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Op-ed: S.L. County libraries respect First Amendment, but they don’t let patrons view porn

First Published      Last Updated Apr 23 2016 01:36 pm

A Salt Lake Tribune article with the headline "Utah ceremonially declares porn a 'public health crisis'" refers to a bill by the Utah Legislature, sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler and Rep. Curtis Oda and adopted during the recent session. The resolution (SCR9) recognizes pornography as "a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms."

In the article, Weiler is quoted as saying, "Kids as young as 12 are being exposed to porn in places such as the library and fast-food restaurants, using the facilities' unprotected, free Wi-Fi." 

Salt Lake County Library Services prides itself in being a safe community hub for all people. As a library, we respect the First Amendment while employing precautions to protect and to prevent exploitation of our customers. Acceptable use and wireless network policies have been in place and enforced for more than a decade.



Per our wireless network policy, "Wireless Internet access is subject to the Internet Access and Computer Use Policy, the Salt Lake County Library System Internet Acceptable Use Statement, the Salt Lake County Library System Online Privacy Statement, the Library Use and Behavior Policy and all other related Library policies." Residents can find these on our website.

Our Internet Access and Computer Use Policy states, in part, "The Salt Lake County Library Board's policy is to provide Internet safety and Internet safety for minors by prohibiting Internet access to visual depictions of sexually explicit material that are child pornography, harmful to minors or obscene. Consistent with library policy and pursuant to Utah Code Annotated (UCA) 9-7-215, the library employs technology protection on all publicly accessible computers connected to the Internet and on the wireless Internet connection that is designed to block or filter visual depictions that are: I) child pornography, II) harmful to minors; or III) obscene; without, in as much as possible, infringing on the rights of library patrons to access constitutionally protected materials." 

Free Wi-Fi/Internet offered at all Salt Lake County Library facilities is protected and filtered via network security. Anyone who attempts to use our Wi-Fi/Internet receives the following message stating in part:

"The Library is a public space. Using the Library's Wireless Internet Access to view pornography or obscenity is prohibited. Online gambling sites are also prohibited according to Utah Code Annotated 76-10-1102. The Library does not provide personal technical support for users attempting to access its free public wireless network and does not guarantee specific rates of speed or uninterrupted service. Use of the Library wireless network and the Internet in general is at the USER'S SOLE RISK. Parents and guardians of children under 18 are responsible for their minors' use of the Library's Internet connection to access information. Unauthorized access to the Library's network or hardware and/or any damage to these resources is prohibited."

Once connected, those who attempt to access pornographic content will receive a "Page Blocked" message. Additionally, any attempt to access gambling content is prohibited — a matter that is also addressed in our Internet Access and Computer Use Policy. 

Safety is also addressed in our Safe Child Policy, which emphasizes the library's concern about the safety and welfare of children visiting the library and advises that "parents or legal guardians are fully responsible safety, security, and monitoring of their children while on library property."

Patrons and taxpayers should know that Salt Lake County Library Services does not provide unprotected, free WiFi. We take our dual responsibilities of childhood safety and free speech very seriously.

Jim Cooper is Salt Lake County Library director.

 

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