IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, : CIVIL ACTION INC., et al. : : v. : : UNITED STATES, et al. : NO. 01-1303 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - MULTNOMAH COUNTY PUBLIC : CIVIL ACTION LIBRARY, et al. : : v. : : UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al. : NO. 01-1322
Before: BECKER, Chief Circuit Judge, FULLAM and BARTLE, District Judges.
OPINION OF THE COURT
May 31, 2002
Becker, Chief Circuit Judge
I. Preliminary Statement II. Findings of Fact A. Statutory Framework 1. Nature and Operation of the E-rate and LSTA Programs 2. CIPA a. CIPA's Amendments to the E-rate Program b. CIPA's Amendments to the LSTA Program B. Identity of the Plaintiffs 1. Library and Library Association Plaintiffs 2. Patron and Patron Association Plaintiffs 3. Web Publisher Plaintiffs C. The Internet 1. Background 2. The Indexable Web, the "Deep Web"; Their Size and Rates of Growth and Change 3. The Amount of Sexually Explicit Material on the Web D. American Public Libraries 1. The Mission of Public Libraries, and Their Reference and Collection Development Practices 2. The Internet in Public Libraries a. Internet Use Policies in Public Libraries b. Methods for Regulating Internet Use E. Internet Filtering Technology 1. What Is Filtering Software, Who Makes It, and What Does It Do? 2. The Methods that Filtering Companies Use to Compile Category Lists a. The "Harvesting" Phase b. The "Winnowing" or Categorization Phase c. The Process for "Re-Reviewing" Web Pages After Their Initial Categorization 3. The Inherent Tradeoff Between Overblocking and Underblocking 4. Attempts to Quantify Filtering Programs' Rates of Over- and Underblocking 5. Methods of Obtaining Examples of Erroneously Blocked Web Sites 6. Examples of Erroneously Blocked Web Sites 7. Conclusion: The Effectiveness of Filtering Programs III. Analytic Framework for the Opinion: The Centrality of Dole and the Role of the Facial Challenge IV. Level of Scrutiny Applicable to Content-based Restrictions on Internet Access in Public Libraries A. Overview of Public Forum Doctrine B. Contours of the Relevant Forum: the Library's Collection as a Whole or the Provision of Internet Access? C. Content-based Restrictions in Designated Public Fora D. Reasons for Applying Strict Scrutiny 1. Selective Exclusion From a "Vast Democratic Forum" 2. Analogy to Traditional Public Fora V. Application of Strict Scrutiny A. State Interests 1. Preventing the Dissemination of Obscenity, Child Pornography, and Material Harmful to Minors 2. Protecting the Unwilling Viewer 3. Preventing Unlawful or Inappropriate Conduct 4. Summary B. Narrow Tailoring C. Less Restrictive Alternatives D. Do CIPA's Disabling Provisions Cure the Defect? VI. Conclusion; Severability FOOTNOTES
1. Preliminary Statement
This case challenges an act of Congress that makes the use of filtering software by public libraries a condition of the receipt of federal funding. The Internet, as is well known, is a vast, interactive medium based on a decentralized network of computers around the world. Its most familiar feature is the World Wide Web (the "Web"), a network of computers known as servers that provide content to users. The Internet provides easy access to anyone who wishes to provide or distribute information to a worldwide audience; it is used by more than 143 million Americans. Indeed, much of the world's knowledge accumulated over centuries is available to Internet users almost instantly. Approximately 10% of the Americans who use the Internet access it at public libraries. And approximately 95% of all public libraries in the United States provide public access to the Internet.
