Internet

Net filter use jumps in libraries

Libraries installed blocking software at a frantic pace last year, according to a new report, a move that could alarm free-speech advocates trying to fight mandatory filtering laws.

Libraries installed blocking software at a frantic pace last year, according to a new report, a move that could alarm free-speech advocates trying to fight mandatory filtering laws.

The Library Journal, a national library publication, reported this week that 43 percent of the libraries it surveyed had filtering software on their Internet-connected computers in 2001, a jump from just 31 percent a year earlier. The increase coincides with the passage of the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which requires federally funded schools and libraries to begin blocking Web material deemed inappropriate for minors or risk losing money.

However, a group of free-speech advocates, including the American Library Association and the American Civil Liberties Union, have sued to block the law, saying it violates free-speech rights by, among other things, blocking content that's legally protected for adults.

Some public libraries have resisted installing filters across the board. For example, San Francisco officials voted to prohibit filters in all machines except for those used exclusively by children under the age of 13, even though they may have to forfeit federal money.

According to the study, about half of the surveyed libraries that filtered content said they did so on computers used by adults. Nearly all of the libraries using filtering blocked content on children's computers.

The study also said that smaller libraries didn't filter as often as larger libraries because of the costs of filtering software.

On a separate note, the study said that Internet-related spending among libraries has nearly doubled in the past four years, to 4.2 percent of budgets from 2.2 percent in 1998.