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King County libraries allow porn on computers

When surfing the Internet at King County libraries, adult patrons have the right to access anything they wish – including porn.

“Pornography is a subjective term, and what may be porn to one person may not be to another,” said Julie Brand, King County Library System spokeswoman. “We in no way try to censor or monitor what anyone deems appropriate for themselves.”

The King County Library System adheres to the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). This federal law requires K-12 schools and libraries to install Internet filters that protect children from potentially harmful online content. CIPA was signed into law in 2000, and was declared constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003.

King County libraries, including both Federal Way branches, filter Internet access for patrons ages 17 and under. Anyone over age 17 may request that the filter be removed. Unless they are accessing illegal content such as child pornography, for example, adults have no Internet restrictions at public libraries.

The issue surfaced earlier this month after a man was caught masturbating at the Federal Way Regional Library. According to the police report, the man was viewing pornography on a library computer. He was detained by police without incident over the lewd act.

Similar incidents have cropped up from time to time since the Internet arrived at King County libraries, Brand said, noting the challenges for libraries and similar public places that attract people from all walks of life. While it is a concern for libraries to minimize children’s exposure to inappropriate content, that responsibility ultimately falls on parents, she said.

The library may ask a patron to use a privacy screen that prevents accidental viewing of content that could be deemed offensive by other library patrons. Otherwise, the libraries support patrons’ right to access any content they wish. Libraries serve as a bastion for intellectual freedom, Brand said, and any restrictions on legal materials would compromise that foundation.

“If somebody’s viewing something that’s objectionable to someone else, we do our best as libraries to protect the rights to view what they want to view,” Brand said. “Libraries are a manifestation of what democracy is about. One of our democratic rights is intellectual freedom.”

KCLS consists of 48 libraries and is considered the biggest library system in the United States in terms of circulation. Federal  Way’s libraries are located at 31500 First Ave. S. and 848 S. 320th St. To learn more, visit www.kcls.org.

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