A series of tubes…

Threats to intellectual freedom and civil liberties, of course, are not confined solely to the machinations of what seems to have become a politicized and out-of-control Justice Department. Members of Congress, pursuing their various political and economic agendas, are also piling on, with legislation aimed at policing the Internet in the name of defending minors against salacious material and untoward strangers.

While the latter justification is ostensibly a worthy one, one must question the motivations of those politicians who would put the burden of overseeing the Internet activities of minors on librarians, and on adult patrons of libraries. This, of course, is to say nothing of the constitutional implications of having the government set standards for what library patrons may or may not access on the Internet in public libraries.

Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska plans to introduce a bill that would require libraries receiving federal e-rate funding to block “social networking” websites from underage users – unless they are under adult supervision, and accessed for “an education al purpose.” Yes, this is the same Senator Stevens who made a fool of himself on the Senate floor last year with his rambling and ill-informed remarks about net neutrality.

This proposed legislation comes on the heels of similar bills being drafted in Illinois, Georgia, and North Carolina, that would restrict access to sites like MySpace and Facebook to children and teens.


The problem with these laws is that they are vague (the definition of “social networking” being too broad), and they place an undue burden for supervising the activities of minors on libraries. Moreover, as Deborah Caldwell-Stone of the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom noted, the bills don’t address the need for educating youth in the safe use of the Internet. Rather, she said, they will “drive youth on the Internet underground, where they will be far more vulnerable to predators.”




“Senator Revises Web Monitoring Bill,” American Libraries, April 20, 2007. Online (April 22, 2007) Available http://www.ala.org/ala/alonline/currentnews/newsarchive/2007/april2007/stevensbill.cfm


“Three States and Feds Pursue Social Networking Controls,” American Libraries, February 16, 2007. Online (April 22, 2007) Available http://www.ala.org/ala/alonline/currentnews/newsarchive/2007/february2007/socialnets.cfm


Liz Ruskin “Internet ‘Tubes’ Speech Turns Spotlight, Ridicule onto Sen. Stevens,” McClatchy Newspapers, July 15, 2006. CommonDreams.org New Center. Online (April 22, 2007) Available http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0715-06.htm


“A series of Tubes,” The Daily Show with John Stuart, July 12, 2006. YouTube, March 20, 2007. Online (April 22, 2007) Available http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ziHACCI9zvs

Explore posts in the same categories: Patriot Act and Libraries

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