Arizona - Phoenix bans Internet porn at libraries - Council vote may lead to court battle
    for city

    By Ginger D. Richardson, The Arizona Republic, Sept. 9, 2004 12:00 AM

    Permanent filters OKd on library computers

    A determined City Council declared Wednesday that pornography will no longer be available
    at Phoenix libraries, an action that could lead to a courtroom showdown with First
    Amendment advocates. Phoenix's new policy, which will filter all Internet sessions for adult
    users, is unusually stringent and appears to be the first of its kind among the nation's
    largest cities, a number of First Amendment advocates say.

    The new regulations, which take away library patrons' ability to surf the Web without
    restrictions, took effect immediately and could be implemented today. The City Council's
    unanimous vote disappointed many, including a visibly upset Toni Garvey, Phoenix's public
    library director, and prompted the local leader of the American Civil Liberties Union to say,
    "This will end up in the Supreme Court."

    Eleanor Eisenberg, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, stopped short of saying that
    her organization would take the city to court in the near future but did say, "We've heard from
    people who are concerned about this. We have several possible plaintiffs." The threat did
    little to sway Mayor Phil Gordon and Vice Mayor Peggy Bilsten, who said they are fully
    prepared for a legal battle. "I am willing to take this to court," Bilsten said. "Too many times,
    we stop short of what we want to do because we are afraid of it going to court.

    "I think this is a great case." Gordon agreed. "I don't believe that in our library, which is
    designed to be family-friendly, we should be obliged to provide access to these materials,"
    Gordon said. "If we are to be sued, then let the courts decide this case." The city moved
    quickly to adopt the policy, which was prompted by last month's arrest of a child molester
    who told police that he had downloaded child pornography at the Phoenix Public Library. The
    arrest "shook the very foundation of what I believe we are here to do, and that is protect
    families," Bilsten said. The city's plan has received support from Maricopa County Attorney
    Rick Romley, dozens of residents who called and e-mailed the city, and Glendale Mayor
    Elaine Scruggs, who told Gordon she intends to bring a similar proposal before her own
    council. Previous Phoenix city regulations mandated that filters, which are designed to block
    obscene materials and Web pages
    by targeting key words, phrases or graphical images, remain turned on at all times in the
    libraries' children's areas and for patrons under the age of 17. But those rules, like those in
    most other municipalities nationwide, allowed adult residents the option of disabling the

    The council's action Wednesday changes all that. Some opponents fear that the city has had
    a knee-jerk reaction to one particular incident and, in adopting the new policy, has gone too
    far. The ACLU, the American Library Association and other staunch First Amendment
    advocates say the filters the council is installing are overly broad and imprecise at best.
    Eisenberg and others say that the filters might mistakenly, for example, block Internet sites
    that deal with breast cancer, AIDS research or sexual education. They also argue that
    installing such software puts the city at the mercy of software providers' personal biases and
    prejudices. For that reason, members of the city's Library Advisory Board advised Gordon
    last week not to adopt the policy. Garvey, the city's librarian, did not attend that meeting but
    she was present for Wednesday's vote. She did not speak and left the meeting quickly,
    blinking back tears.

    Later, she issued a statement saying that she "will of course follow the direction of (the) City
    Council to make Internet use at the Phoenix Public Library safe and enjoyable for all of our
    families and citizens." Board member Robert Villaseñor Jr., however, told council members
    that he didn't think they "could prevail on this." "I am here as a citizen, but I am also a
    member of the library board," Villaseñor said. " . . . And I am telling you that you will be
    removing a great wealth of information that ought to be available and is
    protected under the First Amendment." But resident Marti Winkler urged the council to
    proceed with the filtering, saying the idea that pornographic material was available at the
    library "has greatly alarmed me and disturbed me."

    City Councilman Tom Simplot and other officials said they would support the library board in
    any efforts it made to find the most up-to- date technology. Simplot added that he hoped a
    filter would soon be available that would "block only pornographic material."

    Retrieved September 9, 2004 from  http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/0909phxporn09.

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