"Library board mulls issues of first amendment, filth"
June 11, 2008 · Updated 11:25 AM
"Where do First Amendment rights to view whatever literature one chooses end, and the duty of society to protect children from pornography begin?The Kitsap Regional Library and county residents such as Marcia Mack of Poulsbo currently are fighting the battle of computer filters, with the KRL seeking to accommodate both sides.The recently passed federal Children's Internet Protection Act, which goes into effect next month, puts more pressure on the KRL because it will affect some of the organization's funding sources.The CIPA law mandates that schools and libraries receiving certain federal funds block or filter Internet access to visual depictions which are obscene or harmful to minors, said Sara Scribner, head of the KRL reference and information department, in a statement about the library's filtering efforts.Filters work to screen out particular Web sites by scanning for certain pre-selected words, then blocking sites that use those words.The law doesn't require libraries to filter text yet, Scribner added.Of the KRL's 94 computer terminals, 31 are filtered, according to executive director Ellen Newberg. And our policy says at least one at each branch be filtered.The library's development head also came up with the idea of having an Island of Refuge, putting all the filtered terminals near the children's area.This is supposed to ensure children don't accidentally view a porn site being accessed by other patrons.The library has also spent about $8,000 installing privacy screens on other computers so nothing on the screen is visible from the side - like the passive matrix screen on some notebook computers, Newberg said.We have a filter called Websense ... that uses a combination of artificial intelligence technology which watches for key words, but also has human analysis, said KRL's executive director, Ellen Newberg.The beautiful part about the software is that it's mounted on the server rather than the computer in order to be hacker-proof, Newberg said.According to information from Websense Enterprises, the software filters Internet content by working in conjunction with the Websense Master Database of more than 1.8 million sites, organized into more than 65 categories ... You can choose to block or permit access to individual categories by user, group or time of day.But as good as it is, it's still not perfect, Newberg added.One key thing people at the filter companies are sensitive about, they don't tell outsiders, (the human analysis is done by) college students or minimum wage workers who look at screens all day. It's very subjective, she said.From our experience with books, we know that not everyone is in agreement on what people read, Newberg said.Newberg noted a quote by Jim Kendall, president of the Washington Association of Internet Service Providers and Silverdale's Telebyte N.W.: parents, remember you cannot depend on filters. There's no substitute for parental supervision. A good kid can hack around your home filter.But Poulsbo resident Marcia Mack said the parental supervision argument is a cop-out for KRL. If that is really true, why are people yelling about gun laws, R-rated movies, v-chips and selling cigarettes to minors? Mack said. Apparently parents are not doing their jobs.She believes library personnel can be more proactive in limiting access to pornography sites by teens, and sex offenders in the county.Mack cited practices in other libraries she's visited that she'd like to see in place at Kitsap's libraries.Before you use a computer you have to sign in, you have a time limit, you must have a library card, and show a picture ID. If there was an incident, the computer could be checked, Mack said.And most libraries require the printers to be behind the desk. That way the library does not lose money by people walking out and not paying for reams of paper they have printed. It also lets the librarian screen what has been printed for copyright and other purposes. Most libraries require you to read and sign an Internet agreement, Mack said.Mack is particularly incensed that teens can access pornography at taxpayers' expense at the public libraries.Newberg didn't deny that there are occasional incidents. She noted a mother and child who came in recently to try to research monster trucks. They were unable to access the information on the filtered computers in the children's section and went over to the unfiltered computers, Newberg said.Scribner caught a man accessing child pornography in the library when the man nodded off at the terminal. When she went to wake him up she saw two prepubescent girls on the screen and called the police.When he was arrested they found out the man was a sex offender in Seattle who became homeless and moved to Kitsap. But he failed to register as a sex offender, as required by law.The man was banned from all the county's libraries, and all the libraries were notified with his description.He doesn't have to do anything, just enter the library to be arrested again, Newberg said.What most people don't realize is that libraries are not safe places. Parents should always be aware of where their children are, what they're doing, what they're watching, she said.One thing library officials and Mack agree on is a free adult Internet education program, The Internet and Your Child, scheduled for March 31.The presentation is a free, hands-on Internet safety program for parents, teachers and other people who oversee children's online activities.Mack noted that she and Newberg attended the same session recently.It's to let parents know how raunchy the Internet really is. ... They actually go into a chat room and show you what goes on, Mack said.The seminar is scheduled for 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at Paladin University, 1040 Hostmark Road, Poulsbo.For more information and to register, call 698-1508, or 830-5221, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. "