San Jose Rethinking Library Filter

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The San Jose City Council will soon address restricting the viewing of adult content at the California city's public libraries. 

Several proposals will be discussed on April 21, including the placement of a filter to prevent surfing to porn sites. 

In a memo, San Jose City Council member Pete Constant claimed a number of complaints have been received regarding library patrons walking by computers in use and seeing graphic images of "lewd acts and public indecency." The memo added such acts "are not discouraged or even addressed by the city's current computer use policy."

According to Constant, federal funds are available to install software to filter out adult sites. But the library officials say that money won't cover all costs and the city will have to pick up the tab for the rest of it.

Constant has been an advocate for filtering since October 2007, reports the San Jose Mercury News. Other proposals under consideration involve informing those who use the computers to be aware of city policy when logging on and consider there may be children in the library.

City officials last considered Internet filtering more than a decade ago, in 1997. At the time, filters were considered too primitive and ineffective, also misreading some websites based on wording alone, such as sites about breast cancer.

The city's head librarian, Jane Light, is opposed to filtering, as are some civil liberty groups and other council members, arguing that filtering still will restrict viewing of legitimate research sites regarding health and sexuality.

Constant counters a visit to Phoenix to observe its library filters are proof it works. His supporters include ex-San Jose policeman and council member Larry Pegram who now heads up the conservative Values Advocacy Council, which recently campaigned against gay marriage in California.

Another proposal on the table is a directive that would tell patrons to not look at Web porn in the presence of children. In a policy similar to Santa Clara Country libraries, a user would log-in agreeing to such a city policy. Filtering would be applied then only to designated children's computers, with the option to filter other computers depending on funding.

San Jose-area radio stations KLIV reports other city council members are concerned about filtering costs -- $25,000 -- during the budget-slashing times, as it could take away from other child-protective services such as police crossing-guard, sexual-assault and Internet-crimes-against-children units, also adding library hours and staffing have already been cut. Another memorandum said: "Every dollar diverted for filters is a minute, hour or day during which a library must shut its doors."