Document:California Press Release 8 May 1998 Libraries Restricting Free Speech

From LPedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Office of the Executive Director
11966 Moorpark St., #1
Studio City, CA 91604-1720
For release: May 8, 1998
For additional information:
Juan Ros, Executive Director
Phone: (818) 980-8833

Libraries restricting free speech? It's possible, says Libertarian Party of California

LOS ANGELES - A public library restricting free speech sounds like a scene out of "1984," but it could become a reality, warns the Libertarian Party of California.

The reason for this warning is a movement in the California Legislature to restrict Internet access in California's public libraries. Two bills - AB 2350 and AB 2391 - contain provisions to regulate who can access the Internet at the library.

"Libraries should be places of learning, reading, and research, but politicians are using them as battlegrounds over a ridiculous war against the Internet," said Mark Hinkle, state chair of the Libertarian Party of California. "And the consequences of this war could violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution."

AB 2350 would require public libraries providing Internet access to purchase, install, and maintain computer software that prohibits access to obscene matter. AB 2391 would require libraries to obtain parental consent for children ages 6 to 12 to use the Internet and would prohibit children under 6 from using the Internet at all.

"These laws provide further proof that the government wants to babysit us at all times," said Hinkle. "Do we really want the government to play the role of parent to our children?"

But there may be some hope on the horizon. This week, the Libertarian Party of Ventura County settled a lawsuit filed against the County of Ventura and its Library Services Agency. The lawsuit was filed in response to a County Library policy that required all patrons, including adults, to sign a promise that they would not visit Internet sites which were "sexually explicit." Patrons who refused to sign the promise were not permitted to access the Internet.

On May 6, the County agreed to amend the Internet policy to only prohibit downloading of material which meets the definition of "obscenity" as set forth in the U.S. Supreme Court case Miller v. California. Additionally, the library will not monitor which Internet sites individuals visit.

"Thanks to the Libertarian Party, Californians have won a skirmish against bureaucrats who would deprive us of a guaranteed civil liberty in the name of protecting children," said Hinkle.

"The Libertarian Party of California recognizes that parents are best qualified to supervise children, not the government. And the Libertarian Party has the ideal solution: privatize the libraries," suggested Hinkle. "That way library users can choose which library to patronize depending on the particular library's Internet access policies.

"A library's toughest penalty should be charging a dime a day for an overdue book, not restricting free speech."