While the beneficial effect of the Internet in expanding the amount of information available to its users is self-evident, its low entry barriers have also led to a perverse result facilitation of the widespread dissemination of hardcore pornography within the easy reach not only of adults who have every right to access it (so long as it is not legally obscene or child pornography), but also of children and adolescents to whom it may be quite harmful. The volume of pornography on the Internet is huge, and the record before us demonstrates that public library patrons of all ages, many from ages 11 to 15, have regularly sought to access it in public library settings. There are more than 100,000 pornographic Web sites that can be accessed for free and without providing any registration information, and tens of thousands of Web sites contain child pornography. Libraries have reacted to this situation by utilizing a number of means designed to insure that patrons avoid illegal (and unwanted) content while also enabling patrons to find the content they desire. Some libraries have trained patrons in how to use the Internet while avoiding illegal content, or have directed their patrons to "preferred" Web sites that librarians have reviewed. Other libraries have utilized such devices as recessing the computer monitors, installing privacy screens, and monitoring implemented by a "tap on the shoulder" of patrons perceived to be offending library policy. Still others, viewing the foregoing approaches as inadequate or uncomfortable (some librarians do not wish to confront patrons), have purchased commercially available software that blocks certain categories of material deemed by the library board as unsuitable for use in their facilities. Indeed, 7% of American public libraries use blocking software for adults. Although such programs are somewhat effective in blocking large quantities of pornography, they are blunt instruments that not only "underblock," i.e., fail to block access to substantial amounts of content that the library boards wish to exclude, but also, central to this litigation, "overblock," i.e., block access to large quantities of material that library boards do not wish to exclude and that is constitutionally protected.
Most of the libraries that use filtering software seek to block sexually explicit speech. While most libraries include in their physical collection copies of volumes such as The Joy of Sex and The Joy of Gay Sex, which contain quite explicit photographs and descriptions, filtering software blocks large quantities of other, comparable information about health and sexuality that adults and teenagers seek on the Web. One teenager testified that the Internet access in a public library was the only venue in which she could obtain information important to her about her own sexuality. Another library patron witness described using the Internet to research breast cancer and reconstructive surgery for his mother who had breast surgery. Even though some filtering programs contain exceptions for health and education, the exceptions do not solve the problem of overblocking constitutionally protected material. Moreover, as we explain below, the filtering software on which the parties presented evidence in this case overblocks not only information relating to health and sexuality that might be mistaken for pornography or erotica, but also vast numbers of Web pages and sites that could not even arguably be construed as harmful or inappropriate for adults or minors.
The Congress, sharing the concerns of many library boards, enacted the Children's Internet Protection Act ("CIPA"), Pub. L. No. 106-554, which makes the use of filters by a public library a condition of its receipt of two kinds of subsidies that are important (or even critical) to the budgets of many public libraries grants under the Library Services and Technology Act, 20 U.S.C. Sec. 9101 et seq. ("LSTA"), and so-called "E-rate discounts" for Internet access and support under the Telecommunications Act, 47 U.S.C. Sec. 254. LSTA grant funds are awarded, inter alia, in order to: (1) assist libraries in accessing information through electronic networks, and (2) provide targeted library and information services to persons having difficulty using a library and to underserved and rural communities, including children from families with incomes below the poverty line. E-rate discounts serve the similar purpose of extending Internet access to schools and libraries in low-income communities. CIPA requires that libraries, in order to receive LSTA funds or E-rate discounts, certify that they are using a "technology protection measure" that prevents patrons from accessing "visual depictions" that are "obscene," "child pornography," or in the case of minors, "harmful to minors." 20 U.S.C. Sec. 9134(f)(1)(A) (LSTA); 47 U.S.C. Sec. 254(h)(6)(B) & (C) (E- rate).
The plaintiffs, a group of libraries, library associations, library patrons, and Web site publishers, brought this suit against the United States and others alleging that CIPA is facially unconstitutional because: (1) it induces public libraries to violate their patrons' First Amendment rights contrary to the requirements of South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203 (1987); and (2) it requires libraries to relinquish their First Amendment rights as a condition on the receipt of federal funds and is therefore impermissible under the doctrine of unconstitutional conditions. In arguing that CIPA will induce public libraries to violate the First Amendment, the plaintiffs contend that given the limits of the filtering technology, CIPA's conditions effectively require libraries to impose content-based restrictions on their patrons' access to constitutionally protected speech. According to the plaintiffs, these content- based restrictions are subject to strict scrutiny under public forum doctrine, see Rosenberger v. Rector & Visitors of Univ. of Va., 515 U.S. 819, 837 (1995), and are therefore permissible only if they are narrowly tailored to further a compelling state interest and no less restrictive alternatives would further that interest, see Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844, 874 (1997). The government responds that CIPA will not induce public libraries to violate the First Amendment, since it is possible for at least some public libraries to constitutionally comply with CIPA's conditions. Even if some libraries' use of filters might violate the First Amendment, the government submits that CIPA can be facially invalidated only if it is impossible for any public library to comply with its conditions without violating the First Amendment.
