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Seattle Library Allows People To View Porn On Its Public Computers

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File photo of a computer being used in a library. (Photo by Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images)

File photo of a computer being used in a library. (Photo by Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images)

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LAKE CITY, Wash. (CBS Seattle) — Parents are concerned about letting their children go to the Lake City branch of the Seattle Public Library after a man was reportedly allowed to look at porn on one of the library’s public computers.

On multiple occasions, parents with young children have complained to library clerks and officials about patrons surfing the Internet for pornographic videos and images.

“We’re a library, so we facilitate access to constitutionally protected information,” Seattle Public Library spokeswoman Andra Addison told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “We don’t tell people what they can view and check out … Filters compromise freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment. We’re not in the business of censoring information.”

Addison added that the library’s computer access rules stipulate that computers in the children’s section of the building are blocked for content control purposes. The general access computers are located elsewhere.

For parents, the distinction has not helped them protect their children from graphic sexual imagery.

An area blog, Lake City Live, recently posted a letter from concerned mother Julie Howe, who told of her encounter with easily visible pornographic material at the library.

“I left (my kids) in the children’s section and went to look through the movie section, where I noticed that a man was watching hard core pornography (including anal penetration (and) other adult content) on a computer where the screen was facing out into the library,” the letter stated. “I told the librarian and asked for help in having him move to a more discreet location. She … was sympathetic, but said that the library doesn’t censor content and they can’t be in the business of monitoring what their patrons are doing at any given computer.”

Howe added that, when she asked the man himself to move, he also declined.

The library’s decision to allow for the viewing of pornography is not a state mandate – in fact, the Washington state Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that libraries are permitted to filter content without fear of legal retribution.

“A library’s need to exercise judgment in making collection decisions depends on its traditional role in identifying suitable and worthwhile material,” the document states. “It is no less entitled to play that role when it collects material from the Internet than when it collects material from any other source.”

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