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Best Filter for Internet Porn Is the Parents

June 27, 2003

Re "Web Porn Filters at Libraries Upheld," June 24: Like many of my colleagues who are attending the American Library Assn.'s annual conference in Toronto this week, I am appalled by the Supreme Court's decision in U.S. vs. the American Library Assn. While decisions to select library resources are based on criteria developed by the library staff, Internet filters block sites with certain words in their content. More important to librarians, software manufacturers do not provide their criteria to the public. This means that selection of what Internet sites may be accessed by library users is, in effect, turned over to a secret and private organization that answers only to its shareholders and not a government entity.

The best protection against sexually explicit Web sites is not a mechanical filter but a parent or other responsible adult teaching his or her own child -- and only his or her own child -- how to judge the value of a given site. It is not the library's responsibility to serve in loco parentis and monitor what children view on the Internet.

If the justices ever happen to be in a library that offers Internet access, they will learn that the greatest problem library staff members have is not what children may or may not be accessing over the Internet but whose turn it is to use the machine, collecting money for printouts and rebooting crashed computers.

Sue Kamm

Los Angeles

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