Pursuant to CIPA, a three-judge Court was convened to try the issues. Pub. L. No. 106-554. Following an intensive period of discovery on an expedited schedule to allow public libraries to know whether they need to certify compliance with CIPA by July 1, 2002, to receive subsidies for the upcoming year, the Court conducted an eight-day trial at which we heard 20 witnesses, and received numerous depositions, stipulations and documents. The principal focus of the trial was on the capacity of currently available filtering software. The plaintiffs adduced substantial evidence not only that filtering programs bar access to a substantial amount of speech on the Internet that is clearly constitutionally protected for adults and minors, but also that these programs are intrinsically unable to block only illegal Internet content while simultaneously allowing access to all protected speech. As our extensive findings of fact reflect, the plaintiffs demonstrated that thousands of Web pages containing protected speech are wrongly blocked by the four leading filtering programs, and these pages represent only a fraction of Web pages wrongly blocked by the programs. The plaintiffs' evidence explained that the problems faced by the manufacturers and vendors of filtering software are legion. The Web is extremely dynamic, with an estimated 1.5 million new pages added every day and the contents of existing Web pages changing very rapidly. The category lists maintained by the blocking programs are considered to be proprietary information, and hence are unavailable to customers or the general public for review, so that public libraries that select categories when implementing filtering software do not really know what they are blocking.
There are many reasons why filtering software suffers from extensive over- and underblocking, which we will explain below in great detail. They center on the limitations on filtering companies' ability to: (1) accurately collect Web pages that potentially fall into a blocked category (e.g., pornography); (2) review and categorize Web pages that they have collected; and (3) engage in regular re-review of Web pages that they have previously reviewed. These failures spring from constraints on the technology of automated classification systems, and the limitations inherent in human review, including error, misjudgment, and scarce resources, which we describe in detail infra at 58-74. One failure of critical importance is that the automated systems that filtering companies use to collect Web pages for classification are able to search only text, not images. This is crippling to filtering companies' ability to collect pages containing "visual depictions" that are obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors, as CIPA requires. As will appear, we find that it is currently impossible, given the Internet's size, rate of growth, rate of change, and architecture, and given the state of the art of automated classification systems, to develop a filter that neither underblocks nor overblocks a substantial amount of speech.
The government, while acknowledging that the filtering software is imperfect, maintains that it is nonetheless quite effective, and that it successfully blocks the vast majority of the Web pages that meet filtering companies' category definitions (e.g., pornography). The government contends that no more is required. In its view, so long as the filtering software selected by the libraries screens out the bulk of the Web pages proscribed by CIPA, the libraries have made a reasonable choice which suffices, under the applicable legal principles, to pass constitutional muster in the context of a facial challenge. Central to the government's position is the analogy it advances between Internet filtering and the initial decision of a library to determine which materials to purchase for its print collection. Public libraries have finite budgets and must make choices as to whether to purchase, for example, books on gardening or books on golf. Such content-based decisions, even the plaintiffs concede, are subject to rational basis review and not a stricter form of First Amendment scrutiny. In the government's view, the fact that the Internet reverses the acquisition process and requires the libraries to, in effect, purchase the entire Internet, some of which (e.g., hardcore pornography) it does not want, should not mean that it is chargeable with censorship when it filters out offending material. The legal context in which this extensive factual record is set is complex, implicating a number of constitutional doctrines, including the constitutional limitations on Congress's spending clause power, the unconstitutional conditions doctrine, and subsidiary to these issues, the First Amendment doctrines of prior restraint, vagueness, and overbreadth. There are a number of potential entry points into the analysis, but the most logical is the spending clause jurisprudence in which the seminal case is South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203 (1987). Dole outlines four categories of constraints on Congress's exercise of its power under the Spending Clause, but the only Dole condition disputed here is the fourth and last, i.e., whether CIPA requires libraries that receive LSTA funds or E-rate discounts to violate the constitutional rights of their patrons. As will appear, the question is not a simple one, and turns on the level of scrutiny applicable to a public library's content-based restrictions on patrons' Internet access. Whether such restrictions are subject to strict scrutiny, as plaintiffs contend, or only rational basis review, as the government contends, depends on public forum doctrine.
