Law

Legislation – United States
Two notable federal laws cover filtering software: The Children’s Internet Protection Act and the Communications Decency Act.  Several U.S. states also have filtering laws.

Legal Cases – United States
Filtering software played a prominent role in a number of United States court cases, including three separate cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.   The U.S. Supreme Court addressed the constitutionality of filtering software in public libraries in ALA v. U.S., and held the use of filtering software a “less restrictive alternative” to federal laws requiring restrictions on Internet pornography in ACLU v. Reno and Gonzales v ACLU II

Lower U.S. courts have considered the use of filtering software in other cases related to public libraries, including Mainstream Loudoun v. Board, and Kathleen R v. City of Livermore.   Two other cases involving public libraries are Adamson v. Minneapolis Public Library, which was settled out of court, and Bradburn v. North Central Regional Library District.

Other cases include Edelman v. N2H2, and Microsystems v. Scandinavia Online, which both involved the proprietary nature of filtering databases; and Center for Democracy & Technology v. Pappert which addressed the mandated filtering of child pornography websites by ISPs in Pennsylvania.

Detailed Case information, including rulings, pleadings, and other documents:

Below are some legal opinions and policy papers related to filtering:

Year Publisher Title Description
2004 Open Net Initiative A Starting Point: Legal Implications of Internet Filtering Considers some of the legal implications of controlling access to Internet content through filtering.
2004 First Monday Lawfully Surfing the Net: Disabling Public Library Internet Filters to Avoid More Lawsuits in the United States Discuss the legal and public policy implications of filtering policies regarding disabling filter in public libraries in light of CIPA.
2004 First Monday Potential legal challenges to the application of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in public libraries Explores potential problems related to the implementation of CIPA that could affect the exercise of free speech in public libraries.
2003 First Amendment Center Internet Filters and Public Libraries Discusses the legal, policy, and technological context of filtering in libraries in the aftermath of the US Supreme Court decision ALA v. U.S.
2003 Concerned Women for America Library Procedures for Disabling Software Filtering and Unblocking Web Sites Discusses the legal practicalities for libraries implementing CIPA, including unblocking and disabling web filters.
2003 Cato Institute United States v. American Library Association: A Missed Opportunity for the Supreme Court to Clarify Application of First Amendment Law to Publicly FundedExpressive Institutions Argues that existing legal doctrines such as  public forums and unconstitutional conditions are not adequate to address the legal issues surrounding the use of filtering software in public libraries.
2002 ACLU Censorship in a Box: Why Blocking Software is Wrong for Public Libraries Provides an in depth look at why mandatory blocking software should be considered inappropriate and unconstitutional in libraries.
2002 Fordham Law Journal Like A Sieve: The Child Internet Protection Act and Ineffective Filters in Libraries Analyzes the constitutional implications of CIPA and describes  how the statute runs afoul of both the First and Fourteenth amendments.
2002 ACLU Fahrenheit 451.2: Is Cyberspace Burning? Originally published in 1997 and updated in 2002, this paper examines the various potential threats to Internet free speech, including filtering software.
1999 Family Research Council Filtering and Blocking Technology: The Most Effective Methods of Protecting Children from Internet Pornography Documents the problem of children being exposed to Internet pornography, and argues that filtering software is a key part of the solution. 18 pages
1998 Harvard Law School What Things Regulate Speech: CDA 2.0 vs. Filtering Discusses the legal landscape and advisability of filtering software versus government regulation.
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