Washington Supreme Court Says Libraries Can Filter Internet Computers

The Washington Supreme Court ruled Thursday that public libraries may put Internet filters on their computers. Some librarians are cheering the ruling and say it could lead more libraries around the state to limit access to porn and other controversial material.

The case was brought against the North Central Regional Library, a rural system based in Wenatchee. It has a policy to filter some Internet sites. The Washington chapter of the A-C-L-U argues that the filtering policy is too broad and restricts access for adults who are using the Internet for legitimate purposes. But six of the nine Washington Supreme Court justices say the policy isn't meant to censor. In their ruling, they say that just as libraries don't buy all books that are available, especially those that are pornographic, so they're not obligated to provide access to every Internet site. Director Dean Marney says the ruling affirms his district's policy of making libraries safe places for all of its patrons.

Dean Marney: “I think this has been libraries' dirty little secret forever, that we've had to deal with this; that we can protect kids, we can protect employees, stay true to our mission.”

Washington state librarian Jan Walsh says the ruling may convince other libraries that don't use filters to adopt them.

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