Dear AFA-Michigan supporter,
Please read the guest commentary and front-page news story below from the Royal Oak Daily Tribune.
Then, please call the Royal Oak City Commission and the Royal Oak Public Library and voice your support for filtering technology that would protect children and adults from exposure to child pornography and other obscene materials on the computers the library provides to access the Internet:
Royal Oak City Commission
E-mails: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Royal Oak Public Library
Thanks as always for your support!
Gary Glenn, President
Royal Oak, Michigan
February 28, 2008
All libraries in need of filters
The Royal Oak Public Library’s mind-numbingly outrageous refusal to install Internet child pornography-blocking software on library computers illustrates a point of interest of which the general public is likely not aware.
Under legislation sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Az., signed into law by President Clinton in 2000, and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003, public libraries which accept federal funding for Internet access are required to use Internet filtering technology to block access to online pornography on all library computers, protecting children from exposure to such material and from being forced to share library restrooms with men who come to the library specifically to access child porn and other obscenity.
Libraries such as Royal Oak’s, which don’t receive federal funding, are not required to use filtering technology, leaving children unprotected and leaving city or library district taxpayers legally liable for potentially millions of dollars in damages and attorneys fees that would accompany sexual harassment lawsuits by library employees who are forced to encounter child porn and other hardcore obscenity in the workplace. Twelve Minneapolis librarians in 2003 were awarded over $1 million in damages and attorneys fees in just such a case.
Gov. Granholm and lawmakers should act to ensure children, parents, and taxpayers the same level of protection in all public libraries that’s required by federal law in those which receive federal funding for Internet access.
Under current state law, libraries are required to block only children’s access to pornography in the library, not adults’, and the law expressly allows libraries to do nothing more than require that typically female librarians witness obscene pornography being accessed online and then confront the porn user to instruct him to stop. That “system” is an engraved invitation for a Minneapolis-type sexual harassment lawsuit for which Royal Oak and other unfiltered library patrons would have to foot the bill.
Gov. Granholm as attorney general voiced support for mandatory Internet filtering in public libraries, but has apparently retreated in the face of opposition by liberal organizations such as the American Library Association, which formally believes that all library users — including children, regardless of age — have a constitutional “right” to access Internet pornography at taxpayers’ expense.
Similarly, no doubt, the Democrat-controlled House has little interest in mandatory filtering legislation opposed by its liberal pro-pornography at taxpayers’ expense allies, even though the federal version was signed into law by President Clinton.
But what’s the Republican state Senate’s excuse for failing to act to put Granholm and the House on the spot for child protection legislation modeled after that successfully sponsored by Sen. McCain, currently the frontrunner for his party’s presidential nomination?
Gary Glenn, President
American Family Association of Michigan
Royal Oak, Michigan
February 29, 2008
Library porn incident prompts call for filters
Oversight board upholds current policy on adult computers
by Catherine Kavanaugh
Daily Tribune Staff Writer
ROYAL OAK — The recent arrest of a man accused of viewing child pornography in the Royal Oak Public Library adult computer lab has at least one elected official calling for the installation of filters to block obscene Web sites.
City Commissioner Terry Drinkwine said he will raise the issue at a Monday meeting. He would like the commission to pass a resolution asking the Library Board to install technology that could prevent similar incidents.
The library uses filters on the computers in the youth section, but not the 16 computers in the adult lab. That’s where police say James Mullaney, 38, of Royal Oak, accessed four pictures of a girl who appeared to be under the age of 12 having sex with an adult male and one picture of a naked girl.
“This is the one guy we know about,” Drinkwine said. “You can talk all you want about freedom, but in my mind in no way, shape or form should those computers be able to produce anything illegal, illicit or detrimental.”
Board reaffirms policy
On Tuesday, board members unanimously voted to maintain their 8-year-old policy to only filter youth computers.
“That’s because we respect the adults and we know filters don’t work well,” Director Metta Lansdale said. “They have some value when kids use the Internet, but they make adults feel mad and disrespected.”
The Library Board has reaffirmed this position yearly since 2004, Lansdale added. They did so again this week despite the Feb. 5 arrest of Mullaney, who faces trial on five counts of possession of child sexually abusive material, a five-year felony, and five counts of using a computer to commit a crime, which is a seven-year felony. He is being held in jail on a $100,000 cash bond.
Lansdale said the Library Board took the incident into account.
“They did their homework, they deliberated and they kept their position because it’s not an issue,” she said. “This is the first incident of child pornography brought to our attention. The library acted appropriately. We were trained and ready.”
A Royal Oak man who used the computer after Mullaney discovered the illegal pictures in minimized windows at the start of his session. He notified the library staff and they called police.
Drinkwine contends the incident merits a closer look by the Library Board. He wants them to take another vote and approve filters for adult computers.
“I can’t make them do it, but I can ask officially and let the public know they can install filters. But they refuse,” Drinkwine said. “This is no different than saying we’re not going to have a reading room filled with Hustler magazines. It makes no sense to me to balk at this request.”
Support for board
The board’s policy makes sense to the American Library Association, which discourages Internet filters for adults and doesn’t endorse any protective software for libraries to install.
“Filters are not perfect. They all over-block or under-block,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.
She said libraries and communities need to answer three questions during filter debates: Is there really a problem? Will filters solve it? Should a government agency block content?
“With filters you think you’re doing something good, but you hand off part of your library collection to a private company that often has an agenda,” Caldwell-Stone said. “If the company is affiliated with a religious organization, you are buying their prejudices.”
She also points to a 2002 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation called “See No Evil: How Internet Filters Affect the Search for Online Health Information.” The study found that Internet filters set on the most restrictive level block 24 percent of all health sites and 50 percent of all sexual health sites dealing with issues, such as condoms and safe sex.
“And they let through 9-13 percent of the porn,” Caldwell-Stone said. “Filters give a false dichotomy. You think you’re protecting people, but there are holes. It’s a false sense of protection.”
Debate started in ’90s
City Commissioner Michael Andrzejak remembers when the issue of Internet filters originally was tackled by the Library Board. He was a member in the mid- to late 1990s.
“It was one of the most contentious discussions I was involved with,” Andrzejak said. “People raised concerns that filters would block research of breast cancer or Super Bowl XXX as something X-rated. But that was the first generation of filters. I’m sure they are much better now.”
“Any honest vendor will say they don’t block all the bad stuff,” she said.
When the topic of filters first came up in Royal Oak, the Library Board was divided between conservative and liberal members, according to Andrzejak.
“It was a dogfight to get filters on the children’s computers,” he recalled. “For adults, we agreed there would be constant staff oversight.”
Andrzejak doesn’t see that as a viable solution anymore, and he wants information on the latest filtering technology.
“Now it’s unreasonable to think this number of computers can be monitored by the staff, and I have to question whether it is the best use of their time,” he said.
Drinkwine asks the same question. He wants residents to weigh in with their opinions.
“This is a public building with kids and families,” he said. “The library should reflect the values of the community. That’s why I asked for this to be on the published agenda. I am drawing a line in the sand. If people are for it or against it, let them say so.”
The City Commission meets at 7:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall.