in crimes. Or people may add fake heads to pictures of co-workers as a joke. Given the right equiptment these images can be rolled back to where they were before without the blurred faces or zebra heads.

Remember too that pornography paid for the Internet. The Internet existed for years as a non-commercial enterprise. The government, academic institutions, and large corporations used it as a means of communication for many years. It was not until the late 80's that it began to become affordable for home users. When the ban on commercial use of the Internet was lifted it took off like wild fire. Pornographers seized this medium to peddle their wares. (Which is fine with me if all parties involved are adults). If it weren't for porn - after all what else can you deliver over a wire that people are willing to pay for? Great Novels? Census results? Crop forcasts? No, porn and information are the big sellers. Porn outsells info by seventy percent according to some surveys.

Then again if the money from porn sellers and their intermediaries did not build the Internet infrastructure we use today then dial up would still be $3/ hr like I paid in 1989. DSL and Cable Modem would cost thousands a year. I still believe porn built the Internet. Al Gore may have discovered it, but the Internet is the house that porn built.

When I ran a non-profit computer lab, the problem was that parents expected filtering software to be babysitters, and we refused to bring it in and get in trouble when it failed.

Say you hired someone to watch your kids, and told him not to let your kids read any porn. When you came home he said "oh, here's what they read -" (and he points to Thomas the Tank Engine, The Babysitter's Club, and a copy of Penthouse) "and here's what I prevented them from reading -" (and he points to The Story of O, Hustler, Playboy, and Everybody Poops). You as a parent would be furious. You trusted this person, and you thought your kids would be safe from the things you'd decided were evil. And not only did this jackass let a copy of Penthouse get to your kids, but he kept their favorite book from them because he thought pooping was inappropriate! You'd be furious.

Okay, now you know software isn't as smart as people, Blake knows it, and I know it. But many of the parents (and probably the lawmakers) don't know it. Our discovery was that once filtering software was in place, parents expected a 100% success rate at protecting their kids from the spooky Evils of the Internet™, and immediately abrogated all personal responsibility for their children's internet searching. Which is not to say that we wouldn't have been blamed when porn finally got through. My problem with filters isn't that they don't work very well, it's that parents and lawmakers think they do.

My other problem, of course, is that every parent has different views of what is an isn't acceptable for kids to view. I have no idea why porn (which I really don't find all tht offensive) is a target, and excessive violence and hate groups usually aren't, and unmoderated chat rooms (a truly dangerous area of the net to kids) are often permitted by the filters. So if my kids go to a public libary, the filters are in place to protect them from things I don't think they need to be protected from, but not from things I think they do need to be protected from. Somebody else's standards, imposed en masse. The Secretary of Education thinks kids need to be protected from knowing two women can run a maple sugar farm together; I'd like kids to be protected from knowing there are people who care whether or not two women run a maple sugar farm together....In other words, I think personal responsibility for what your kids are exposed to shouldn't be pushed off to anonymous for-profit software manufacturers or even to well-meaning librarians (with the exception of school library specialists, who are also teachers, so they've agreed to take the same responsibility for helping raise your kids that a teacher has).

Porn sites. The more filters block them, the less money they make. There are responsible porn sites, of course, that voluntarily comply with laws and community stadards for labelling and underage viewing. But there are plenty who figure out what's necessary to make their pages get through the popular software packages and then make it happen.

I think it depends upon the behavior. If I'm just sitting there viewing a site that offends your values, what is the problem? If I'm viewinig a site and playing pocket pool, or other identifiable behavior, I think that is another thing.

But not everything we do in the library provides benefits to children. In fact, it shouldn't. My interests as an adult should not be limited in a library based on whether or not if provides benefits to children.

"If I'm just sitting there viewing a site that offends your values, what is the problem?"

He's already answered you:

" I will and do gladly and proudly "impose my values" on patrons."

Is there any other standard for you AUP other than patrons complaining? If you have 3 or 4 complaints from patrons, would you ask the person viewing the website to stop no matter what the content of the site?

It seems to me that since we are a governmental body, and that we are required to follow the law, the importance is self-evident. If a local jury found a particular book to be obscene, in the legal sense, wouldn't you be obligated to remove it from the shelves?

I coulde be wrong but it seems to me what you are doing here is stereoltyping. Lis Serv alone challenges the notion of a homogenous library community of dedicated public servants. Seems to be diversity here.

Stereotyping the filter industry doesn't work either. The ones I have been exposed to have a an astonishing diversity of “what they are all about “.

Re the babysitter point. If a library is using filtering or not it is still the librarians (and their patrons, board of directors and Sate and possibly Federal Gov influences) at the controlls. The libraries are the “customers “ of the filterc ompanies (in this context). And as you have described the filter companies ulltimately have to account to customers.

Your note indicates to me your tech experience has provided you with the knowledge of what constitutes a lousy filter and a “less worse� filter. I do not doubt that.