California lawmaker pushes for Internet filters in libraries

Monday, March 23, 1998

SACRAMENTO (AP) — Peter Frusetta says it's an insult to adults to call pornography “adult material.” Now the rancher-assemblyman wants to keep obscene matter by any name off public library computers.

Frusetta has a bill before an Assembly committee this week that would require libraries offering Internet access for patrons to buy and use software that screens obscene matter.

Frusetta's library bill is scheduled to go before the Assembly Local Government Committee on Wednesday.

The bill states that: “Every public library that provides public access to the Internet shall purchase, install, and maintain computer software that prohibits access to obscene matter” as defined by California law.

Devin Brown, spokesman for Assemblyman Frusetta, said: “The bill will be amended so that only those computer terminals that are used primarily by children will be required to be equipped with filtering software.”

The Tres Pinos Republican is concerned that children can walk into a public library and surf through a lot of the sleazy, explicit and downright trashy stuff on the Internet.

Frusetta had strong words about the “adult material” during a committee discussion last week of an unrelated bill.

“I object to the use of the term 'adult material.' It's an insult to adults. We ought to call it what it is: pornography. A rotten egg still stinks,” he said.

But Frusetta's bill, like most recent state and national attempts to curb the free and open nature of the Internet, runs smack into the First Amendment.

Libraries have a strong tradition of resisting censorship. The American Library Association's Bill of Rights, adopted by many local libraries, states that materials should not be restricted based on the age of the user or disagreement with the content of the materials.

The policy says it is up to parents to monitor their children's reading materials.

Libraries around the state have applied that general policy to their Internet access policies.

The Cerritos Public Library, for example, states: “The library has no control over the information on the Internet and cannot be held responsible for its content, accuracy or images viewed. As is the case with other material in the library's collection, any restriction to a minor's access to the Internet is the responsibility of the parent or legal guardian.”

And the Butte County Library advises that “some Internet systems may contain defamatory, inaccurate, corrupt, abusive, obscene, profane, threatening, offensive or illegal material.”

The library also states that parents should supervise their children's use.

First Amendment Center staff contributed to this report.