Co-sponsored by the Office for Intellectual Freedom and the Washington Office
This Web site is a joint effort of ALAs Office for Intellectual Freedom and Washington Office to provide you with information about ALAs activity regarding CIPA. Information on these pages will be updated often please check here frequently for new developments.
Congress passed the Childrens 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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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 dot.com 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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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 peacefire.org.
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
Placing terminals in highly trafficked areas
Whom Should I Contact for More Information?
Emily Sheketoff, Executive Director, ALA Washington Office at firstname.lastname@example.org
Don Wood, Program Officer/Communications, Office for Intellectual Freedom at email@example.com