The Library Journal reports on a case in Washington state concerning the use in libraries of Internet filters (which block certain types of content from being accessed on a system). Here are pdfs of the opinion, the concurrence and the dissent in Bradburn vs. North Central Regional Library District.
In a decision that may lead some libraries to adopt more stringent Internet filtering policies, the Supreme Court of Washington, in a 6-3 decision has agreed that a public library can filter Internet access for all patrons without disabling the filter on request of an adult library patron to allow access to websites with constitutionally protected material.
It is the first court to make such a ruling. The court essentially agreed that the decision to filter is a collection development decision rather than the removal of content acquired by the library, and that it’s okay for the library to unblock sites on a case-by-case basis, perhaps taking more than a day to do so.
“The filtering policy, appears to us, as NCRL [North Central Regional Library] contends, to be a reasonable measure that sets minimal restrictions on Internet access so that the Internet is used by all of NCRL’s patrons in a way that advances the duty of education and fulfills NCRL’s mission and traditional role,” the court majority said.
The three-judge dissent, however, pointed to the U.S. Supreme Court’s fractured 2003 ruling in the case challenging the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and noted, “Thus, four United States Supreme Court justices stated explicitly and four other justices hinted strongly that content filtering in libraries is only constitutional if the filter can be removed at the request of an adult patron.”
The case, known as Bradburn vs. North Central Regional Library District, was decided under state law. It now returns to federal court.
The library blocks: obscenity, pornography, and “websites in the following categories: Hacking; Proxy Avoidance; Phishing; Adult Materials; Gambling; Nudity and Risque; Pornography; Malware; Spyware; Image Search; Video Search; Spam URL.
It initially blocked but subsequently unblocked YouTube, MySpace, and Craiglist (except the “personals” section),” reports the Library Journal.