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Judges questioned a government attorney Monday about whether it was possible for public library computers to block children’s access to pornography without also blocking access to important information. The American Civil Liberties Union and the American Library Association have filed lawsuits challenging the Children’s Internet Protection Act. It would block federal technology grants for libraries unless they install filters to keep children from viewing pornography. The ACLU and library association said the filters would prevent library patrons from viewing Web pages that included constitutionally protected speech. The three-judge panel Monday heard arguments on a government motion to dismiss the lawsuits. Edward R. Becker, chief judge of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said the law might require a library patron who wanted to look for information about a sexual dysfunction to ask a librarian to remove the filters. “This person would have to tell his or her neighbor, who is the librarian, or someone in the community, something which would be terribly embarrassing,” Becker said. U.S. Justice Department attorney Rupa Bhattacharyya said the law would only require libraries to uphold their local community standards. “Libraries make these kinds of decisions every day when they decide which books they put on the shelves and when they decide which books they keep on their shelves,” Bhattacharyya said. The judges did not say when they would rule. Libraries have until July 2002 to comply with the law. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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