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Should Internet access be restricted in public libraries and schools?

Published: Tuesday, March 15 2011 12:49 p.m. MDT

With increasing Internet access at schools and libraries, lawmakers are debating how much control there should be over the type of material accessed.

Idaho legislatures who say pornography has "permeated our society" voted Monday 63-7 in favor of a bill that would require libraries in the state to filter Internet access for adults, according to the Spokesman-Review. The bill does say that some exceptions to the blocked material may be made if an adult is conducting legitimate research. The bill has now moved onto the Senate.

Last year, Idaho lawmakers passed legislation to require all K-12 schools in the state to have an Internet filter and hold Internet safety classes once a year.

Earlier this week, a Missouri mom got a social networking site blocked at her daughter's school, according to CBS St. Louis.

Utah prohibits public libraries from receiving state money unless the library has an Internet filtering system, according to state code. It also requires school boards to restrict access to websites that contain obscene material.

Utah is one of 25 states that has an Internet filtering law for publicly funded schools or libraries, states the National Conference of State Legislatures. Most of these require school boards or public libraries to have a policy that prevents minors from accessing sexually explicit, obscene or harmful materials online.

But some organizations are against such laws. Online Policy Group says that blocking technologies can under-block, over-block, are vulnerable and error-prone and "deny access to constitutionally protected and educationally important materials that schools and libraries would otherwise provide."

Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union started a campaign called "Don't Filter Me." This campaign asks students to see if content geared toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities is blocked by their schools' filtering system, and if so, to report it to the ACLU LGBT Project.

"Students may not realize that it actually is illegal for their schools to block educational and political content geared toward the LGBT community," said Joshua Block, staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT Project, in a press release. "With this initiative, we hope to inform students of their rights, and let them know there is something they can do if their school is engaging in censorship."

For more information about the debate on internet filters, see Internet Filters and Public Libraries.

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