Me and Library filtering (or censorship) debate in NC

Posted 14 Aug 2001 at 13:40 UTC by gregorsamsa Share This

I was asked to a 600 word oped against library filtering for the News and Observer (Raleigh, NC). Now there's online discussion going on as well. But part of my problem with the opposing oped. It's not based on facts...

can and should I reply or does this amount to sour grapes on my part.

Seriously, the author is a locally famous start-up lawyer and law prof at Duke University who should have tested say his example of searching for "Big Bang" which he claims will bring up porn (it doesn't) or that less than 1% 0r 2% (depending on when he's asked) of useful materials are blocked by filters (no study supports this contention).
I'm more frustrated by his sloppy work than by his ad hominim emotional attack on those who oppose filtering. Any suggestions?
Note bene: I was not and am not paid by the paper for the article in question.

search engines, posted 14 Aug 2001 at 18:44 UTC by mobius » (Master)

>who should have tested say his example of searching for "Big Bang" which he claims will bring up porn (it doesn't)

I just looked for "big bang" in various search engines. As expected, google returned pages of excellent non-porn results. Altavista, askjeeves, and yahoo also returned non-porn. Webcrawler had a porn link at #20 in the list, but the rest of the results were valid. The shocker was findwhat, which returned mostly porn. (note that I'd never heard of this site before, but it claims to be "a better search result" Ha!).

Conclusions: Block access to certain search engines. </tongue in cheek>

Big Bang, posted 16 Aug 2001 at 12:45 UTC by jrennie » (Apprentice)

Winning an argument is much easier when your opponent is a blundering buffoon. As mobius mentions, Dr. Frey shot himself in the foot by using "Big Bang" as an example of innocent childhood curiosity unleashing... lots of Physics articles. I think directly replying to Dr. Frey would be a waste of your time. Your article is solid. You get across many of the reasons why filters are bad.

If you're up to the task, continue your effort to get the word out. Work on making your presentation as strong as possible. Paragraph 2 ("Consumer Reports...") is great. Citing an outside, pro-consumer organization will help convince people that something is really wrong with filters.

I think your third paragraph ("Studies by both...") is weak. Since you are not talking about a specific study, is there a need to say that liberals and libertarians did the study? Don't commend the bias, "This can be a good thing..." Pounce on it. "Studies have shown that most filters have a political or religious bias. XYZ filter screens out pro-abortion sites. ABC filter screens out anti-gun sites." Try to hit enough topics that most people who read your article will find it offensive that a filter screens out web sites on that topic.

What do you mean by "competetive edge" in paragraph 4?

Paragraphs 5-7 hit an important point: who should choose what is appropriate for children, parents or the government? Paragraph 7 finishes this nicely. I don't think there's a need for paragraph 6, though. Pgs 5 & 7 bring home the point well while keeping the argument concise. The "choice" issue ties in nicely with the legality involving porn. Laws protect us from porn. Filters are not the right way to implement those laws because filters don't work... Could you make a closer tie between these two ideas?

The last few paragraphs are a nice review of the efforts being made by librarians everywhere to stop the insanity.

Let's just hope that anyone who reads Dr. Fray's article tries out the "Big Bang" query for him- or herself :)


Library filtering is necessary!, posted 17 Aug 2001 at 05:07 UTC by Ilan » (Master)

We North Carolinians need library filtering, dammit! How else are we going to protect our children from objectionable subjects like evolution and birth control methods other than abstinence?

Hate to sound trite..., posted 17 Aug 2001 at 06:13 UTC by abg » (Journeyer)

Filtering is an issue that will be with us until the day that we die. Nothing is going to make this issue go away - there will always be those out there who think that they have the right to tell us what is permissible for us and our children to see. Writing is good - an educated citizenry is an effective tool against censorship and intellectual oppression.

But there's something more effective out there that's being under-utilized by us geeks: Involvement. You (everyone reading this - yes you, even the slackers in their pajamas) can get involved in local government and be on the front lines of this battle. It's easy, I swear.

I should know. Concern over this issue drove me to apply for (and get) a spot on my city's Library Board. I've got a three-year term on our board and you had better believe that we will implement filtering over my dead body.

You [pointing out from the screen] can do this, it's not difficult, it's not terribly time-consuming, it's not boring. The people I have met while doing this have been exceptionally nice, very intelligent and there's not a day that goes by that I'm not glad I did it.

Time to beat your pens into plowshares, people. Get involved today. It's August. In the US, municipal elections are held in November - plenty of time to evaluate the current positions and find an opening where you fit.

Thanks for the comments etc, posted 18 Aug 2001 at 13:33 UTC by gregorsamsa » (Master)

Jason offered some very good editting suggestions making me wish that I had posted here before I hit deadline. As it happens the feature and opeds were in last Sunday's News and Observer. I feel pretty good about the online forum which followed the feature, but it's a bit lonely out there defending freedom. The state ACLU head told my wife: "I was glad to open the paper and see that it was Paul instead of me taking the heat on this one."

Adam Gurno really offers the most helpful suggestion to us all which is to get involved in the local politics of libraries. As a information and library school prof, I should have thought of that and should have done that long ago.

Our country will never have filters in the public library; the local DA tried to shutdown 2 Live Crew sales as offending community standards a while back. After he was flamed mercilessly, he announced: "Chapel Hill and Orange County's standards at too low to measure." and the music, such as it was, went back on sale. Still, I've been motivated to go for the Board by Adam's post and I hope you are too.

On note about Kip Frey. He is not Dr. Frey, but an entertainment lawyer turned high tech CEO. He admits that he knows nothing about technology, but he has managed to sell several startups for many $$$$. This ability alone (plus that fact that he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Duke Law) have earned him his various appointments at Duke.

Letters in the paper in response, posted 19 Aug 2001 at 13:02 UTC by gregorsamsa » (Master)

Today's N and O carried letters in response to the filtering feature. Among them was one that claimed that 'school uniforms' returns porn. A quick test of Google shows that that is not the case.What are these people using for searching?

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