Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Supreme Court Upholds Anti-Porn Filters

from the find-somewhere-else-to-surf dept

Last year, we were happy to report that a tribunal of federal judges in Philadelphia seemed to understand the problems with forced filtering and said that libraries shouldn't be forced to filter content because they blocked too many perfectly reasonable sites - often the type of sites that would be very useful for people to have access to. The Department of Justice, however, considered their crusade and appealed the case to the Supreme Court. Today the Supreme Court overturned the tribunal and said there's nothing wrong with federally mandated censorship even when it's blocking perfectly reasonable sites. The worst thing about this is that there have been some very good "middle-ground" suggestions - such as setting up filtered machines for young kids, and leaving uncensored machines for adults. However, because the government doesn't want you looking up information in public about breast cancer, you'll be forced to do so in your own home (because, apparently, you should be ashamed of the word "breast"). If you don't happen to have a computer or internet access in your home, then you're stuck. Update: Here are some excerpts from the ruling and the dissent. The majority ruling basically says that no one is burdened by this since you can just ask the librarian to turn off the filter (something many people will be too embarrassed to do - even if they are searching for legitimate info). The dissent points out that there are much less restrictive methods to accomplish this goal. More importantly, since no filter is ever going to block all porn, this will give parents a "false sense of security", and does little to attack the real problem. Another update: Library officials are responding by saying that this ruling is going to be very costly, without doing anything to address the real issue. They say that the filters will be expensive to install and maintain, and don't do much to prevent access to pornography.

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