Media Release: Supreme Court Supports Library Internet Blocking Law
For Immediate Release: Monday, June 23, 2003
Online Policy Group
Supreme Court Supports Library Internet Blocking Law
Damages Free Speech of Library Patrons and Web Publishers
San Francisco -
The Supreme Court ruled today that a federal
statute requiring Internet blocking, also known as filtering,
in libraries receiving certain federal funds or discounts is
constitutional. Reversing a lower court decision by the
Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the court noted that the
use of Internet blocking to comply with the Children's
Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in libraries is
constitutional because the need for libraries to prevent
minors from accessing obscene materials outweighs the free
speech rights of library patrons and website publishers.
The CIPA law requires all schools and libraries that receive
federal funds or discounts to install and use a technology
for blocking Internet speech that is obscene, child
pornography, or in the case of minors, "harmful to minors."
However, based on extensive evidence, the lower court in this
case found that many studies report that Internet blocking
software is incapable of blocking only the materials required
by CIPA, a conclusion supported by many independent studies.
The CIPA law is also problematic because speech that is
harmful to minors is still legal for adults, and many
library patrons are adults.
"The Supreme Court today dealt a tremendous blow to the free
speech rights of child and adult library patrons and
Internet publishers by supporting Congress' mandate that
libraries must install faulty Internet blocking software to
obtain federal funding or discounts," said Electronic
Frontier Foundation (EFF) Attorney Kevin Bankston, an Equal
Justice Works / Bruce J. Ennis Fellow.
"The tragedy is that millions of library patrons now join
the millions of students, many of them no longer minors, who
face the Internet blocking barrier to obtaining a proper
education at schools nationwide," said OPG Executive
Director Will Doherty. "The Children's Internet Protection
Act holds library patrons and students hostage to faulty
blocking software created with arbitrary standards foreign
to their own communities."
EFF participated as co-counsel with the American Civil
Liberties Union in the case.
OPG and Seth Finkelstein entered an amicus brief to the
U.S. Supreme Court in the case.
For this media release:
U.S. Supreme court decision (large PDF file):
ALA v. USA case archive:
Amicus brief from OPG and Seth Finkelstein:
Online Policy Group and Electronic Frontier Foundation
study on the effects of Internet blocking in schools:
More on Children's Internet Protection Act:
American Library Association CIPA information:
The Online Policy Group (OPG) is a nonprofit organization
dedicated to online policy research, outreach, and action on
issues such as access, privacy, and digital defamation. The
organization fulfills its motto of "one Internet with equal
access to all" through projects such as donation-based email
list hosting, web hosting, domain registrations, and now
colocation services. OPG focuses on Internet participants'
civil liberties and human rights, like access, privacy,
safety, and serving schools, libraries, disabled, elderly,
youth, women, and sexual, gender, and ethnic minorities.
Find out more at
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading civil
liberties organization working to protect rights in the
digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF actively encourages and
challenges industry and government to support free
expression and privacy online. EFF is a member-supported
organization and maintains one of the most linked-to
websites in the world at
- end -
top of page