American Library Association
Public Information Office

Director: Linda Wallace
Press Officer: Joyce Kelly

June 18, 1999

ALA president opposes House filtering amendment; says local
libraries, not Congress, should decide library Internet policy

American Library Association (ALA) President Ann Symons
expressed her deep concern and opposition to an amendment passed last
night by the U.S. House of Representatives to require libraries and
schools to use blocking or filtering technology as a condition of
receiving or retaining the E-rate telecommunications discounts.
"This amendment would impose a one-size-fits-all federal
mandate that undermines local decisions made by libraries, schools and
their governing boards on how to provide a safe and rewarding
experience for children in using the Internet," Symons said.
Offered by Reps. Bob Franks (R-N.J.) and Charles Pickering,
Jr. (R-Miss.) to H.R. 1501, the Child Safety and Protection Act, the
amendment was passed by voice vote. It would require that all library
and school computers with Internet access filter or block child
pornography and obscenity, and that harmful to minors material be
blocked during use by minors.
Symons says that librarians, like other educators, have always
had children's best interests at heart. She notes that filtering
does not necessarily "protect" children and gives a false sense of
Symons noted, "All library users would find access blocked to
constitutionally protected information; no filter blocks only illegal
"Many small libraries with only one public access terminal
would be forced to limit adults to material considered suitable for
children. Courts have already found this unconstitutional," she
The amendment also imposes new costs and burdens on libraries,
according to Carol Henderson, executive director of the American
Library Association Washington Office, because libraries would be
required to comply within 30 days or repay all E-rate discounts
already received under the program begun 18 months ago.
"This retroactive burden would fall most harshly on libraries
in low-income and rural areas that received the largest discounts,"
said Henderson.
During the last 18 months, $1.9 billion have been committed to
schools and libraries for discounts of 20 to 90 percent for
telecommunications services, Internet access and some internal
connections. The Federal Communications Commission recently approved
$2.25 billion for a second year of discounts.
H.R. 1501 is likely to be referred to the U.S. Senate. A
similar filtering requirement is pending in the Senate Commerce
For more information, contact Carol Henderson, executive
director, American Library Association Washington Office, at

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