Safer Internet (Double)Plus

Perhaps someone is tempted to imagine (or even assert) that I suggested the story about the EU's attempts to protect children while they use the Internet to make an argument for filtering along these lines:

  • liberals in the U.S. typically consider EU countries to be more enlightened in their policies than the U.S.;
  • the EU thinks it's a good idea to filter children's Internet use, and is planning to do so;
  • therefore, liberals in the U.S. should approve of filtering children's Internet use.

Perhaps there is no such Someone, but if there is, that someone would of course be wrong.

For one thing, the EU does not rank high on my list of folks I would trust to make decisions on what my child should and shouldn't see on the Internet, or elsewhere. For another, I regard Internet filtering as problematic because it puts the state in loco parentis, and as I've said elsewhere, I don't want the state there. (Note that I'm not asserting that this is a decisive argument against filtering, but it's one that all parents who believe themselves responsible for their children's education should consider very thoroughly.)

I suggested this story firstly because I know that LISNews readers are interested in questions of filtering and censorship. Secondly, the list of people who think they are entitled to decide what others should read and see is by no means limited to religious extremists and malodorous drippy-nosed perverts (as some define them). In fact, I hope to post several more stories EU and UN attempts to regulate Internet content and use. LISNnewsters will, I think, find them of interest.


Hi Chuck,I for one, didn't suspect you of any such motive. It sounded like a straight filtering story to me.I'm looking forward to your other stories on EU issues -- perhaps you can dig some up on data retention. I have fuzzy memories of either the EU, Britain and/or France proposing that European ISPs be forced to retain several years worth of user data -- e-mails, web sites visited and the like -- in the name of fighting cybercrime. This seems to be well beyond the scope of anything contemplated in the United States outside of DARPA's "life log" project which seems to aimed at individual soldiers instead of the public at large.I lost track over whether these data guidelines were ever adopted or were dropped for either privacy or financial concerns. If you can't find anything about what I'm talking about, let me know and I'll do a little re-research.

Chuck I respect the basis for which you disagree with filters in public libraries, loco parentis. Unfortunately propagation doesn’t require a license. FWIW I thought I would provide the following for you to consider as a fellow conservative. (My libertarian friend Daniel too if interested) Thanks in advance for considering!

As you probably know, I do support filters for children in public libraries. Here are some thoughts.

  • The ideal of "free and open" access in public libraries has been dramatically and forever changed by the Internet. This was a safe proclamation just a decade ago when access was restricted to physical material purchased by the library. That IMHO was a much different animal. Today libraries are defined by “accessâ€? rather than “ownershipâ€?. The paradigm has changed. The scope of “accessâ€? cannot be compared to a 50,000 volume public library. The former is nearly infinite.
  • With the past model of ownership, libraries served as their own gatekeepers per se. And they did mind the gates. Libraries were "within the walls". Their own fiefdoms that could be, dare I say, "controlled" easily. Collection development policies codified standards and folks, both community and librarians, could assume nothing much would fall under the radar. For the sundry items that did, 17 inch flat screens didn't publicly display their collection faux-paus to nearby patrons. Much less in Quicktime or RealPlayer. Ironically most libraries still develop and use collection development policies for their "owned" collections yet ignore the Internet. This makes no sense, to me anyway. Just because it's free it's ok?? However this doesn't jive because many libraries have policies that prohibit "fringe" groups from using the library to disseminate information material.

    (Sidebar: in addition to being an academic library director, I also serve on the board of my local public library. We spent 15 minutes discussing a policy on whether petitions could be pinned on our bulletin board. 15 minutes because it's on paper??? Put this as a web form and nobody would know or care.)

  • I believe that a collection development policy can and should apply to more than tangible "owned" material. It must or it will only serve as an outdated resource applying to only a fraction of what a library offers. If access is what defines a library, then a collection development policy must address those items that are not “ownedâ€?. This or chuck the CD policy in the cylindrical file.
  • Perception is another issue. Perhaps most important in light of CIPA. I do concede that filters have their problems. No question. I also concede that a filter will not be able to replicate a collection development policy to the degree it can for physical material in-house. But that doesn't preclude their use, particularly with the porn business that everyone is concerned with and that collection development policies prohibit. Parents want filters for their children. At least many. These are the stakeholders, not librarians following their ALA legislative updates. Speaking for myself, if my 9 year old child is blocked from the web White House Tour because a similar URL is serving up sluts, so be it. I can live with this considering the alternative. Parents know and accept this too. The admonishment that parents should accompany their children can be interpreted that libraries aren't safe. Suicidal marketing. Parents have historically entrusted public libraries with their children. What safer place can there be than the public library? This perception, right or wrong, is changing and this wonderful legacy is being lost.

    Thanks for reading.