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Local views vary on filter decision

Published June 24, 2003

A Supreme Court ruling Monday that the government can require public libraries to equip computers with antipornography filters brought mixed reactions in the Tampa Bay area.

For some, the decision was pure delight.

"That's great news!" shouted Hillsborough County Commissioner Ronda Storms. "(Now) parents can be absolutely sure that when they send their children to the library, it is a safe location, someplace they can trust."

In late 1999, Storms led an effort to put obscenity filters on computers in Hillsborough's public libraries. She called Monday's court ruling "responsible and sound."

"I'm glad to know I agree with the Supreme Court," she said.

Others weren't so elated.

"We support the (American Library Association's) stance on freedom of access," said Liz White, director of the Dunedin Public Library.

"The problems with filtering have been addressed before," White said. "They're not foolproof. There are all sorts of ways around it, and people are prevented from accessing information that is not pornographic. We feel that it's not our place to filter."

More than 14-million people a year use public library computers, including many children, and the court said patrons of all ages were being exposed to unseemly sex sites on the Web.

The 6-3 ruling marked the federal government's most significant legal victory in a seven-year effort to shield children from Internet smut.

While the ruling caused strong reactions in many people, others doubted it would cause much of a ruckus when put into practice.

Bert Weber, director of the Oldsmar Library, said people rarely log onto pornographic sites at the library. Over the years, she recalls only one or two people doing so, and she said library staffers simply asked them to stop.

"We're a small library and all of our computers are situated around the reference desk, so we're monitoring them all of the time," she said.

- Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

[Last modified June 24, 2003, 01:47:56]

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