Having just discussed ACLU v Gonzalez this week, the 2006 decision that struck down the Child Online Protection Act, this headline caught my eye: $285,000 to install at S.J. libraries, plus yearly outlays. At the instigation of city councilor Pete Constant San Jose is reconsidering its 1997 decision not to install software filters. ACLU v Gonzalez rests in part on the court’s findings that software filters provide an effective and less-restrictive means than COPA of limiting minors’ access to objectionable materials. (I’m putting aside arguments about the definition of what is objectionable.) Why, I wondered, is the cost of installing filters in San Jose libraries so expensive?
Library director Jane Light said it would cost cash-strapped San Jose $285,000 to implement library computer filtering and $265,000 a year to maintain it. Most of that cost – $210,000 – would come from adding staff seven days a week to handle requests to unblock legitimate Internet sites, as Constant has suggested.
It’s not the filtering software that is expensive, it’s protecting access to constitutionally-protected speech that adults have the right to obtain or that filters should not block in the first place.