Department of Commerce
National Telecommunications and Information Administration
In the Matter of )
Request for Comment on the )Docket No. 020514121-2121-01
Effectiveness of Internet Protection )RIN 0660-XX14
Measures and Safety Policies )
COMMENTS OF THE AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION
The American Library Association submits the following comments to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, for their study of the effectiveness of Internet filtering in educational institutions, as required by the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA).
The American Library Association, founded in 1876, is the oldest and largest library association in the world. ALA includes members from all types of libraries including school, public, state, academic, and special libraries. With a membership of more than 64,000 librarians, library trustees, library educators, friends of libraries and other interested persons from every state, ALA is the chief advocate for the people of the United States in their search for the highest quality library and information services.
On behalf of our members, the ALA wishes to make two key points related to the effectiveness of Internet filtering and other ways of ensuring that children have safe, educational, and age-appropriate online experiences. The first point is that in a library context, these tools are not effective and violate the First Amendment. The second point is that America's libraries are successfully engaged in providing educational programs for users, regardless of age, that are designed to help them have safe, educational, and age-appropriate experiences. In addition, we have included both links to supporting documents and an appendix of documents that support and illustrate these points.
AND BLOCKING INTERNET ACCESS IS
NOT EFFECTIVE IN THE CONTEXT OF LIBRARIES
The concept of the "effectiveness" of blocking and filtering technologies is highly dependant on context. While Internet filtering and blocking may be an effective tool for some families, it is not an effective tool in libraries. Families may select a filtering tool that aligns with their values; by contrast, libraries must serve children and adults throughout a community and represent a range of values. No filtering tool exists which can be perfectly calibrated to block out only material that is not protected by the Constitution, without blocking access to material that has constitutional protection.
The fact that filtering tools are simply unable to meet the constitutional requirements of libraries is well settled. In support of this statement, we refer to the court decisions in American Library Association et al v United States, Docket Nos. 01-1303 and 01-1322, challenging CIPA, and in Mainstream Loudoun v Board of Trustees of the Loudoun County Library, 24 F.Supp.2d 522 (E.D. Va. 1998). In addition, we attach the briefs we filed in ALA v Ashcroft, which further articulate this point.
A number of experts from different disciplines confirm this view. For example, we include links to the expert report of ALA v Ashcroft expert witness Ben Edelman, an article by expert witness Dr. Geoffrey Nunberg, and expert witness Christopher Hunter's M.A. thesis on the effectiveness of various Internet filtering products. Their views are neither new nor unusual. Karen Schneider, Assistant Director for Technology of the Shenendehowa, NY, Public Library testified before the Children's Online Protection Act (COPA) Commission on July 20, 2000, and articulated many of the same points. In 1997, Ms. Schneider wrote the book, "A Practical Guide to Internet Filters," which also described the ineffectiveness of various Internet filtering products in a library context. A link to Ms. Schneider's testimony before the COPA Commission is included.
III.LIBRARIES THROUGHOUT THE UNITED STATES ARE ENGAGED IN EFFECTIVE, LESS RESTRICTIVE ALTERNATIVES TO FILTERING, AND LIBRARY USERS HAVE SAFE, FUN, EDUCATIONAL, AND AGE-APPROPRIATE EXPERIENCES USING THE INTERNET.
The American Library Association, and the libraries in which its members serve, have developed innumerable local programs to help library users, especially children, have safe, fun, educational, and age-appropriate experiences using the Internet.
The ALA has taken leadership in this area, providing its members and members of the public with a number of valuable resources and tools in this area, including:
ALA members have also developed unique and effective strategies for helping children and teenagers to use the Internet safely. Each of these strategies was developed by librarians, library boards, and members of the public within a specific local community, and fits the concerns, resources, and values of that community: We have attached to this document three outstanding examples of such strategies, briefly summarized here:
We appreciate the efforts of the NTIA to study the effectiveness of Internet filtering and blocking tools in educational institutions, and are confident that a close examination of this subject will lead to the same conclusion reached by the COPA Commission, the National Academies, and every court to have considered the question: Filtering and blocking technology is not an effective tool in a library. Mandating the use of filtering and blocking technology in a library violates the First Amendment rights of library users. Further, libraries are actively engaged in effective, less restrictive, means of helping Internet users to have safe, educational, and age-appropriate experiences using the Internet.
Plaintiffs’ Joint Post-Trial Reply Brief
“The Internet Filter Farce” by Geoffery NunbergAPPENDIX B
Testimony of Candace Morgan On S. 97, The Children’sAPPENDIX C
Internet Protection Act Before the Senate Committee of
Commerce, Science and Transportation
Testimony of Carolyn A. Caywood On The Children’sAPPENDIX D
Internet Protection Act (CIPA) Before the House
Committee on Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications
and the Internet
Testimony of Audra Caplan Before the Congressional APPENDIX E
Children’s Caucus and the Congressional Missing and
Exploited Children’s Caucus