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Intellectual Freedom Online November 1, 2010

Posted by AASL office in Knowledge Quest.
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Knowledge Quest: Intellectual Freedom Online

Knowledge Quest: Intellectual Freedom Online

Have you looked at the September/October 2010 Knowledge Quest issue? The theme of the issue, “Intellectual Freedom Online,” fulfills a need among the school library community to address the many issues of freedom of thought and expression on the internet, and also touches on the use of social media by students. This issue can provide YOU with a more clear understanding of your minor students’ rights online through features like Theresa Chmara’s article, “Minors’ First Amendment Rights: CIPA & School Libraries,” in which Chmara states “Statutory restrictions on Internet access, such as the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and similar state provisions, have limited access to material far beyond the categories the Supreme Court has held can be restricted. Filters restrict access to vast amounts of material that would be deemed “educationally suitable” for minors, and could not be categorized as obscene, harmful to minors, or child pornography.” i

Concern for students’ intellectual freedom online in schools surfaced after the passage of the Children’s Internet Protection Act [CIPA]. This act requires that schools accepting discounted services under the Universal Service Fund [aka E-rate program] and/or funding from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act [ESEA], must certify that they have installed “technology protection measures,” or filters, on all Internet-accessible computers used by minors and adults to protect against visual depictions of child pornography, obscenity, or material “harmful to minors” as defined under federal law (http://ifea.net/cipa.html). All too often this requirement has led to overly restrictive filtering of Internet resources affecting minors’ First Amendment right to receive information. Additionally, many administrators exhibited apprehension of students’ on campus use of Web 2.0 interactive tools despite the fact that the skills developed when using social media are necessary for success in a global society.

Fortunately federal legislators heard critics of filtering and amended CIPA to require schools applying for E-rate discounts, as part of their Internet safety policies, to educate students about appropriate online behavior on social networking sites, in chat rooms, and cyberbullying. The change occurred through the “Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act” signed into law as part of the Broadband Data Improvement Act by President Bush in 2008.

The parameters of intellectual freedom online are currently in a state of flux, but are evolving. There is and will continue to be a tension between minors’ First Amendment rights and concern about the types of material available online. Use the articles in the September/October issue of Knowledge Quest and the links to ALA Intellectual Freedom statements below, to start an online revolution in your school. Gain knowledge of minors’ rights online and find strategies to improve access to resources online and support for use of interactive Web tools.

-Helen Adams, Knowledge Quest Guest Editor, “Intellectual Freedom Online”

ALA Intellectual Freedom Statements Supporting Minors’ Rights Online

You can also register for Knowledge Quest Online, where you can read more about intellectual freedom in the November/December 2007 issue of Knowledge Quest titled “Intellectual Freedom 101.”


i Chmara, Theresa. “Minors’ First Amendment Rights: CIPA & School Libraries.” Knowledge Quest 39.1 (2010) 16-21. Print.

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