The Washington State Supreme Court released a decision yesterday that takes the issues of internet filtering on library patron computers and internet access a step forward. The state supreme court was asked by the federal district court to decide what standard the state constitution held on whether a filter could be used on all public library internet access and not be disabled for an adult patron.
Yesterday, the state court seemed to go beyond a federal Supreme Court decision and said that filtered access all the time for all patrons is constitutional. There’s enough analysis on the general case in other places (here and here), so I won’t repeat what other folks have said.
I just have two notes to add:
1. This isn’t a settled question. The same case the state court decided on yesterday is still being processed by the federal courts. Here is the Justia entry for the case. The state Supreme Court simply ruled on a state constitutional question requested by the federal court. It is very possible that the federal courts might say that internet filtering is only o.k. when an adult patron can request that it be turned off.
2. The Timberland Regional Library and North Central and different enough that it probably matters. For one, our internet access policy is different than the North Central’s. All internet terminals and access in TRL libraries are filtered. But, an adult can request that a filtered be turned off.
The NCRL’s policy goes much further and while it spells out a general filtering policy to start with, it goes further and says that the filter will not be turned off for any patron, adult or otherwise. This is even true of the filter prevents an adult patron from viewing constitutionally protected material if it falls within a certrain category (pornography or gambling for example).
Here are TRL’s policies around internet use (these are all pdfs):
- Illegal Activity on Library Computers
- Compliance Measures for Children’s Internet Protection Act and
- Neighborhood Children’s Internet Protection Act
- Internet Use Policy
Here is the NCRL’s internet policy.
Also, I think its also important to note the physical differences between our two library systems. NCRL is pretty much made up entirely of small, rural libraries, the largest of which is just over 2,000 square feet which have an average size about 3,000 square feet, and the largest of which (only two this size) 12,000 square feet. Most have one library terminal and about half act as defacto school libraries. I haven’t been to a NCRL branch, but I can assume that the opportunities for private use of the internet is scant.
While there are certainly branches in TRL that are much like the typical NCRL branch, we also have large urban branches that employ privacy screens on computers.
Here are some resources on the Bradburn case:
The decision, a concurrence and a dissent
Watch/listen to the oral arguments at TVW
Here are all of the briefs filed in the Supreme Court
And, here is the docket for the federal case still being considered.