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Libraries create Web paedophiles, ‘expert’ testifies

Child-protective crusaders seek Congressional intervention

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Public libraries are a hotbed of on-line pedo activity and must therefore be forced to install Internet filtering software on their public computers, psychotherapist Mary Anne Layden told a Congressional Committee on Children and Families which convened Tuesday to consider measures for protecting children from Internet predators. "What is happening in our public libraries is a national scandal," she said gravely. After a few hours' on-line perusal, "paedophiles can...leave the library with toxic messages and become carriers back to their jobs, their homes, onto the streets and into the schoolyard," she claimed. Layden said that permission-giving myths, dear to pedos, such as twisted notions that children actually enjoy being raped by adults, or that such perverse relations are in fact natural and healthy, are being propagated with unprecedented virulence via the Net. As a result, thirty-eight percent of American girls are sexually molested before they reach age eighteen, she claimed, citing a figure that strikes The Register as grotesquely overstated in spite of our well-known inclination towards pessimism regarding the darker regions of human nature. The American Library Association (ALA), Layden says, is responsible for all this savagery. The professional organisation consistently rejects all efforts to censor content at public libraries, and proudly snubs its nose at the idea of Internet filtering. "The use in libraries of software filters which block constitutionally protected speech is inconsistent with the United States Constitution and federal law and may lead to legal exposure for the library and its governing authorities," the organisation says. "The American Library Association affirms that the use of filtering software by libraries to block access to constitutionally protected speech violates the Library Bill of Rights." Layden excoriated the organisation for its stubborn stance, and for engendering continual interference from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She noted that on its Web site, the ALA even has the audacity to publish links to step-by-step instructions for teens on how to disable filtering software. "Libraries have become the new red-light districts," she said. This atmosphere of intellectual permissiveness makes it impossible for her to treat her patients effectively, she lamented; but she offered not one shred of factual data establishing a causal relationship between access to library computers and crimes committed in the real world, or any data on the frequency of such outrages. Thus we were left to regard her testimony as a lot of anecdotal victim-industry hype. Committee Chairman Judd Gregg (Republican, New Hampshire) was a bit less sceptical. "Should we require libraries to install filters?" he asked. "Absolutely," Layden replied. "The US government should not be spending taxpayer money to fund the sex industry," she snorted. Perhaps she has forgotten that the on-line porn industry is primarily responsible for making the Web a profitable commercial venue worthy, now, of attention from the Fortune 1000. Ranking Committee Member Christopher Dodd (Democrat, Connecticut) was not so well persuaded. "I live down the street from my library in East Haddam, Connecticut, and they've got a wonderful children's section there. Knowing the people who run that library....the idea that some national organisation would tell them what their policies ought to be, well, I would dare them to suggest it." "The idea that the ALA or librarians are a lot of paedophile promoters is something I don't support," he said. Perhaps the Senator too would like to see some factual data. The Register readily allows that children are defenceless and therefore entitled to greater protection than adults. But such protection might take the form of acknowledging that the Internet is by nature an adult venue, not a playground, and that parents should no more leave young children to wander unsupervised about in cyberspace than they would in downtown Manhattan. It would be tragic if public libraries were to come under the influence of anti-intellectual prudes and 'recovery' fanatics, such that the free exchange of ideas would be curtailed for all Americans merely in order to check the perversions, and facilitate the recovery, of a handful of deeply disturbed individuals. More to the point, the US Supreme Court, in a 1997 review of an Internet pornography issue involving the Communications Decency Act, ruled that "governmental regulation of the content of speech is more likely to interfere with the free exchange of ideas than to encourage it. The interest in encouraging freedom of expression in a democratic society outweighs any theoretical but unproven benefit of censorship." So there. ®

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