Fremont library and pornography

It turns out you can get more at the Fremont library than most people probably realized. Last month I learned you can get free art museum passes, and this month I learned you can get free access to pornography on the library’s computers.

But a Fremont resident, who asked that his name not be printed, is waging a battle to make the library block porn sites on all of its computer terminals.

Right now, only the children’s room has internet filters, and that’s the way it’s going to stay, said Sallie Pine, who runs the reference desk.

“We are not going to police what people do with regard to access to the internet,” she said. “It’s a first amendment issue.” If someone, like the nameless Fremont man, rats out a porn site visitor, the librarian will remind them that it’s not the best place to view such sites, but he/she won’t boot them from the terminal. “As uncomfortable as I am with someone coming to the library to do that, they have that right,” Pine said.

The right also extends to hate web sites. The exception is if the site includes illegal material, such as kiddy pron. In that case, the cops get called.

The computers do have privacy screens, which make it difficult for passersby to see what people are looking at, but Mr. nameless Fremont man, says he and others somehow manage to see pron anyway. “I’ve had children stop in their tracks,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense. If two people take off their clothes and start having sex in the public library they will be removed.”

One more tidbit. San Jose’s library has filters at all their internet terminals because they accept a form of federal funding, which requires that all recipients install filters, Pine said. Alameda County doesn’t get the federal funds, so they don’t have to install the filters.

Matt Artz


  1. Is viewing porn in public actually a right??? I don’t want my kids walking by someone viewing porn. Unfortunately the filters don’t work well. They block some porn, but let plenty through while blocking many non-porn sites. With words like “porn” and “pron” on this page, it would probably get blocked by many of them.

  2. Somehow the moral authority of not being so socially shallow of telling others what they can and can’t do in public trumps the needs and desires of the public! Talk about having things backwards. Even the use of the word ‘police’ shows how upside down it all is. Addiction to porn and the easy access that the internet allows is ultimately more harmful than smoking, but God forbid one lights up within 100 yards of a public library – for the sake of the children! Maybe porn could be blocked if the porn stars were smoking. Hmmm.

  3. “It’s a first amendment issue.”

    False. Read the 2003 US Supreme Court case of US v. ALA. http://laws.findlaw.com/us/539/194.html

    According to my reading of this story, the library management is intentionally misleading the public and violating local law to implement the anything-goes policy of the American Library Association. Consider, for example, how investigative reported Dan Noyes caught San Jose head librarian Jane Light in a flat out lie about privacy screens. She said they protect people and when he showed they did not, on a video newscast you can see for yourself, she said well just avert your eyes. So she knew she was lying at the outset. See “Porn, Sex Crimes At Libraries; I-Team Investigation,” KGO, 29 Nov 2006 at http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=i_team&id=4808374

    People in the community need to wake up to the fact that people in control of the library may be violating local law to implement ALA policy, and thereby may be endangering children.

    Solution? Take off the blinders, get the government to require the library to act with the bounds of existing laws, and filter all computers. US v. ALA should be your guiding light, not the ALA.

  4. Dan,
    The problem is, the filters don’t work well. I just don’t get why they wouldn’t boot someone viewing porn in public.

  5. Jon Simon,

    I agree as to booting people, but filters now work well. Even the ACLU, one of the organizations suing to stop the Children’s Internet Protection Act, now admits filters are at least 95% effective.

    ACLU v. Gonzales, E.D. Pa., March 2007 [ACLU expert and court agrees Internet filters are about 95% effective and no longer block out breast cancer and other health-related information—so effective that another law, COPA [Children’s Online Protection Act], was found unconstitutional]


  6. I just played with NetNanny for a bit, one of the best rated filters, and it took all of two minutes to figure out how to find non-child-safe pictures. The ACLU isn’t run by computer experts. I am happy to say that this site worked fine, but I didn’t run into anything that shouldn’t have been blocked and was blocked. Still, for ineffective filtering, I’d rather not have the risk at all. A no-porn policy would be better.

  7. Yes, in an ideal world, “A no-porn policy would be better.” However, is has been my observation over the years that acceptable use policies never stop the person who violates the policies, by definition.

    It is easy for you and me to respect the law and respect acceptable use policies. However, there is a segment of the population, and it is growing, that refuses to abide by such policies. Therefore, the policies are essentially useless against the very people you wished would have abided by the policies.

    Filters, on the other hand, while not perfect and they never will be, go a very long way to enforcing acceptable use policies. Even if someone is intent on ignoring the acceptable use policy, the filter will be there (95% of the time per the ACLU) to enforce the policy.

    No one method is ideal in preventing what a library may wish to prevent. Usually a mix of options is best. In that mix, filters are the sharpest tool in the box.

    The American Library Association says the opposite. The ALA has been sidestepping US v. ALA, US Supreme Court, 2003, for over five years now. The ALA has the greatest stake in people thinking filters are ineffective–then the people will convince themselves not to use filters and the ALA will not have to do the dirty work.

    Now when a library states it will filter in respect of CIPA (and US v. ALA), and the ALA convinces them not to, and some child is raped or molested by someone using the still unfiltered computers, one must seriously think whether there is a causal link between the rape and the ALA’s sidestepping US v. ALA and getting local librarians to follow ALA policy instead of local laws, customs, and practices.

  8. I was with you till the part when you said, “some child is raped or molested by someone using the still unfiltered computers.” I don’t get what you mean. I don’t think you mean viewing porn on a library computer leads to raping children because I can see no causal link.

  9. Now, I’m not going to put myself on a pedestal. I make ends meet and live pretty well, so perhaps I am out of the loop, out of touch with the folks, etc.

    But who the **** goes to the library to access the internet?

  10. Quite a lot of people, Marty. There are plenty on the computers whenever I’m at the Union City or Fremont Main branches.

  11. Pornography can become a dangerous addiction. It is not a victimless crime. While watching a documentary on a serial killer, the killer made the statement, that he feels porn was instrumental in his drive to rape and kill. The killer was Ted Bundy.

    It is bad enough to have adult pornography, but anything to do with children, or to cause children to be hurt in any way, I draw the line on a person’s right to view porn, any kind of porn. It is obvious the person that requires porn, has a serious addiction, needs to get a life, and needs therapy.

    Whatever happened to an active imagination?
    I’ve never watched pornography, why would anyone want to taint their brain, and memory?

  12. I’ve heard it’s a bit like a drug – you’re always looking for that first ‘high’, but it can never really satisfy. Saw a chilling Oprah episode about kids and their laptops and webcams – becoming victims of predators & pedophiles, many without ever leaving their bedroom. That’s why our computers are in a public place in our home and always will be.

  13. Lois, you cant ban pornography unless you define pornography.

  14. Porn filters on library computers, and increased parental awareness and leadership, will alleviate most if not all of this issue’s talking points.

    Pornagraphy exists because we feel compelled to hide our natural desires for physical pleasure, or even talk about them. Children are taught very young to avoid any mention of the ‘goings on’ under their pants and shirts. Mastrabation, sex, and birth control are almost never mentioned in intamate family circles. Sex education and relationship development courses are not being offered in our public schools. I challenge anyone to honestly disagree. Barrack Obama has emerged as the guiding light to parental involvement in our children’s developement, and this includes the developing their awareness of their bodies, their emotions, and the meaning of sex and love in their lives. If a child is given insight into the dark world of pornagraphy, of the sexual slavery, and how sex AND drugs AND hate can all be addictive, they will understand. A child armed with knowlege and insight will not be offended by a library user viewing pronography, and will likely advise the offender to go take his or her addiction elsewhere. Exposure of truth is the key.

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