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  Welcome to ALA's CIPA Web Site

Welcome to ALA’s
CIPA Web Site

Co-sponsored by the
Office for Intellectual Freedom and the Washington Office

This Web site is a joint effort of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and Washington Office to provide you with information about ALA’s activity regarding CIPA. Information on these pages will be updated often — please check here frequently for new developments.
Support ALA’S CIPA Legal Fund!
Although the Office for Intellectual Freedom is responsible for the Headlines, Litigation, Resources, and Press Releases pages, and the Washington Office is responsible for the Legislation, Q & A, and Regulations & Guidance pages, both offices are working together to ensure that this site is as up-to-date, informative, and useful as possible.


April 5: FCC Publishes E-Rate Filtering Regulations; E-Rate Year Four Affected

The Children's Internet Protection Act
Next Steps for Libraries
Next Steps for ALA
Message to ALA Members
Talking points for spokespeople addressing CIPA litigation and related issues

Congress passed the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and the Neighborhood Internet Protection Act (NCIPA) as part of a major spending bill (H.R. 4577) on December 15, 2000. The President signed the bill into law on December 21, 2000 (Public Law 106-554). The Acts place restrictions on the use of funding that is available through the Library Services and Technology Act, Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and on the Universal Service discount program known as the E-rate. These restrictions take the form of requirements for Internet safety policies and technology which blocks or filters certain material from being accessed through the Internet. The law will become effective on April 20, 2001.

Next Steps for Libraries:

  • Do not rush to make changes to your current policies and procedures.

  • Continue to use current federal grants and E-rate discounts. Certifications under the new law will not need to be made until funding or application cycles that begin after April 20. Even in the first year that certifications are required, libraries and schools do not need to have a policy and technology in place. Instead they can certify that they are beginning the processes needed to develop a policy that includes the use of a blocking or filtering technology.

You have TIME. Use it!:

  • Begin a local dialogue about what the new laws will mean to your library. Include board members and local legal counsel.

  • Consider adopting local resolutions similar to the Resolution on Opposition to Federally Mandated Filtering adopted by ALA at its Midwinter meeting in January 2001.

  • Be prepared for increased press and community interest in how your library manages public Internet access.

  • Make the most of the updated Libraries and the Internet Toolkit: Tips and Guidance for Managing and Communicating about the Internet available from ALA at

  • Document the impact these new laws have in your library. Regardless of how your library chooses to respond to CIPA and NCIPA, the laws will have an impact either through loss of funding, increased expense or reduction of library services.

  • Share the stories of how this law impacts your library with library users, legislators, press and ALA. You can send stories to ALA via the Office for Intellectual Freedom or the Washington Office. These offices will be working closely together and sharing whatever input they receive from the library community.

  • Participate in any regulatory processes originated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Department of Education through written comments.

Next Steps for ALA:

Talking points for ALA spokespeople addressing CIPA litigation and related issues:


  • Librarians care deeply about children. Libraries already have policies and programs to ensure children have an enriching and safe online experience. More than 95 percent of public libraries have Internet-use policies that were created with community input and local control, and they offer classes on how to use the Internet to get good information.

  • In our libraries, we find kids use the Internet the same way they use other library services. They work on homework assignments, read about sports, music and other interests, and communicate with their friends. The vast majority of children and adults continue to use the library responsibly and appropriately.

  • The American Library Association believes strongly that the Children's Internet Protection Act is unconstitutional. The filtering mandate imposed by Congress is unworkable in the context of a public institution because it restricts access to constitutionally protected speech for the users depending on libraries. No filtering or blocking technology exists that blocks access only to speech that is obscene, child pornography or harmful to minors. And no filtering technology protects children from all objectionable materials.

  • We're concerned filters give parents a false sense of security that their children are protected when they aren't. Education is more effective than filters - kids need to make good decisions about what they read and view, no matter where they are.

  • If the same standards used in online filters were applied to a library's books and not just its Web, the shelves would practically empty. Filtering technology is not subtle enough to distinguish between Hustler and Shakespeare. Filters work by spotting words, not by making judgments about decency. The word "sex" - whether in a medical context, a law book or a great poem - is all a filter needs to "see" to block the page or site. Emptying the Internet the way these filters would empty a library is not "better than nothing" for our children. It deprives them of much of the world's great science, art and politics.

21st-Century Literacy:
  • The Internet is good for kids. The Internet is changing how we live, learn, work and interact with one another. If today's children are to succeed, they must learn information literacy skills for ever-changing technologies.

  • Librarians guide children to quality materials, whether books or Internet sites. We also provide classes to help teach children and parents about the Internet. In an information-rich society, librarians are information smart.

Local control:
  • Libraries are very local institutions. About 80 percent of all public library funding is local, the programs are developed to be responsive to local requests, and the policies governing libraries are developed with local trustees and community members. Federal legislation robs libraries of local decision-making and control. More than 95 percent of public libraries have Internet-use policies that were created with community input.

Libraries' mission:
  • Filters are contrary to the mission of the public library, which is to provide access to the broadest range of information for a community of diverse individuals. Filters block access to critical, constitutionally protected speech related to many subject areas. Filters have been shown to block access to medical information, political information and information related to the arts and literature.

Information literacy and privacy:
  • The focus on filters distracts attention and energy away from solving other online concerns. With more than 4 million new pages added to the Web every day, librarians are needed more than ever to cut through the information jungle and help lead library users to the best information sources - whether online or in print.