The government argues that, in providing Internet access, public libraries do not create a public forum, since public libraries may reserve the right to exclude certain speakers from availing themselves of the forum. Accordingly, the government contends that public libraries' restrictions on patrons' Internet access are subject only to rational basis review. Plaintiffs respond that the government's ability to restrict speech on its own property, as in the case of restrictions on Internet access in public libraries, is not unlimited, and that the more widely the state facilitates the dissemination of private speech in a given forum, the more vulnerable the state's decision is to restrict access to speech in that forum. We agree with the plaintiffs that public libraries' content-based restrictions on their patrons' Internet access are subject to strict scrutiny. In providing even filtered Internet access, public libraries create a public forum open to any speaker around the world to communicate with library patrons via the Internet on a virtually unlimited number of topics. Where the state provides access to a "vast democratic forum," Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844, 868 (1997), open to any member of the public to speak on subjects "as diverse as human thought," id. at 870 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted), the state's decision selectively to exclude from the forum speech whose content the state disfavors is subject to strict scrutiny, as such exclusions risk distorting the marketplace of ideas that the state has facilitated. Application of strict scrutiny finds further support in the extent to which public libraries' provision of Internet access uniquely promotes First Amendment values in a manner analogous to traditional public fora such as streets, sidewalks, and parks, in which content-based restrictions are always subject to strict scrutiny.
Under strict scrutiny, a public library's use of filtering software is permissible only if it is narrowly tailored to further a compelling government interest and no less restrictive alternative would serve that interest. We acknowledge that use of filtering software furthers public libraries' legitimate interests in preventing patrons from accessing visual depictions of obscenity, child pornography, or in the case of minors, material harmful to minors. Moreover, use of filters also helps prevent patrons from being unwillingly exposed to patently offensive, sexually explicit content on the Internet.
We are sympathetic to the position of the government, believing that it would be desirable if there were a means to ensure that public library patrons could share in the informational bonanza of the Internet while being insulated from materials that meet CIPA's definitions, that is, visual depictions that are obscene, child pornography, or in the case of minors, harmful to minors. Unfortunately this outcome, devoutly to be wished, is not available in this less than best of all possible worlds. No category definition used by the blocking programs is identical to the legal definitions of obscenity, child pornography, or material harmful to minors, and, at all events, filtering programs fail to block access to a substantial amount of content on the Internet that falls into the categories defined by CIPA. As will appear, we credit the testimony of plaintiffs' expert Dr. Geoffrey Nunberg that the blocking software is (at least for the foreseeable future) incapable of effectively blocking the majority of materials in the categories defined by CIPA without overblocking a substantial amount of materials. Nunberg's analysis was supported by extensive record evidence. As noted above, this inability to prevent both substantial amounts of underblocking and overblocking stems from several sources, including limitations on the technology that software filtering companies use to gather and review Web pages, limitations on resources for human review of Web pages, and the necessary error that results from human review processes.
