Porn filters: A necessary precaution or a questionable expense?

by and Nov 10, 2009 11:00 am

The Internet is a place where individuals can freely look up information on virtually any topic in the blink of an eye, regardless of the sensitivity of the issue.

But where does one draw the line in a place where innocent children are potentially within an eye shot of what may be considered crude and offensive material?

The question of whether or not to install porn filters at the King Library has been a controversial topic of discussion for the city council

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library does not have Internet filters.

This is the nature of the controversial debate behind the installation of pornographic filters at SJSU’s King Library, a hub of information and knowledge for not only students, but also the San Jose community.

The potential installation of porn filters at the library, which in theory would block library patrons from accessing pornographic material from computer stations on all floors of the King library, is not a new issue of debate for San Jose city council members, and has been considered and reconsidered during countless meetings.

Like most modern controversies, there are two inherent sides to the argument of installing porn filters at the King library, which delve into deep morale ramifications surrounding free speech, censorship and money.

In an article written for the Mercury News, Councilman Pete Constant, one of the leading advocates for the installation of porn filters at San Jose libraries, stated that it was time for the city to reconsider its now 12-year-old policy, which allows for completely free, unfiltered web access at all city libraries.

Constant believes that filtering technology has improved over the last decade, with about half of the public library systems nationwide adopting filters, according to the Mercury News.

Constant said the open viewing policy of the King library has made the place a magnet of sorts for men viewing porn and exposing themselves in public, culminating in over a dozen arrests.

San Jose Library Director Jane Light said that effective Internet filters would not end foul play in libraries.

“Some of the illegal behavior has been in libraries forever, long before there was Internet,” Light said. “There are guys who really like to expose themselves at libraries."

Advocates for porn filters argue the importance of protecting children from lewd material that can easily be seen by people who choose to access pornography through the library’s computer stations.

“It makes me feel uncomfortable knowing that not only myself, but children much younger than me might stumble upon a perverted person in a public library doing things that they should obviously not be doing,” said Lindsay Baker, a junior advertising major. “It’s not right. Porn filters could help make the library a safe place, as it should be.”

Light said that she did not object to a review of the current library policy, but the installation of pornography filters may not be entirely cost-effective, nor beneficial.

Light said Internet filters at best still either under block or over block 10 percent of information researched.

"“If you’re doing a casual search, and you get 90 percent of what you want, that’ll work,” Light said. “But other times when you are really doing student-like research or a person is researching a health issue, you want 100 percent.”

Light said that pornographic viewing on library computers has resulted in little more than an inconvenient nuisance, with only 12 arrests out of 2.1 million Internet sessions in the 2006-2007 budget year.

Regulations on freedom of speech
There have been many cases that have shaped our definition of freedom of speech. Click here to learn about five of the most influential cases in American history.

She said the library can give a patron a privacy screen, which they must use.

She said if a person is acting illegally, then someone on the staff would call UPD.

In a letter to the city, SJSU President Don Kassing said that filtering would “violate the spirit of our joint operating agreement by restricting intellectual freedom,” advocating the current free speech policy of the library, according to the Mercury News.

"I feel like there aren’t enough cases of lewd conduct in the library to justify having an entire system of porn filters installed in the library,” said Cory Kennedy, a sophomore business major. “People who may be doing research on topics that involve porn could be blocked from doing so, defeating the whole purpose of having a library in the first place.”

Light said she would be in favor of Internet filters if they took out only obscene images.

She added that the city would never allow Internet filters to be installed at King Library if they limited students ability to research in any way.

The cost of installation of porn filters have played a big part in the council's decision, Light said.

According to the Mercury News, Light estimates costs ranging from $140,000 to $400,000, for installation and maintenance of the technology by library staff.

The outcome of pornography filters at the library remains undecided, with advocates on both sides of the controversy debating what is right for the fate of the King library and the thousands of people who rely on its free web access as a source of knowledge.

Student Voices: What do SJSU's student's have to say about the installation of porn filters at the King Library?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2HNXf3VHn0[/youtube]

5 thoughts on “Porn filters: A necessary precaution or a questionable expense?


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