Internet,Privacy,amp,#58,Porno DIY Internet Privacy: Pornography in the Library
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Answer truthfully now, if you were walking through a public library with your kids, what emotion would you feel if someone was surfing hardcore pornographic sites where everyone in the place could look over his shoulder and see it? Would you be embarrassed? Outraged? Upset? Shamed?Would you want the government to step in? This is a very thorny and interesting issue. I don't see a clear cut, obvious solution that magically appearing out of nowhere. It's not a new issue by any means (pornography existed long before the internet), but the placing of computer systems hooked up to the web has increased the magnitude of the problem many times. Personally, I don't like my taxes going towards methods for children to look at porn in libraries. Pornography is harmful to people in general, but the effect on children can have catastrophic consequences. Intelligent parents exercise great control over what their children view until they become able to discern right from wrong and fantasy from reality.On the other hand, we do have freedom of speech and expression and that is very important. Adults must have the right to choose what materials they want to view and read. How can anyone else make the decision what is correct for me to see, read or be exposed to? I do not want the government telling people what is not and what is acceptable for viewing. This is not the proper role for our elected officials, and it is certainly not what a librarian should be doing. Other people may have other beliefs and viewpoints and they should be allowed to make their own choices.Then again, if I am walking through a library, I really do not appreciate walking by someone who is viewing a hardcore sex site, and I definitely would not want my own children viewing it. This violates my own ethical standard.Pornography is something that people should be viewing in the privacy of their own homes, not in public places. In our society sex is something that is practiced in private (or at least not out in the streets, well, at least not by the majority of people), and, in my view, an exception should not be made for pornography.If that were the entire issue we could probably all come to an agreement, but unfortunately there is more to it than that. One question is where do you draw the line over what's viewable and what's not? Okay, perhaps we could agree not to allow hardcore sex sites to be viewed, but what about softcore? What about a hate site or a site about gay lifestyles or an alternative religion? Perhaps children should not be exposed to those things as well.The second issue is one of filtering technology. The sad fact is parental filters and controls don't work very well. It's difficult, if not impossible, for a machine to determine if an image is pornographic or not (and it certainly cannot differentiate between filth and art). In fact, the machine even has trouble with text. For example, this article mentions pornography and sex several times, and I'll bet that many email filters would simply block it from being received.So what's the tradeoff? Actually, to tell you the truth, I am not exactly sure why libraries believe it is necessary to give people access to the internet at all. Yes, a library should be computerized, but there are plenty of publications available on compact disk and other media. Perhaps connecting a library to the internet was a mistake to begin with.So one possible alternative is to disconnect libraries from the web entirely. After all, it's getting to the point where most people are connected in one way or another anyway. Thus, instead of allowing internet access, a library could build a useful and complete collection of material available on CD, DVD and so forth and make that available to the public.Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, depending upon your viewpoint) internet access for libraries is here to stay. This is one of the methods that has been chosen to promote going to the library, to change it from a dusty book tomb to something which is actually useful to people.Well, another alternative is instead of trying to filter out the bad stuff, why not only accept a limited subset of sites? There could be a library database of reviewed and accepted sites, and those sites would be the only ones allowed to be viewed or accessed on the library systems. This is, after all, the way new books get added to the shelves - someone reads it, decides it needs to be added to the collection and it is purchased.Using this method, you could create allow for constitutional freedoms, much as libraries do with their hardcopy materials, without allowing the grossly unacceptable material into the building.Of course, the question must be asked: who gets to choose what is acceptable or not?Personally, I would not envy the people on that committee. My feeling is libraries are not intended to be pornographic movie theatres or adult bookstore arcades. PCs are everywhere and if some teenager or adult wants the material he or she can find it from their home or whatever.So I don't see the need to make this material available on publicly funded library systems. We don't put Hustler and other materials in public libraries, do we? At least not out in the open?However, I also believe that other adults need to be allowed to make their own decisions as to what's acceptable and what's not. That is a fundamental right for all adults.So like I said earlier, this is a thorny issue which will not go away soon. In fact, it will probably become more heated as time goes on and more and more materials of all kinds appear on the internet. I don't envy those who do have to make the hard decisions, as they will not be liked by anyone.