Thursday, August 22, 2002
With a 4-3 vote on Aug. 12, the Board of Trustees of the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District issued an important decision regarding filtering of the library's Internet sites.
The board's close vote mirrored the sensitivity of the topic. Balancing possible censorship concerns on one hand while protecting youngsters from potentially harmful material such as pornography or hateful messages on the other is a tough call.
Yet the decision by the library board is a deft one.
The Board of Trustees decided that filters will automatically be put in place for all library users under the age of 13. Parents would still have the right to remove the filter requirement for their own children if they choose to do so. The filter would be turned off for library users over the age of 13. Again, parents would have the right to request that the filter be kept on for their children if that is their wish.
This decision maintains the rights of parents who may or may not want their children to have filters. More important, it helps to protects young children from pornography or other inappropriate material.
Yes, children have rights too, but as a society we ought to be able to keep certain material away from our youngsters, who need protection from those who are all too willing to exploit our young people, and from those who simply do not care about their well-being.
Questions remain as to how the plan will be executed. For example, how will library staff know how old someone is? How will the software necessary to implement the new policy be paid for, and will that outlay take money from elsewhere in the library's budget?
Perhaps most important, will the filters do the job they are supposed to do -- keep objectionable material from young people. Obviously, not every bad influence can be successfully filtered out of a computer network that literally spans the globe.
These are details that will need to be reviewed, and fine-tuned, as time goes on.
While it's not a perfect solution, the board's plan was obviously carefully thought out. It is a good compromise that successfully negotiates competing agendas.