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Filtering and Filter Software

From the Introduction
Since June 23, 2003, when the U.S. Supreme Court found the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) constitutional, many libraries are, for the first time, seriously considering installing Internet filters.

CIPA states that libraries must install a technology protection measure (such as a filter) that protects against visual depictions of obscene material, which includes child pornography, that is harmful to minors to qualify for E-rate discounts for Internet access and support under the Telecommunications Act, 47 U.S.C., Section 254, or to use Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), 20 U.S.C., Section 9101 et seq., funds to pay for the costs of Internet service or computers that have access to the Internet.

Despite being named the Children's Internet Protection Act, CIPA restricts access to content for adults and children alike. The law mandates that all computers be filtered, including staff computers.

Some libraries have been using filters in the children's areas for years in response to demands within their communities. These libraries, as well as some libraries that may not be using filters at all, will now have to install a technology protection measure on every library computer or give up their applicable E-rate discounts or LSTA funds.

This report explores the issues associated with using Internet content filters in libraries. Throughout the report, specific products will be referenced and the differences discussed.

Readers who wish to understand the myriad issues at work when filters and libraries come together will benefit from reading each chapter in order. Each chapter is also designed to stand on its own and provide targeted assistance for libraries considering filtering, selecting a filter, or implementing a filter.

  • Chapter 2, "History and Development of Filters," focuses on how filters work and addresses some inherent conflicts of using filters in a library setting. This goal is to provide enough technical information about how filters work and their impact on the library to enable stakeholders to decide whether they wish to use them.
  • Chapter 3, "Selecting a Filter," provides information about finding, selecting, and evaluating filters available on the commercial market and through Open Source channels.
  • Chapter 4, "Best Practices," provides best practices' guidelines for using filters in the library, where issues of First Amendment rights, patron privacy, and CIPA compliance comes into play.
  • Chapter 5, "What's Next for Library Filtering?" looks at the future of library filtering.

About the Author
Lori Bowen Ayre is the founder of The Galecia Group, a library technology consulting firm. She is the author of "Internet Filtering Options Analysis--An Interim Report" that is based on a study she conducted in 2001 for Infopeople. Lori also maintains, a Web site dedicated to supporting libraries considering filters.

Ayre has been a speaker on filtering for Infopeople (including a three-part Web cast series), the Commonwealth Libraries of Pennsylvania, and the State Library of North Carolina. She frequently posts to her weblog, Library Technology Musings, on filtering issues.