bill requiring anti-porn software altered in senate
by jason jacks
a house of delegates bill that would
have forced state-funded libraries in virginia to eliminate internet
pornography from their public computers was watered down in a senate
committee last week.
if kept in its original form, house bill 570, sponsored by del. samuel
nixon jr. (r-chesterfield), would have required public libraries,
including the 21 in fairfax county and fairfax city, to install software
that would have filtered out pornographic material from the web.
however, because of the committee's changes, the bill, if approved
by the entire general assembly this month, would not require the filters,
but only make limited money available to libraries wishing to purchase
a week earlier, a similar senate bill never made it out of a finance
since public libraries nationwide started offering internet access
to customers at least a decade ago, anti-porn groups have fought hard
to block the viewing of pornographic sites on library computers. however,
opponents say the filters are too costly and would infringe on citizens'
civil liberties and limit internet access of those doing research.
in fairfax county, the library system does not have filters installed
on any of its computers available to the public, according to lois
kirkpatrick, a spokesperson with the fairfax county public library
with respect to children stumbling across pornographic sites at libraries,
she said, stating policy, that "librarians are not legally empowered
to act in loco parentis." or, in other words, take the place
of a child's parent.
in addition, she said county libraries do receive some federal e-rate
funding--money earmarked for communication devices--that
would require them to install the software. but, she added, none of
that money goes toward public computers. "so we don't have to
have filters," she said.
del. mark sickles (d-43rd), a former member of the county's public
library board of trustees, called nixon's bill a yearly occurrence.
he said complaints of people viewing pornographic sites at county
libraries were rare during his 12 years on the board.
"these computers are wide open" to the rest of the library,
he said. "people were not looking at improper material, by and
he also remembered the software being too expensive. however, hb 570
would make available $50 per computer for libraries wishing to purchase
sean connaughton, the republican chairman of the prince william county
board of supervisors, had anti-porn software installed on his county's
computers, including those at public libraries, four years ago, and
with little resistance, he explained.
several years earlier, loudoun county tried the same, before a federal
judge ruled the filters
connaughton, who said his children regularly frequent libraries by
themselves, made requiring the filters statewide one of his campaign
issues during his run to become a candidate for lieutenant governor
he said libraries "should be a place for learning, not for being
exposed to this [pornography]."
victoria cobb, executive director of the conservative family foundation
of virginia in richmond, called nixon's bill, after it came out of
she warned that, because libraries are not required to install filters,
they are becoming places of operation for sexual predators. she noted
the recent arrest in portsmouth, va., of a man who thought he was
propositioning a minor for sex via a library's computer. however,
the 13-year-old he was chatting with turned out to be an undercover
cobb called forcing libraries to install anti-porn filters one of
her organization's top priorities.
because, she said, "children should not be exposed to something
like this in a taxpayers' library."
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response, pointing out the propaganda by the reporter and the misdirection by