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The only federal court (at the time of this writing) to consider the question ruled unconstitutional the mandatory filtering of Internet access for the adult patrons of public libraries. That 1998 decision helped the American Library Association and other free speech advocates fend off mandatory filtering for two years at the state and federal level, against the vigorous efforts of filtering proponents. Then, in 2000, the U.S. Congress conditioned federal funding of libraries on filter use, forcing the question into the courts as the latest colossal struggle over Internet regulation. This Article contends that the federal court in 1998 was right, and the Article counters criticism that has been leveled against that decision since. The public library is the quintessential venue for citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to receive information and ideas. As such, the library should be preserved against the imposition of automated content filters, which are too imprecise, and alternatively value-laden or arbitrary, to meet exacting constitutional safeguards.


Originally published by the Washington Law Review.