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NEWS

Crowds talk dirty to council about porn filters

by Nate

People packed into the San Jose City Council chambers  night as supporters and opponents of installing pornography-blocking Internet filters in the city’s public libraries pleaded their cases.

At the end of a three-hour discourse over the issue, which has been debated for a year-and-a-half, the council voted 7-3 in favor of a proposal put forth by Vice Mayor Judy Chirco, Councilman Ash Kalra and Councilman Sam Liccardo that would remind Internet users of library policies and rules of conduct.


Vote effectively prevents the installation of software that would prevent access to pornography or lewd materials on library computers until the San Jose Police Department’s Sexual Assault Investigation and Internet Crimes Against Children units are fully funded, library hours per branch return to 54 hours per week, and the crossing guard program is fully funded citywide.

The City Council will reassess the issue of Internet filters after those requirements are met.

Internet filtering on public library computers was first debated by the San Jose City Council in 1997, and was reintroduced in October 2007 by Mayor Chuck Reed and Councilman Pete Constant.

“I doubt this is the final, final word,” said Jane Light, director of King Library. “I was here in 1997. I always figured if I stayed here long enough, it would probably come back again because these are very emotional issues.”

Among those who gave statements to the council, the issue was primarily an argument of freedom of speech versus protection of children.

Opponents of the proposed Internet-filtering program gave examples and statistics that the software would not be able to block lewd material efficiently, it would block material needed for legitimate research purposes and that the problem was blown out of proportion.

“We worked a long time to help people understand that the documentation did not support the argument that there was a problem. (And) that filters are not effective for the purpose,” said Lisa Jensen, San Jose city planner and co-creator of Books Not Filters, a group dedicated to preventing library censorship.

Light said there were two arrests in King Library last fiscal year for lewd behavior at the computers.

“There are two-and-a-half million visitors in and out of this building in a year, so actually we’re a pretty low crime rate,” Light said.

On the other side of the coin, supporters of the proposed filtering software gave first and second-hand accounts of lewd conduct by library computer users and voiced their concerns about children being exposed to indecent materials or lewd acts.

“They shouldn’t be able to have that type of access,” said Anna Cresap, a senior social work major and mother of a teenaged son, as she entered King Library on Wednesday. “I preferably wouldn’t want my money to be spent on him browsing through the Internet and looking onto pornography.”

For some, like library patron Gene Bradley, the issue of protection and censorship is not a clean-cut case.

“I don’t think freedom of speech applies to porn in the library, considering that it’s based on taxpayer money,” Bradley said. “I’d want to know what specifically the Internet filter would filter out. If there’s information that is not pornographic that it filters out then maybe not. I tend to go with it, but it’s not real hard stance.”

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