Because the filtering software mandated by CIPA will block access to substantial amounts of constitutionally protected speech whose suppression serves no legitimate government interest, we are persuaded that a public library's use of software filters is not narrowly tailored to further any of these interests. Moreover, less restrictive alternatives exist that further the government's legitimate interest in preventing the dissemination of obscenity, child pornography, and material harmful to minors, and in preventing patrons from being unwillingly exposed to patently offensive, sexually explicit content. To prevent patrons from accessing visual depictions that are obscene and child pornography, public libraries may enforce Internet use policies that make clear to patrons that the library's Internet terminals may not be used to access illegal speech. Libraries may then impose penalties on patrons who violate these policies, ranging from a warning to notification of law enforcement, in the appropriate case. Less restrictive alternatives to filtering that further libraries' interest in preventing minors from exposure to visual depictions that are harmful to minors include requiring parental consent to or presence during unfiltered access, or restricting minors' unfiltered access to terminals within view of library staff. Finally, optional filtering, privacy screens, recessed monitors, and placement of unfiltered Internet terminals outside of sight- lines provide less restrictive alternatives for libraries to prevent patrons from being unwillingly exposed to sexually explicit content on the Internet. In an effort to avoid the potentially fatal legal implications of the overblocking problem, the government falls back on the ability of the libraries, under CIPA's disabling provisions, see CIPA Sec. 1712 (codified at 20 U.S.C. Sec. 9134(f)(3)), CIPA Sec.1721(b) (codified at 47 U.S.C. Sec. 254(h)(6)(D)), to unblock a site that is patently proper yet improperly blocked. The evidence reflects that libraries can and do unblock the filters when a patron so requests. But it also reflects that requiring library patrons to ask for a Web site to be unblocked will deter many patrons because they are embarrassed, or desire to protect their privacy or remain anonymous. Moreover, the unblocking may take days, and may be unavailable, especially in branch libraries, which are often less well staffed than main libraries. Accordingly, CIPA's disabling provisions do not cure the constitutional deficiencies in public libraries' use of Internet filters.
Under these circumstances we are constrained to conclude that the library plaintiffs must prevail in their contention that CIPA requires them to violate the First Amendment rights of their patrons, and accordingly is facially invalid, even under the standard urged on us by the government, which would permit us to facially invalidate CIPA only if it is impossible for a single public library to comply with CIPA's conditions without violating the First Amendment. In view of the limitations inherent in the filtering technology mandated by CIPA, any public library that adheres to CIPA's conditions will necessarily restrict patrons' access to a substantial amount of protected speech, in violation of the First Amendment. Given this conclusion, we need not reach plaintiffs' arguments that CIPA effects a prior restraint on speech and is unconstitutionally vague. Nor do we decide their cognate unconstitutional conditions theory, though for reasons explained infra at note 36, we discuss the issues raised by that claim at some length. For these reasons, we will enter an Order declaring Sections 1712(a)(2) and 1721(b) of the Children's Internet Protection Act, codified at 20 U.S.C. Sec. 9134(f) and 47 U.S.C. Sec. 254(h)(6), respectively, to be facially invalid under the First Amendment and permanently enjoining the defendants from enforcing those provisions.II. Findings of Fact 1. Statutory Framework 1. Nature and Operation of the E-rate and LSTA Programs In the Telecommunications Act of 1996 ("1996 Act"), Congress directed the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") to take the steps necessary to establish a system of support mechanisms to ensure the delivery of affordable telecommunications service to all Americans. This system, referred to as "universal service," is codified in section 254 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended by the 1996 Act. See 47 U.S.C. Sec. 254. Congress specified several groups as beneficiaries of the universal service support mechanism, including consumers in high-cost areas, low-income consumers, schools and libraries, and rural health care providers. See 47 U.S.C. Sec. 254(h)(1). The extension of universal service to schools and libraries in section 254(h) is commonly referred to as the Schools and Libraries Program, or "E-rate" Program.
Under the E-rate Program, "[a]ll telecommunications carriers serving a geographic area shall, upon a bona fide request for any of its services that are within the definition of universal service . . ., provide such services to elementary schools, secondary schools, and libraries for educational purposes at rates less than the amounts charged for similar services to other parties." 47 U.S.C. Sec. 254(h)(1)(B). Under FCC regulations, providers of "interstate telecommunications" (with certain exceptions, see 47 C.F.R. Sec. 54.706(d)), must contribute a portion of their revenue for disbursement among eligible carriers that are providing services to those groups or areas specified by Congress in section 254. To be eligible for the discounts, a library must: (1) be eligible for assistance from a State library administrative agency under the Library Services and Technology Act, see infra; (2) be funded as an independent entity, completely separate from any schools; and (3) not be operating as a for-profit business. See 47 C.F.R. Sec. 54.501(c). Discounts on services for eligible libraries are set as a percentage of the pre-discount price, and range from 20% to 90%, depending on a library's level of economic disadvantage and its location in an urban or rural area. See 47 C.F.R. Sec. 54.505. Currently, a library's level of economic disadvantage is based on the percentage of students eligible for the national school lunch program in the school district in which the library is located.
