Post #1: Internet Filtering

The Internet Screening Library Act has recently passed the Illinois General Assembly, and I feel alternatively ambivalent and disheartened about it. I am often strongly on the side of information transparency, the freedom of speech, and the freedom to share in the human record. For me it’s also about honesty; if we cannot freely discuss who we are interpersonally, generationally or societally, then we are in shadow, another degree further from understanding ourselves.

The Internet is a mirror of humankind, for better or worse. I feel very much that there are responsible ways to share, with all ages and people alike, in the unprecedented wealth of the world wide web. Will we be able to adequately respect equity of access and privacy under mandated filtering policies? I guess I’m skeptical, but I also understand that filters are improving, that too many websites, if publicly displayed, would create a hostile work environment, and that some communities are asking for filters.

Certainly this electronic historical genealogy of information is more vast and more accessible than ever before, even with filtering? And what does filtering do about the power to aggregate, correlate and communicate with one another?

I am relatively new to graduate school; mostly I’ve been in retail as a bookseller, not a librarian. Never a librarian, actually. School is fantastic so far, and I am enjoying almost everything about it. Being so new, though, I am still working out what I feel about the profession. I would love to hear from anyone else who is more informed or just plain opinionated about filtering.

Before I go, I wanted to share a few links with you that inspired this post. First, there’s Brandi’s Metroblogging Chicago post, The Jolly Library, from two days ago. She provides a link to the Act itself, as well as to a Boing Boing article about the whole affair. I’m also reading some ACLU pages that discuss similar issues. The first one is: ACLU Lawsuit Seeks Access to Lawful Information on Internet for Library Patrons in Eastern Washington (11/16/2006). Also, there is a letter, a Warning to Kern County (CA) Libraries About Using Internet Filtering (1/21/1998).

(If this isn’t interesting to you at all, you can watch Andy Kaufman and friends sing about Old Macdonald’s Farm. Really, it’s worth it.)

Blogging is so strange…I used to be a radio DJ in a small city & it kinda felt like this. Almost.

Cheers!

–Steven

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4 Responses to Post #1: Internet Filtering

  1. nancy753 says:

    I’m not sure I would consider myself “opinionated about filtering”, but I do have some thoughts about internet filters and children (see “kidslib” blog). With regards to filtering the internet for adults, I too would side with freedom of speech, and freedom to share the human experience. But the Web-world is evolving at a much faster pace than we can keep up with, and it does present some issues that cause me reason to pause and acknowledge that we need some “rules and regulations” about the Internet. A perfect example of this is Kathy Sierra’s situation (also referenced in my blog). Her farewell blog really makes me think that we cannot allow free reign on the Web. There needs to be some accountability,, otherwise the slope gets more slippery.

  2. bgood says:

    I commented on Nancy’s blog as to my feelings about filtering. Some people can take a lot of bad content and not be affected by it. Others are very impressionable and willing to act out. I am conflicted, really, but tend to err on the side of protecting some people. Man, I hate to hear myself say that. Perhaps when I am in the real world I will feel differently.

  3. As a former graduate assistant at a university library and proud patron of the public library, I too share concerns about filtering.

    The Jolly Library post reminds me of an anecdote Wayne Coyne told years ago about performing a web search with the name of his band “The Flaming Lips,” and getting thousands of ridiculously risque hits, most having nothing to do with the band. These days, the band is more established and search engines arguably more sophisticated, so a current googles search nets almost nothing but info on the group.

    Ah, Andy Kaufman. His time spent in Memphis Wrestling, chronicled in the film I’m From Hollywood, remains some of the most brilliant comedy ever. My Breakfast with Blassie also remains one of the finest documentaries filmed at a waffle house.

  4. Sara G. says:

    I tend to think that, if it is really children we’re concerned about protecting, that a special, supervised area for computer use is the answer, rather than placing filters on all computers.
    Of course, this would require that libraries be sufficiently staffed to provide that supervision, or that parents be on hand and not using libraries as after-school dumping grounds.
    All this filtering hysteria puts me in mind of some studies I read about when I was doing undergrad psych. Basically, the upshot is that everybody thinks that they are not at all affected by (internet porn/movie violence/advertising/fill in the blank), but those other people are– those other people being anyone from whom the subject feels some social distance. So, for instance, adults tend to assume that kids are more affected by these things than adults, white people tend to believe people of other races andcultures are more affected (believe it or not), and women tend to believe men are more affected and vice versa. Not surprizingly, the lower the social class, the more we tend to assume someone will be affected by these things.
    In other words, I’m fine, its those other guys that are the problem and need to be protected.
    For myself, I think kids have been sneaking peeks at dirty pictures for a long time now, and still seem to mostly grow up into adults who are shocked at the idea of tender young children sneaking peeks at dirty pictures.

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