Councilman pushes for computer filters

May 30, 2008 8:54:10 PM PDT
A San Jose City Councilman is pushing for filters on library computers, after an I-Team investigation caught people on video cruising porn sites, including child porn, out in the open at the city's main library. San Jose City Councilman Pete Constant demonstrated a Web site filtering system for the libraries. The city Library Commission and the City Attorney both believe that the system could constitute censorship, and could cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars the city can't afford. But Constant is on a quest.

Councilman Constant wants to install library computer content filters. He wants to stop what an ABC7 I-Team video discovered -- people visiting porn sites on San Jose library computers, especially when children are in the vicinity.

"I think we need to make sure that our libraries are safe friendly environments for families and children, number one. And number two, I don't think it's our responsibility as a city to pay for and provide pornography to people," said Constant.

Councilman Constant initiated his quest for a way to prevent having children either see or access porn on library computers after an ABC7 I-Team investigation in 2006.

The investigation found some library patrons visiting porn sites, including a man who performed a lewd act this library computer terminal.

On Friday, constant demonstrated a Web site filtering system that he claims allows access to legitimate research sites which may contain nudity but blocks pornographic sites.

"To show people how this filter works and what is and what is not blocked," said Constant.

He attempted to access sites, which critics of his system said were unavailable to legitimate library researchers. All the sites came up.

Other sites like "Hustler," a pornographic magazine were blocked.

Library Commissioner Caroline Martin was unconvinced by his show and tell.

"This is not a scientific study method of study. There is no comparison of what would come up without the filter," said Martin.

Martin says the Library Commission voted 8-1 not to filter these computers. The reason being adults have the right to access any site they wish, outside of child pornography.

Buu Thaqi of Planned Parenthood believes that Constant has jumped the gun.

"We haven't even engaged in talking about the policy of having filters, and he's making this demonstration," said Thaqi.

San Jose City Attorney Richard Doyle agrees with the ACLU, which cites First Amendment rights. Filtering sites could constitute censorship.

"The issue is access and you're in a public facility a public library. It's no different than checking books or library materials out," said Doyle.

The City Attorney says this system could be installed in the children's library. But if the system would be installed in all of libraries and an adult wanted to view a certain blocked site, according to the Supreme Court ruling, the library would have to comply.

Councilman Constant will present the whole system to the whole council on June 17th.


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