The Library Services and Technology Act ("LSTA"), Subchapter II of the Museum and Library Services Act, 20 U.S.C. Sec. 9101 et seq., was enacted by Congress in 1996 as part of the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997, Pub. L. No. 104-208. The LSTA establishes three grant programs to achieve the goal of improving library services across the nation. Under the Grants to States Program, LSTA grant funds are awarded, inter alia, in order to assist libraries in accessing information through electronic networks and pay for the costs of acquiring or sharing computer systems and telecommunications technologies. See 20 U.S.C. Sec. 9141(a). Through the Grants to States program, LSTA funds have been used to acquire and pay costs associated with Internet-accessible computers located in libraries. 2. CIPA The Children's Internet Protection Act ("CIPA") was enacted as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2001, which consolidated and enacted several appropriations bills, including the Miscellaneous Appropriations Act, of which CIPA was a part. See Pub. L. No. 106-554. CIPA addresses three distinct types of federal funding programs: (1) aid to elementary and secondary schools pursuant to Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, see CIPA Sec. 1711 (amending Title 20 to add Sec. 3601); (2) LSTA grants to states for support of libraries, see CIPA Sec. 1712 (amending the Museum and Library Services Act, 20 U.S.C. Sec. 9134); and (3) discounts under the E-rate program, see CIPA Sec. 1721(a) & (b) (both amending the Communications Act of 1934, 47 U.S.C. Sec. 254(h)). Only sections 1712 and 1721(b) of CIPA, which apply to libraries, are at issue in this case.
As explained in more detail below, CIPA requires libraries that participate in the LSTA and E-rate programs to certify that they are using software filters on their computers to protect against visual depictions that are obscene, child pornography, or in the case of minors, harmful to minors. CIPA permits library officials to disable the filters for patrons for bona fide research or other lawful purposes, but disabling is not permitted for minor patrons if the library receives E-rate discounts. 1. CIPA's Amendments to the E-rate Program
Section 1721(b) of CIPA imposes conditions on a library's participation in the E-rate program. A library "having one or more computers with Internet access may not receive services at discount rates," CIPA Sec. 1721(b) (codified at 47 U.S.C. Sec. 254(h)(6)(A)(i)), unless the library certifies that it is "enforcing a policy of Internet safety that includes the operation of a technology protection measure with respect to any of its computers with Internet access that protects against access through such computers to visual depictions that are (I) obscene; (II) child pornography; or (III) harmful to minors," and that it is "enforcing the operation of such technology protection measure during any use of such computers by minors." CIPA Sec. 1721(b) (codified at 47 U.S.C. Sec. 254(h)(6)(B)). CIPA defines a "technology protection measure" as "a specific technology that blocks or filters access to visual depictions that are obscene, . . . child pornography, . . . or harmful to minors." CIPA Sec. 1703(b)(1) (codified at 47 U.S.C. Sec. 254(h)(7)(I)).
