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Library porn incident sparks outcry

Some say using Internet filters in libraries is unconstitutional


 

090915_libraryOur libraries are meant to be bastions of free thought and unfettered access to information. But as library patrons in London, Ont., recently learned, that principle proves complicated when child porn is thrown in the mix.

When a 71-year-old London man was found viewing and printing child pornography at the central branch of the London Public Library last month, it kicked off a rancorous debate about whether or not public computers should be equipped to filter out offensive material. For London councillor Cheryl Miller, the answer is clear: censor the sites. “Canadians have a constitutional right to say, ‘I don’t want to see or hear that sexualized material,’ ” she says. “And in this library, they don’t have that right.”

But such a move would not be easy. “We did have filters on the computers for a period of time,” says David Winninger, city councillor and chairperson of the library board. “Then we received a letter notifying us that the filters were unconstitutional under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” The filters, Winninger explained, were broad enough that they excluded “legitimate” information—about “sex education or birth control.” After a freedom of expression group threatened to sue, the board removed the controls.

For Winninger, the outcry is just a modern twist on the debate about a library’s right to censor books. A few years ago, he says, the same library was host to a “heated” battle about whether or not to let a book about Paul Bernardo—the infamous Canadian serial killer—remain on shelves.

The next step in dealing with the pornography issue is an executive council meeting to discuss what measures should be taken “to protect the general public,” Winninger says. But for now, he believes the computers will stay filter-free.


 
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Library porn incident sparks outcry

  1. protect us oh wise ones and forgive us against turning the pages of evil porn and thou assist all in removing pictures of naked adults involved in promoting a 30 billion dollar industry and doing so freely and unpretentiously in major magazines and oh almost forgot the libraries who are vestiges of free speech and press among all other freedoms, free us from the freedom of choice that runs rampant in government chambers and portals of decision makers who enjoy the pleasure of viewing porn and manage to attend church faithfully on sundays making darn sure others see them enter these hallowed chambers of guilt ridden sinners and lustful holy then thou politicians and common folk amongst us, may all be forgiven…amen and so be it…and forgot, please give us the thought police…we can never make up our minds we need help desperately…amen

  2. Well put louis…more to the point than the sad state of affairs of what humanity is serving up lately. Not that I condone the 'senior's behaviour – it is the virilent and moral policing that I find repulsive.

    Just wait until the Ontario Human Rights Commission gets there paws on this one…

  3. Um, Delford and Izellda, you noted that it's child porn he was downloading and printing?

    Libraries had already removed filters to protect freedom of speech and access to information, but the story's about an unintended consequence of that action. And one they're going to have to find a solution for, potentially.

    I'm not sure many would see attempts to eliminate the traffic in child and baby raping as moral policing by an out of control state.

  4. Wrong move. Child porn is ILLEGAL in this country. And public libraries, as open as we might like them to be, have no particular obligation to house ANYTHING they don't want to at taxpayer's expense. They are not "vestiges of free speech." That's just silly. CITIZENS are responsible for exercising free speech, not libraries. Libraries are communal sharing of mostly copyrighted works.

    You want to search legitimate info on sexuality and the city library's filters are giving you a hard time? Think a little. I am reliably informed that this internet thing is pretty widely available elsewhere.

    You want a particular low-interest book and the library says their budget won't permit stocking an item that one person will look at in the next twenty years? I am further reliably informed that bookstores everywhere have the line "I'd be happy to order that for you" memorized.

    Your freedom-of-expression rights are not hindered when the library says "we can't give that to you." Your freedom of expression is hindered when the authorities say "you can't have that." And if you can't understand the difference, we have descended far deeper into the depths of citizen-dependence nanny-state hell than I would ever have imagined.

    • okay mr. or mrs madeyoulook maybe the words madeyouthink or not………

      • I'm stumped. Has delford (a) just agreed I have a point, (b) attempted to rebut my point with counter-arguments, (c) etched a few marks on Rogers' server's hard drive for no discernible purpose? I'm not sure how to carry on a conversation before I clear that up, so thanks for any help.

        • myl, i think that delford may be one of those fine folks that is not worth your time and effort.

          • Ah. Unfamiliarity bred confusion, so I thank you for the insight.

          • so happy i have bred some unnecessary confusion of what i have no discernible purpose for and am not worth your time and effort….mission accomplished… who cares what we say and think…words are cheap…mine and yours…

          • Yes, words are cheap. Rather, they CAN be cheap. Punctuation, however, is indispensable. I feel like your words would mean a lot more if they were parsed with some commas and periods. And heck, mix it up a little with a few capitalizations.

  5. Library, should just stop providing internet for the general public, debate closed. Or they could just put filters on and people who don't like those filters could go to say there home, coffee shop or any other place. No system is perfect, but there are a lot of sick people out there who don't mind looking up porn on a computer sitting in a public space. If the government has the right to say no pornography on billboard they have a right to say no pornography in libraries.

  6. Why doesn't the library subscribe to porn magazines and put them on their shelves? Libraries make decisions everyday about what they will or will not have on their shelves and frankly the same should apply to internet access.

  7. No need to put filters on the computers. Just prosecute anyone caught downloading illegal material. Deterrence works better than barriers.

    • Do you mean that deterrence will work better than barriers in this particular situation, or that as a general rule deterrence is always the better approach?

  8. As someone with a technical background in this sort of thing its important to note that child porn networks are slippery. They don't want to be caught because they are almost internationally illegal. Chances are if there were filters or not on these computers it probably wouldn't have been effective. That argument is purely philosophical as the idea of using technology to solve this problem is just not realistic.

  9. The problem is that the filters tend to positive benign or useful content and not block unwanted content very well. It's even worse when you consider that illegal sites that host child porn often move around because of their illegal nature and are hard to block effectively. I'm more in favour of making the computer monitors easy to see combined with swift prosecution for sickos like this guy.

  10. Correction: The problem is that the filters tend to block positive benign or useful content and not block unwanted content very well.

  11. Respecting freedom you say. Libraries used also by students for university work or elderly ladies. Suppose some pporn site pops up in front of your granny's eyes (or grandpa's). Would you not say that that is offensive? Let's take it practically: reserve a couple of computers (or nmore?) and then at reception have the librarian direct, porn users on the right, others to the left.

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