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November 24, 1998

INTERNET FILTERS IN US LIBRARIES RULED UNCONSTITIONAL

By CBR Staff Writer

A Virginia library’s policy of using internet filtering software on its computer terminals has been ruled unconstitutional by a US district court judge. Residents of Loudoun County, Virginia, filed a suit in December 1997 asking the federal court to prevent the county public library from using internet blocking software on public access computers. They were later joined by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and by the publishers of eight non-pornographic web sites, all of whom said their publications had been blocked by the library’s X-Stop filter software. The library said that it generally unblocked inappropriately filtered sites when informed of the situation. However Judge Leonie Brinkema upheld the residents’ complaint. Such a policy offends the guarantee of free speech in the First Amendment, she said in the decision. Every member of every library board considering an internet-blocking policy ought to read the judge’s ruling, said ACLU Virginia executive director Kent Willis, it will remind them of why we have libraries. Judge Brinkema has slapped a permanent injunction on the filtering policy. The library must now decide whether to appeal the decision or change its policy.

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