ALA applauds federal court ruling on the Children's Internet Protection Act

Contacts: Larra Clark/Paige Wasson


ALA News Release

For Immediate Release

May 31, 2002

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ALA applauds federal court ruling on the Children's Internet Protection Act

American Library Association (ALA) applauds the decision of the federal court in Philadelphia today, which ruled unanimously that the
Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) is unconstitutional. The opinion was written by Chief Judge Edward R. Becker of the Third Circuit and joined by U.S. District Judges John P. Fullam and Harvey Bartle III.

The three-judge panel held that CIPA is unconstitutional because the mandated use of blocking technology on all computers will result in blocked access to substantial amounts of constitutionally protected speech. The Court found that filters both overblock (block access to protected speech) and underblock (allow access to illegal or unconstitutional speech).

The Court permanently enjoined the
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and
Library Services Technology Act (LSTA) from withholding funds from public libraries that have chosen not to install blocking technology on all Internet-ready terminals. As a result, public libraries are not required to install filters on their computers in order to receive funds from either agency.

Filters are not the only—or the best—way to protect children,” said ALA President John W. Berry. “Filters provide a false sense of security that children are protected when they are not. The issue of protecting children online is complex, and it requires complex solutions with parents, librarians and community members working together. Librarians care deeply about
children, and are committed to helping them find the best and most appropriate information for their needs. We have taken numerous steps to help communities develop policies and programs that ensure that their library users have a positive online experience. The vast majority of library patrons use the Internet responsibly, as outlined by their
local policies.”

The Court held that less restrictive alternatives exist to allow public libraries to protect children. The Court found that public libraries can—and indeed that many do—use the following less restrictive alternatives: (1) filters offered as a choice for families to use for their own children at the public library; (2) education and Internet training courses; (3) enforcement of
Internet use policies by library staff; and (4) placement of terminals, use of privacy screens or utilization of recessed monitors.

Throughout the trial, every technical witness on both sides of the issue, testified to the unreliability of Internet filtering software—and how it often denies access to relevant information for adults and children alike, while failing to block objectionable material for minors.

This conclusion was supported by a
May 2002 report from the National Research Council, which reiterated many findings from an
October 2000 Commission on Child Online Protection (COPA) report, also commissioned by Congress. Both studies found that the most effective and least intrusive way to protect our children from objectionable material on the Internet is through online information resources and family education programs.

“We are very pleased with the decision,” said Judith F. Krug, director of the ALA’s
Office for Intellectual Freedom. “If CIPA had remained law, libraries in economically disadvantaged urban and rural areas would have been forced to use their already scarce resources to install expensive and unreliable filtering software, or be stripped of important financial assistance that they need to provide online access to all users.”

More than $255.5 million have been committed to libraries over four years with the
federal E-rate program. The Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) has distributed more than $883 million alone to libraries since 1998.

Intellectual freedom is at the core of what we do and how we do it—provide information to those who need it without the invasive restrictions of filtering devices,” said ALA Executive Director William R. Gordon.

Any appeal of the decision would go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. For more information on the Children's Internet Protection Act, please visit the
CIPA Web site.

The judges’ ruling can be found at