[thechat] Censorship

Luther, Ron ron.luther at hp.com
Mon Oct 13 08:43:19 CDT 2003

Kevin Stevens noted some interesting stuff about US libraries and 

>>I don't believe in censorship, but there are so many grey areas I thought
>>I'd open this one up to the Chat to see what your opinions are. This was
>>prompted by something I've just read about an American library that was
>>taken to court by some of its members for putting software on its computers
>>to stop anyone from using them to view porn. Fair enough, I thought, but the
>>software also prevented access to anything on breast cancer and gay &
>>lesbian rights, which is why the lawsuit was filed. 

Hi Kevin,

Welcome to the democratic process.  ;-)

First of all, IIRC, there is a *ton* of information available on this, 
and on the library organizations attempt to fight this. In the end, 
however, I believe it came down to funding.  Libraries are a public 
service funded by tax dollars.  I believe riders were attached to the 
funding requiring them to install the censorship software. I'm pretty 
sure it wasn't their idea and they weren't given an option.

{Which also means being careful who to root for in the lawsuit, since 
a 'win' for anti-censorship in the near term may ultimately mean shutting 
down the library in the long term for lack of funding.  See how much fun 
this is!}

So where did the funding and the riders to the funding come from? From 
our elected representatives.  In a democratic society everyone has a 
right to their opinion.  And if their opinion happens to be "I don't 
want my tax dollars spent to allow the neighbor boy to view 'big booty 
on-line' at the library." and they lobby hard enough and spend enough 
money ... they win.

As you've noted, there are a lot of consequences.  [My stepdaughter is 
a heck of an artist. If she chose to do a school paper on the art of 
Robert Mapplethorpe instead of Robert Motherwell, I would certainly 
support that.  (Sorry - I'm not a Motherwell fan.) Unfortunately, she 
probably couldn't do the research at a public library.]

Sharing the sadness,


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