  • It also is of concern what filtering companies are doing with data they collect. It has been reported recently that one major filtering company (N2H2) was selling data it secrectly collected about children's surfing habits.

  • You don't know what you aren't getting. Filters inhibit web searching and browsing. Because commercial filtering companies consider their "blacklists" to be proprietary, readers online with a filtered computer don't know what sites are being blocked. This obviously inhibits users' ability to ask their librarian to unblock a given site.

  • The determination of whether material is obscene and, thus, not constitutionally protected must be made by a court. Commercial filtering companies cannot be permitted to take the place of a court of law.

  • Most of the filtering technology products tested recently by Consumer Reports failed to block one objectionable site in five.

  • It doesn't make sense for the federal government to subsidize filters by forcing libraries and schools to buy them. Shouldn't the free market prevail? If filters were effective, more people would be buying them. Libraries like Chicago Public researched using filters and found, among other things, that their own site was filtered out.

  • Who is better equipped to guide your children to quality material online - your librarian or a software developer at a filtering firm?

  • A mechanical device cannot substitute for a parent's watchful eye. According to a recent survey by Jupiter Research, only 6 percent of parent use stand-alone filtering technology.

Funding and the digital divide:
  • More than $190 million has been disbursed over three years with the federal e-rate program.

  • The Library Services and Technology Act has distributed more than $782 million to libraries nationwide since 1998.

  • The e-rate and LSTA programs specifically support improving access to technology in libraries. Forcing libraries to choose between funding for telecommunications services and new computer hardware and censoring access to such vital resources like medical or political information means library users will lose - especially those in the most poverty-stricken and geographically isolated areas of the country.

Internet-use policies:
  • More than 95 percent of public libraries have Internet-use policies that were created with community input and local control. Libraries may: require library cards to use the Internet, require a signed agreement to be on file, monitor computer usage or locate Internet-access stations in highly trafficked areas, among other policies.

  • The vast majority of children and adults continue to use the library and the Internet responsibly and appropriately.

Internet safety:
  • Education is the key. Filters aren't the only way to protect children - or the best. Parents don't need filters to protect their children online any more than they need a bodyguard to protect them in public. Filtering won' t help kids understand there are certain people they shouldn't talk to on the Internet, and it won't teach them how to avoid negative sites.

  • Parents should teach their children practical safety - that online or in public, the same rules apply: "Don't talk to strangers" and "Don't reveal information about yourself or your family just because you were asked for it." Most libraries offer Internet safety classes and tips online.

Libraries are safe places:
  • Libraries are very safe, but they are open to everyone. Parents should accompany young children to the library and establish rules and expectations for older children. It's important to teach children how to make good decisions about what they read and view, no matter where they are.

School libraries:
  • The American Library Association believes strongly that the Children's Internet Protection Act is unconstitutional in both the context of the public library and the school library. The American Library Association remains firmly committed to supporting the school community and pledges to support any legal effort by school groups to challenge the constitutionality of the Children's Internet Protection Act in the school context.

  • The ALA does not, however, have legal standing to challenge CIPA on behalf of school libraries because school libraries are not the direct recipients of federal funds under this statute, but rather receive funding through their individual schools. The school entities that apply, receive and oversee the federal funds at issue under these statutes are not ALA members. The school libraries that are members of the American Library Association do not function independently of the schools for purposes of funding under the statutes, and, as a result, do not have legal standing.

Librarians and filters:
  • Librarians should not be put in the position of deciding what is "legitimate" or "objectionable" on a case-by-case basis.

Libraries with filters:
  • The ALA's role is to recommend policies that promote the highest quality library and information services for the public. ALA respects the right of local libraries to adopt policies that uphold this ideal and meet the needs of their library users. Our association believes filters are not the best way to protect children.

  • The Children's Internet Protection Act is a misnomer. The legislation does not strictly limit access for minors, but for adults and all Internet users in a library.

A few examples:
  • Access to medical information:
    Library users may be seriously hurt by their inability to access vital information at their public library. For example, a young victim of physical or sexual abuse is unlikely to be able to access information at home and would be embarrassed or uneasy asking for information sites on this topic to be unfiltered, if he or she even knew what Web site to ask for unblocking. This could be similarly true with such topics as drug abuse help, gay and lesbian support, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and more. Depending on the level of explicit detail, these health and education sites are likely to be filtered for their information about sex or drugs.

  • Access to political information:
    One filter erroneously blocked the Web site of Republican Congressional candidate Jeffery Pollack for "full nudity," partial nudity" and "sexual acts/tests." Once favoring mandatory filtering, Pollack now opposes filtering and has since removed pro-filtering statements from his Web site. The sites of more than 30 candidates across the country were blocked in some manner, according to a November 2000 study conducted by

  • Libraries and Internet-use practices

    • "White lists" - which are used particularly in children's area to direct kids to kid-friendly areas. The "home page" and search engines are geared to children's sites.

    • Internet classes on how to use the Internet for the most enriching and safe experience

    • Can only use Internet with library card

    • Must sign a document abiding by library's guidelines

    • Time restrictions

    • Placing terminals in highly trafficked areas

    • Staff monitoring

Whom Should I Contact for More Information?

Emily Sheketoff, Executive Director, ALA Washington Office at
Don Wood, Program Officer/Communications, Office for Intellectual Freedom at

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Copyright © 2000, American Library Association.
Last Modified: Friday, 06-Apr-2001 15:53:23 CDT

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