A legal skirmish is shaping up over the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which passed the United States Senate 95-3 last December. Sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), CIPA requires libraries receiving federally subsidized Internet access to use filtering technology to block potentially offensive Web sites from underage viewers.

On March 20, the American Library Association (ALA) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) each filed U.S. District Court lawsuits to prevent implementation of the measure, which takes effect on April 20.

The bill mandates the technology for public libraries that seek Universal Service discounts (also known as the "E-rate") for Internet access or that seek Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds for Internet-related expenses. According to the ALA, over $190 million has been given to more than 5,000 public libraries through the federal E-rate program.

"Mandated filters don't necessarily protect kids," said Candace Morgan, a librarian in Vancouver, Washington, and president of the ALA's Freedom to Read Foundation, which is a plaintiff in the suit.

"You can't rely on them to protect kids," she added, because "filters assume all kids are the same and all families have the same concerns. The best way is for libraries to work with parents and the communities to develop what fits in that community."

"The government is choking off the free flow of information on the Internet to the library patrons who need it the most," said Ann Beeson, a member of the ACLU legal team that filed its challenge at the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

The measure, McCain said in a statement, "does not dictate any specific actions be taken by communities or apply a federal standard, it ...

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