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Civil liberties groups and libraries plan to file suit Tuesday to stop a recently passed law that would require schools and libraries to install Internet filters on public computers. Critics say the law — which had strong bipartisan support in Congress — pushes a bad technology on schools, removes community control and fails to provide money to pay for the software. Its supporters are rallying for a battle that’s expected to reach the Supreme Court. Unless a judge grants an injunction, schools and libraries will have to install filters next month or lose their federal funds earmarked for Internet access. “We don’t think this is a useful way to make sure that children have a safe and enriching experience online,” said Nancy Kranich, president of the American Library Association, which will represent libraries and patrons in the suit. The ALA is working closely with the American Civil Liberties Union, which will file a similar lawsuit Tuesday. The groups will file the lawsuits in Philadelphia, where the successful challenge to the Communications Decency Act was launched. It was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1997. Critics of the new law contend that Internet filters fail to block many inappropriate sites while denying access to others that shouldn’t be blocked. “They leave parents with a false sense of security,” Kranich said, adding that parents should be making the decisions, not software. Last month, Consumer Reports magazine concluded that filtering software generally fails to block one of every five Web sites deemed objectionable for children. Susan Getgood, a vice president at SurfControl, which owns the two most-used filtering tools, disagreed and said filters are usually very effective. But she still objects to the law. “We remain for choice and against mandated filtering,” Getgood said. “The best point of control is local control.” The Multnomah County Library in Portland, Ore., offers patrons a choice between filtered and unfiltered Internet access and is joining the ACLU suit. Director Ginny Cooper said she would like to keep that choice intact. “Some of my colleagues (at other libraries) have made the choice that access should be filtered. That’s fine,” she said. “But for the first time ever, (Congress) reached through all the layers of government and said, ‘This is now how you’ll do it.’ I just don’t think that’s appropriate.” One of the law’s supporters said that if schools and libraries don’t want to use filters, they don’t have to accept federal funding for telecommunications access. “If local schools and libraries are expecting the government to pay the freight, then there ought to be conditions on it,” said Bruce Taylor, president of the National Law Center for Children and Families. “Congress doesn’t want taxpayers’ money going to pedophiles and porn addicts.” The ACLU’s Emily Whitfield said the filter law doesn’t just affect children. She said adults who can’t afford Internet access at home will only see a filtered Internet at libraries. “You’re really turning them into second-class citizens,” Whitfield said. “They’re getting a different Web experience than people who are not using library computers.” Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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