Internet-filtering measure clears Arizona House committee

Tuesday, February 16, 1999

A bill in the Arizona Legislature that would require public schools to install blocking software on school computers and public libraries to either install software or establish a policy to restrict minors from accessing sexually explicit material is expected to be voted on by the full House by next week.

Last week, the rules committee approved the measure by a 6-2 vote.

Arizona legislator Mark Anderson introduced the bill on Jan. 18 to, in his words, “protect the innocence of children.”

“The Internet is a fantastic tool,” he said, “but there is inappropriate material out there on the Net. This bill is designed to be a reasonable means of protecting children from such material.”

Under the proposal, public schools could either “equip the computer” with blocking software or “purchase Internet connectivity from an Internet service provider that provides filter services to limit access to explicit sexual materials.”

The bill would give more flexibility to public libraries. Libraries would have to limit minors' access to sexually explicit materials by installing blocking software, contracting with an ISP that performs filtering services, or developing “a policy that establishes measures to restrict minors from gaining computer access to explicit sexual materials.”

Public libraries would have to develop such a policy by Jan. 1, 2000.

David Burt, president of Filtering Facts, says he supports the proposed legislation, especially the approach taken with respect to public libraries. “The flexibility the measure gives toward public libraries should insulate it from constitutional attack,” he said.”We have taken a flexible approach with respect to public libraries,” Anderson said, adding that — unlike last year — he does not expect any opposition from the Arizona Library Association.

Under the measure, public schools and libraries that take these steps cannot be sued “for any damages that might arise from a minor gaining access to explicit sexual materials” through library or school computers.

The identical bill that Anderson introduced last year cleared the full House but died in the Senate on a 15-15 vote. “There was some misinformation out there that the bill mandated filtering at public libraries,” Anderson said.

This year Anderson is optimistic that the measure will pass both the House and Senate, though he added that “you never know what will happen in the Senate.”