County library board OKs extension of porn-filtering software

The county library systems 10-member governing body voted unanimously Thursday night to extend the filtering of pornographic material on its public computers.

The software on adult-use computers will block Web sites depicting sex acts. The software on the computers used by minors also will block adult personals sites.

Prince William County began filtering out such Internet content March 14.

More than 20 citizens attended the meeting, some speaking in support of filtering Internet activity. The library systems Board of Trustees, like other systems around the country, had to weigh parents concerns about what their children view on library computer monitors against the belief that filtering is a form of censorship.

“Your physical selection [of books] is what the filters are designed or hoped to do,” said Bruce Taylor, president of the National Law Center for Children and Families. He said the first word-based filters that were made in 1995 were crude and blocked searches such as “Middlesex County” but “none of the modern filters do that anymore.”

Library Director Dick Murphy said the filtering software has 30 categories that can be activated to block Web sites.

The library has used the filtering during the past two weeks to test out the software; Murphy disclosed the results of the testing in closed session with the library board.

Supervisor Edgar S. Wilbourn III, R-Gainesville, began the push for the filters more than two years ago.

“Personally, I would go as far as I could, even into the gray area … they choose the books that go into the library. I think we can choose what goes into the library through the Internet,” Wilbourn said before Thursday nights vote. The county attorney, with whom the library board met in the two-hour closed session, would advise the library board on what types of “gray areas” it should filter, he said.

The library system includes libraries in Manassas and Manassas Park.

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