Libraries should be filter-free

The Fort Worth Public Library is considering adding filters to regulate Internet access at public libraries, according to an article in Tuesday’s Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The filters would be implemented to help control the material users under 17 could have access to on public computers.Our libraries should remain free of restrictions, despite concerns from parents and watch-dog groups about obscenity and what young people should be allowed to explore.

Although the filters might only be installed on children’s computers, the burden of regulating Internet content around minors should be carried by library staff and those minors’ parents.

The filters applied to the computers would restrict Web sites deemed inappropriate for young people. They could also automatically restrict searches using words or phrases also deemed inappropriate.

For example, blocking the word “breast” could also restrict searches for “breast cancer.”

Libraries should be allowed to control what young computer users are exposed to, but there are better and more efficient ways to do so.

Libraries could institute a “chaperone system” whereby staff members watch over children’s computers when minors are present. Libraries could request to help young users when searches might be of a sensitive nature.

But blocking the content at the source before computer users even get a chance to decide whether the material is inappropriate isn’t helping anyone.

Libraries are a source of information and should remain so; it’s not up to library staff members to decide what content should and should not be viewed.

Managing editor John-Laurent Tronche for the editorial board.