Sponsor of state’s library Internet bill will ‘probably’ remove filtering language

Tuesday, May 25, 1999

The California state senator who is sponsoring a bill designed to prevent minors from accessing Internet pornography at public libraries says he will most likely change the bill from a filtering measure to what he terms a “parental consent” measure.

As introduced by state Sen. Joe Baca last January, the measure requires public libraries to provide “computer software” that prohibits access to “obscene matter.”

However, the bill faces opposition in the Senate Public Safety Committee. On May 11, the measure failed to clear the committee after members deadlocked 3-3.

On May 18, the committee voted 5-0 to reconsider the bill at a later date. Baca said that he “will probably” amend the measure by removing the language requiring mandatory filtering in public libraries.

“It is apparent that several members of the committee will not vote for the bill as it is,” Baca said. “I have a lot of work ahead of me to keep the bill alive.”

Baca says that he prefers to require filters on public library computers but realizes that he may have to take “little steps instead of giant steps.”

Even if the measure is changed so that minors must only have parental consent to access the Internet, it would still “create awareness and act as a red light to parents that there is some harmful material out there on the Internet.”

“This bill is simply about protecting children,” he said.

However, one filtering advocate, David Burt, founder of Filtering Facts, does not support the idea of amending the bill.

“That is better than nothing; it is at least something, but that puts parents in the position of all or nothing,” he said. “Parents have to make the choice of unrestricted access or no access at all.”

Burt says removing the bill's filtering language amounts to “gutting the bill.”

Mandatory filtering is needed, he says, because of what he calls a “rash of incidents” of children accessing Internet pornography in public libraries.

“This is an increasing problem and it is not going to go away,” he said.

Baca says he has not set a timetable on when he will offer an amended version of the bill to the Public Safety Committee. He has the option of leaving the bill as it is, amending it and presenting it for reconsideration; or he can turn the measure into a two-year bill and have the Legislature consider it next year.