Posted by Lori Ayre on April 20, 2009

The group Books Not Filters is trying to fight the push for installing expensive, and imperfect internet filters on public computers at San Jose Public Library. The group is behind the Vice Mayor's proposal. She is urging the Mayor and City Council to look at the bigger picture and respond accordingly.
Toward that end, the Vice Mayor compares the use of of the library against pornography viewing incidents noting that of 1.5 million computer sessions in the last two years, there have only been 14 complaints of people using the computers to view pornography.

Ratio of Pornography Viewing Complaints to Computer Sessions:

Additional context: The Vice Mayor suggests that any investment in filters should be deferred until after the San Jose Police Dept. is able to fully fund their Sexual Assault Investigation Unit (to catch the really bad guys), and after library hours per branch return to their FY 2000-2001 levels (to ensure full provision of services for youth), and after the crossing guard program is fully funded to match need (to keep kids from being run over).
Sounds darn reasonable to me.
Filters are right about 85% of the time (under the best of circumstances) and they are a bear to manage (correctly), and very expensive (for a good one....that makes mistakes only 15 of 100 web page views).
The Vice Mayor closes by recommending less expensive approaches to protecting children from pornography: using privacy screens and public campaigns urging parents to take greater responsibility for their kids' computer usage.
Good ideas...although privacy screens are expensive at $70 each (which accounts for 5-10% of the cost of each computer). At least they are relatively easy to manage. And they work. Parental involvement is good.
Teaching kids how to stay safe while using the Internet is even better.
Here's the Vice Mayor's letter if you care to read it.