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PUBLIB  February 2001

PUBLIB February 2001

Subject:

[PUBLIB] Re: Washington Times article 2/9/2001 (fwd)

From:

PUBLIB <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 10 Feb 2001 13:12:46 -0800 (PST)

Content-Type:

TEXT/PLAIN

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

TEXT/PLAIN (125 lines)


Sender: Melora Ranney <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Washington Times article 2/9/2001

Here is my analysis of the article in question.  Quotes from the article
are enclosed in asterisks * :

*Conservative groups warn that unrestricted access to Internet indecency
in the nation's public schools and libraries threatens to create virtual
sanctuaries of smut across the land.*

This is, IMHO, not only a lie, but is an affrontery to communities who
are happy with their well-run libraries and the people who work in them.

*"There is no constitutional right  to view this kind of obscenity in
public places like our towns'  libraries," says Janet LaRue, senior  legal
studies director at the Family Research Council (FRC).*

Since she does not define *this kind of obscenity* it's impossible to
argue with this statement.  However, I feel pretty safe in asserting that
the FRC disapproves of material which would be found constitutionally
protected if it were taken to court.  Taking it to court is the only real
way to prove that something is *obscene*.

*But the American Library Association says patrons have a  right to view
pornographic material. "Protecting children from Internet porn would be
best accomplished at the local level, and not through federal regulation,"
says ALA spokeswoman Emily Sheketoff.*

I consider this an example of really bad, unethical journalism.  The
author of the article asserts that ALA says patrons *have a right to view
pornographic material* when that is not what the ALA quote says AT ALL.
IMHO this distortion of the truth reveals this journalist's true agenda,
which is to shock the paper's readers and debase and degrade our libraries
and our national library association.

*At issue are incidents like those chronicled in a recent study
commissioned by the FRC, titled "Dangerous Access." The report details
graphic incidents in cities such as Vancouver, Wash., where the staff of the city's public library has had to
clean semen off the restroom walls after the Internet "research" sessions
of certain library patrons.*

Another example of distorting truth: this is an attempt to connect
masturbation (an inappropriate behavior in a public place, which has
nevertheless happened since time immemorial) with the Internet (the
material the author wants censored).  If they KNOW who the masturbators
are (as they imply), why do they not prohibit them from entering the
library?  Surely semen on bathroom walls is just as much an act of
vandalism as destroying books or writing on walls with marker.  If we
would not tolerate *those* behaviors, why would we tolerate this?  The
only answer I can think of is that the Internet-haters like to rile people
up with this sort of non-sequitor.

*Or when police were summoned to a public library in Phoenix after a
4-year-old boy was sexually propositioned in the bathroom by a 13-year old
after the teen admittedly engaged in an on-line chat with pedophiles.*

More anecdotal reports, completely unsubstantiated in any statistically
significant fashion.  We require actual proof that microwaves or mobile
phones hurt before we will stop using these conveniences--why should we
not require the same proof before we apply censorship to our libraries?

*David Burt, the former Lake Oswego, Ore., librarian who authored the
report, sent Freedom of Information Act requests to nearly every public
library system in America and worked with FRC staffers to gather the data.
Among the 27 percent of libraries that responded to the requests, Mr. Burt
was able to document 2,062 reported incidents over the previous
year involving the viewing of Internet porn in libraries.*

This article fails to mention how statistically insignificant 2,062 cases
are when you consider the enormous number of problem-free library Internet
transactions.

" . . . says Mr. Burt, who has since left his library post to work at a
software-filtering company."

This is N2H2, the (for-profit) company being examined by EPIC for its
practice of selling aggregate data about the surfing habits of school
children to for-profit companies so that those companies may more
effectively sell things to children.  Earlier this year, N2H2 received so
much heat about its heavy delivery of targeted ads to the school
population that it had to give up its low cost (free?) Bess Partnership
program, which was only lucrative so long as N2H2 could use any tactics at
all to advertise on school desktops. 

*Not only do some libraries allow conditions that lead to this illegal
activity, but they actually inform library staff they must tolerate it,
Mr. Burt says. He cites an incident at a public library in Sonoma, Calif.,
where a staff librarian complained to his supervisor about three men on
his shift who downloaded child porn on library computers. The supervisor
responded there was "nothing we can do about it." "The best thing for
staff is to ignore it," he was told.*

Any self-respecting library management would not tell this to staff.
This is a WRONG approach to take toward any patron complaint.  Again, a
generalization is being made based on one bad incident.

*"The anonymous environment of the public library offers the ideal place
to access this sea of pornography," says Mr. Burt.*

I have actually *told* Mr. Burt repeatedly that this statement *does not*
refer to conditions in my library; however, he *repeatedly* makes this
generalized assertion anyway.

As a student of journalism and former journalist, I feel comfortable
saying that the very fact that Mr. Burt is quoted so extensively and his
detractors ignored is an excellent indication of the article's bias and
lack of attempt to balance or present an objective view on this topic.  I
therefore have a hard time placing any credence in this newspaper's
presentation. 

*Of approximately 3,900 new sites that go up every day, at least 85
percent of those sell commercial pornography* 

If this is an accurate statistic, it supports the assertions of
technologically proficient filtering critics, who say that there is no way
that anybody could really block everything people find offensive as fast
as it goes up.

http://www.washtimes.com/culture/default-20012920553.htm

Melora Ranney


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