Censorship:
A Comparison of Three Countries

Introduction:

Our scenario involves censorship in public libraries. In 1997, the Loudon County Library had a "Policy on Internet Sexual Harassment" that among other things, required that "All library computer would be equipped with site-blocking software to block all sites displaying: (a) child pornography and obscene material; and (b) material deemed harmful to juveniles".

The software that was being used to block web sites is X-Stop by Log-On Data Corporation. A major problem with the software is that it blocks sites that should not be blocked based on the Libraryís Policy. Sites including, The Safer Sex Page and the Books for Gay and Lesbian Teens/Youth page were blocked.

A Loudon non-profit organization sued the library under the accusation that the policy violates the first amendment because it discriminates against protected speech on the basis of content. The library lost the case.


Responses:

  

Conclusion:

Freedom of speech has been challenged by many different organizations.  Internet access has been at the top of the argument in recent years.  The United States has extended its First Amendment to include the viewing of anything that is in the public domain.  Other countries have different policies.  We also reviewed Germany, and Saudi Arabia's policies on filtering software and its control on the public's view.

 

We have concluded that the United States would and did rule on the side of the plaintiff (independent party).  Sited violations by the defendant were that the filtering software did not zero in enough, it restricts adults, and contains insufficient safeguards to review blocked sites.  The use of the filtering software has been deemed unconstitutional by the US government.  Germanyís government has had a history of blocking material from its public especially when it pertains to influencing children.  We also determined that Saudi Arabia would support the libraries use of the software since they block a great deal of public information using a gateway controlled by a single group.  The KACST seeks to protect Muslim values, traditions, and culture by blocking influential content.

 

We determined that both Germany and Saudi Arabia would be in favor of the public library's use of filtering software, while the United States ruled against it.
 


References:

Memorandum Opinion & Order in Loudon Co. Library Case
http://www.eff.org/Legal/Cases/Loudoun_library/HTML/19981123_opinion_order.html

EFF - Another Victory for Free Speech on the Internet
http://www.eff.org/Legal/Cases/Loudoun_library/HTML/19981123_eff_statement.html

Freedom House: Press Freedom Survey 2000
http://www.freedomhouse.org/pfs2000/sussman.html

The Internet in the Mideast and North Africa
http://www.hrw.org/advocacy/internet/mena/saudi.htm

Arab Media: Saudi internet rules
http://www.al-bab.com/media/docs/saudi.htm

A Brief Look At Internet Censorship
http://www.cogs.susx.ac.uk/users/bend/atc/2000/web/dougals/

Silencing The Net - Summary
http://www.oneworld.org/news/partner_news/hrw/hrw1.htm

EFF Statement on Loudon Ruling -
 http://www.eff.org/Legal/Cases/Loudoun_library/HTML/19981123_eff_statement.html

Memorandum Opinion & Order in Loudon Co. Library Case -
 http://www.eff.org/Legal/Cases/Loudoun_library/HTML/19981123_opinion_order.html

Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition
http://www.ciec.org/

News Release from Congressman Rick White (R-WA)
http://www.ciec.org/SC_appeal/970626_White.html
 


Last updated 2001/12/26
Created by "Group 8", CS 3604, Fall 2001.