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April 10, 2012 at 10:18 PM

E. Washington library wins suit; it can filter porn

A rural Eastern Washington library system may continue to filter the Internet to block porn and gambling sites, a federal court judge ruled Tuesday.

Judge Edward Shea of the Eastern Washington Federal District Court ruled that the North Central Regional Library (NCRL) is not violating the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by filtering some adult Internet content on library computers.

The lawsuit was brought by the ACLU of  Seattle which argued that the library’s filtering was overly broad and illegally censored material based on content.

Judge Shea noted that libraries traditionally identify suitable and worthwhile material. Blocking Internet sites that contain adult material, he ruled, “helps ensure that the environment at the NCRL libraries is consistent with its mission of providing learning and research opportunities for individuals of all ages.”

He also noted that the 26 branches of the NCRL are relatively small and only one has a partition separating the children’s section from the rest of the library.

“Taxpayers are the winners in this case,” said NCRL Director Dean Marney. “Libraries should never be forced to use public funds to provide access to child pornography or to become illegal casinos. Libraries should be sanctuaries for people of all ages.”

Other library systems in the state, including Seattle, have refused to block adult Internet sites. After a mother complained about her 10-year-old daughter inadvertently seeing graphic pornography at the Lake City Library in January, a spokeswoman for the Seattle libraries said that it was not in the business of censorship.

Although the state Supreme Court says that libraries have discretion about which Internet content to allow, the Seattle Public Library “believes in the right of each individual to have access to constitutionally protected material,” said spokeswoman Andra Addison in January.

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