Local News

Some Say Internet Filters Meant To Protect Children Violate Rights

Posted March 6, 2003

— The Supreme Court is debating a law dealing with children and the Internet.

The law limits the accessibility of adult material on public computers as a way to protect children from seeing it. Some people said limiting accessibility violates their rights.

Terra Fox's children spend a lot of time online. Since she is not always around to watch over their shoulders, she believes Web filters are critical.

"It's disturbing as an adult to run into something that you're not expecting. Certainly, I don't want my young children, who could benefit from the positive things, to have this cross their paths," she said.

The Children's Internet Protection Act requires public access computers to have filters, limiting children's exposure to adult material. All Wake County libraries have Internet filters, but the Act is being challenged.

Some groups contend it violates First Amendment rights and blocks beneficial sites for adults and children.

The Supreme Court will have the final say.

In Wake County, library managers said the filters work well and problems are easily fixed.

"We're able to pick up the phone, call and say 'Hey, you're blocking a site that we need' and they'll unblock that. And by the same token, we say 'Oh my gosh, someone's in a site and we need them not to be there' and they can block it for us," said Robin Hemrick of the North Regional Library.

Hemrick said the library has not had any complaints about the filters or many requests to unblock Web sites.

Martin Cutler uses public computers and feels filters serve their purpose.

"Just like a lot of things that can go to extremes, some basic filters, I think, are good for out society -- especially in our society which is losing values," he said.

Congress passed the Children's Internet Protection Act in 2000 after the Supreme Court struck down two previous attempts to outlaw online pornography.

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