• October 31, 2014
  • Welcome!
    |
    ||
    Logout|My Dashboard

Queens Chronicle

New bill: keep porn from kids in library

Print
Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Thursday, May 19, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 2:07 pm, Thu May 26, 2011.

   Patrons of Queens public libraries are allowed to use their one hour of Internet time however they’d like, even if they want to watch pornography. At least formally, it doesn’t matter if the person using a nearby computer is a youngster.

   Public porn viewers are protected under the First Amendment, but a new bill authored by councilmen David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn) and Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) aims to protect children who may be close by.

   Following recent media coverage of the issue and a few incidents at city libraries outside of Queens, the councilmen announced on Sunday bipartisan legislation that would make it a misdemeanor criminal offense to watch pornography in a public library within 100 feet of a minor.

   The penalty would be a maximum fine of $10,000 and prison time.

   “This is a common-sense piece of legislation,” Ulrich said in a prepared statement released Tuesday, “Kids shouldn’t be exposed to sexually explicit content, and taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for it either.”

   Prior to the Internet, XXX-rated material in libraries largely was not an issue; they simply didn’t use government dollars to subscribe to dirty magazines.

   With the advent of public computers and the Web, a vast ocean of information was made available to patrons, but that also meant a library could no longer easily choose the content it wished to make available inside its doors.

   Queens libraries have more than 1,200 computers for public use. Most branches have children’s sections in which all computers are permanently filtered in compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act, prohibiting all adult material from being accessed.

   Regular library computers have the same filters, but they can be manually turned off by an adult over the age of 17. Once the filter is off, a person is permitted to view any legal content they desire, including pornography, because of the liberties outlined in the First Amendment.

   “It is our mission to maintain free access to information in all formats,” Joanne King, the spokeswoman for Queens public libraries, said in an email.

   King also maintained that Queens libraries have a behavior policy. If a person viewing objectionably graphic material is disturbing another library customer, that person will be required to stop or leave.

   “It is a behavior issue. Period,” King said.

   But who decides what material is objectionably graphic? King did not have a specific answer, but referred to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart who famously described his threshold test for porn in a 1964 trial by saying, “I know it when I see it.”

   The proposed law could prove equally as ambiguous and difficult to enforce, but a more strict bill enforcing more filters could encroach on civil liberties.

   The American Civil Liberties Union in New York failed to comment for this article, but several Queens residents expressed their concrete opinions.

   “It shouldn’t be allowed in libraries at all,” Rob Caloras, president of Community Education Council 26 and a father of young children, said. “That would avoid the problem of criminalizing something that is legal under other circumstances.”

   Several Queens residents outside of the library at the corner of Austin Street and 63rd Drive agreed with Caloras, including Yvonne Fernandez of Rego Park.

   “These are public funds. If we can’t use them for Planned Parenthood, we shouldn’t be able to use them for people to watch porn,” she said.

   Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), chairman of the Cultural Affairs and Libraries Committee and a former Queens Library official, expressed interest in working with the other members to pass the bill.

   “The safety of children visiting the library has got to be No. 1,” Van Bramer said.

Welcome to the discussion.