Library Must Use Internet Filters or Risk Funding Cut

Anne Winter
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Rochester’s Central Library must use Internet filters to block potentially inappropriate or obscene materials from being viewed on computers or risk a funding cut by Monroe County.

County spokesman John Durso told XBIZ that Central Library receives $6.5 million in discretionary funding and that Monroe County officials have the option of whether or not to continue each year.

County executive Maggie Brooks contacted the library in February about its Internet policy after a local television station performed a hidden-camera investigation and discovered patrons viewing “graphic material.”

The library’s policy at the time allowed users aged 17 and older to have Internet filters shut off by request only when using computers located in less-frequented areas away from children’s sections. It also required the use of tinted privacy screens when viewing the unblocked material.

It has been found that, while Internet filters are meant to block inappropriate content, they also may block legitimate educational websites, such as those containing information about breast cancer or sexually transmitted diseases.

Regardless, Brooks stands firm that the library must change its rules.

“The county executive believes there should be a permanent ban on access to porn in a taxpayer-funded facility like Rochester Central Library,” Durso said.

This conflicts with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows adult users to request access to legal online material and that libraries do not have the right to question the purpose.

While Internet filters are meant to block inappropriate content, they may also block legitimate educational websites, such as those containing information about breast cancer or sexually transmitted diseases.

A Central Library representative was unavailable for comment at press time.