january 11, 2006 wednesday
section: news; pg. sc1
length: 587 words
headline: internet filters, screens to hit county libraries
byline: by eugene tong staff writer
body: the county board of supervisors on tuesday approved more than $534,000 to install filtering software, privacy screens and other accessories on computers at county libraries to block access to pornographic web sites.
the panel approved the funds 3-0, with supervisors gloria molina and zev yaroslavsky absent. the vote comes after county library officials studied how to better manage sexually explicit material online at its 88 locations.
fifth district county supervisor michael d. antonovich ordered the study, prompted by complaints last august from a visitor to the jo anne darcy library in canyon country. the woman, accompanied by a child, was using a public computer when she caught sight of someone viewing pornographic web sites on the next terminal.
"we believe that today's action will be a very positive step forward in creating an environment in our county libraries that is conducive to learning and safety for our young people," said tony bell, an antonovich spokesman. "the idea is to prevent the occurrence of children viewing graphic sexual content on the internet."
the money includes $344,000 to purchase new monitors, finance the redesign of public computer layouts at 14 libraries to keep adult computers away from children, and additional filtering software. another $190,162 will allow the county department of consumer affairs to purchase new computer equipment.
the monitors come with built-in privacy screens, which goes a long way in solving the problem, said nancy mahr, a county library spokeswoman.
"the main problem - it's related just to people inadvertently seeing something on another person's computer," she said. "that's why we're looking at a very basic filter as well as the privacy screens.
"we've installed privacy screens that fit on the front of the monitors. they obscure vision a little bit, so people rip them out. we've found a monitor that has a built-in privacy screen that won't interfere with vision."
it will take about six months to begin the program, mahr said. over the years, local libraries usually receive a few complaints from patrons about explicit material - most of which are handled locally.
"(on the adult computers) there will be very basic filtering of explicitly visual sexual sites," she said. "that's all that will be blocked. if a site that has been blocked and a person needs to get it, we will lift the block on that computer for that person."
asked whether the move constituted censorship, bell said: "county taxpayers have no obligation to fund pornography in our county library. the county library will be implementing corrective measures to assure that county computers are not abused."
though there are always concerns about content filters - they're installed in fewer than 50 percent of the nation's libraries, according to the american library association - the county's policy is in step with current laws, in accordance with a 2003 u.s. supreme court ruling allowing the technology if it can be turned off upon request.
"if they just turn off the filter, then they're totally within the law, and the truth is we can live with that," said judith krug, director for the office of intellectual freedom at the association.
"we hear from time to time that in response to a situation like what happened in l.a. county, that politicians will be making noises. but there has been very little follow-through on it, mainly because people get upset, and there are things like privacy screens."
eugene tong, (661) 257-5253
notes: also ran in av edition
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