Washington Supreme Court Hears Internet Filtering Case

June 25, 2009

The Washington state Supreme Court heard arguments June 23 in a challenge to the internet filtering policy of the North Central Regional Library, headquartered in Wenatchee. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in 2006 on behalf of three library users and the pro-firearm Second Amendment Foundation, seeking that the library be required to disable its filters when requested by an adult for research or other lawful purposes, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court when it upheld the Children’s Internet Protection Act in 2003.

“What the library does when it filters out selective pages from the Internet is the equivalent of acquiring the Encyclopedia Britannica and then ripping pages out of it,” argued ACLU attorney Duncan Manville.

When Chief Justice Gerry Alexander asked if restricting access to a website is any different than choosing what to put on library shelves, NCRL attorney Thomas Adams responded, “What we’re restricting are not individual sites. We’re making content-based decisions about categories of sites.”

Plaintiffs in Bradburn v. North Central Regional Library include a woman who sought to research on tobacco use by youth, a professional photographer blocked from using YouTube, and a man unable to access his own blog or locate information on gun use by hunters. The Second Amendment Foundation says the library blocked online access to its magazine Women and Guns. Although no timeframe was announced for when the court will issue its ruling, attorneys speculated that the decision could take months, the Wenatchee World reported June 23.