To receive E-rate discounts, a library must also certify that filtering software is in operation during adult use of the Internet. More specifically, with respect to adults, a library must certify that it is "enforcing a policy of Internet safety that includes the operation of a technology protection measure with respect to any of its computers with Internet access that protects against access through such computers to visual depictions that are (I) obscene; or (II) child pornography," and that it is "enforcing the operation of such technology protection measure during any use of such computers." CIPA Sec. 1721(b) (codified at 47 U.S.C. Sec. 254(h)(6)(C)). Interpreting the statutory terms "any use," the FCC has concluded that "CIPA makes no distinction between computers used only by staff and those accessible to the public." In re Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service: Children's Internet Protection Act, CC Docket No. 96-45, Report and Order, FCC 01-120, 30 (Apr. 5, 2001). With respect to libraries receiving E-rate discounts, CIPA further specifies that "[a]n administrator, supervisor, or other person authorized by the certifying authority . . . may disable the technology protection measure concerned, during use by an adult, to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purpose." CIPA Sec.1721(b) (codified at 47 U.S.C. Sec. 254(h)(6)(D)). 2. CIPA's Amendments to the LSTA Program Section 1712 of CIPA amends the Museum and Library Services Act (20 U.S.C. Sec. 9134(f)) to provide that no funds made available under the Act "may be used to purchase computers used to access the Internet, or to pay for direct costs associated with accessing the Internet," unless such library "has in place" and is enforcing "a policy of Internet safety that includes the operation of a technology protection measure with respect to any of its computers with Internet access that protects against access through such computers to visual depictions" that are "obscene" or "child pornography," and, when the computers are in use by minors, also protects against access to visual depictions that are "harmful to minors." CIPA Sec. 1712 (codified at 20 U.S.C. Sec. 9134(f)(1)). Section 1712 contains definitions of "technology protection measure," "obscene," "child pornography," and "harmful to minors," that are substantially similar to those found in the provisions governing the E-rate program. CIPA Sec. 1712 (codified at 20 U.S.C. Sec. 9134(f)(7)); see also supra note 2.
As under the E-rate program, "an administrator, supervisor or other authority may disable a technology protection measure . . . to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purposes." CIPA Sec. 1712 (codified at 20 U.S.C. Sec. 9134(f)(3)). Whereas CIPA's amendments to the E-rate program permit disabling for bona fide research or other lawful purposes only during adult use, the LSTA provision permits disabling for both adults and minors. 2. Identity of the Plaintiffs 1. Library and Library Association Plaintiffs Plaintiffs American Library Association, Alaska Library Association, California Library Association, Connecticut Library Association, Freedom to Read Foundation, Maine Library Association, New England Library Association, New York Library Association, and Wisconsin Library Association are non-profit organizations whose members include public libraries that receive either E-rate discounts or LSTA funds for the provision of Internet access. Because it is a prerequisite to associational standing, we note that the interests that these organizations seek to protect in this litigation are central to their raison d'tre.
Plaintiffs Fort Vancouver Regional Library District, in southwest Washington state; Multnomah County Public Library, in Multnomah County, Oregon; Norfolk Public Library System, in Norfolk, Virginia; Santa Cruz Public Library Joint Powers Authority, in Santa Cruz, California; South Central Library System ("SCLS"), centered in Madison, Wisconsin; and the Westchester Library System, in Westchester County, New York, are public library systems with branch offices in their respective localities that provide Internet access to their patrons. The Fort Vancouver Regional Library District, for over three years from 1999-2001, received $135,000 in LSTA grants and $19,500 in E-rate discounts for Internet access. The Multnomah County Public Library received $70,000 in E-rate discounts for Internet access this year, and has applied for $100,000 in E-rate discounts for the upcoming year. The Norfolk Public Library System received $90,000 in E-rate discounts for Internet access this year, and has received a $200,000 LSTA grant to put computer labs in eight of its libraries. The Santa Cruz Public Library Joint Powers Authority received $20,560 in E-rate discounts for Internet access in 2001-02. The SCLS received between $3,000 and $5,000 this year in E-rate discounts for Internet access. The Fort Vancouver Regional Library District Board is a public board whose members are appointed by elected county commissioners. The Multnomah County Library is a county department, whose board is appointed by the county chair and confirmed by the other commissioners. The SCLS is an aggregation of 51 independently governed statutory member public libraries, whose relationship to SCLS is defined by state law. The governing body of the SCLS is the Library Board of Trustees, which consists of 20 members nominated by county executives and ratified by county boards of supervisors. 2. Patron and Patron Association Plaintiffs
Plaintiffs Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, Friends of the Philadelphia City Institute Library, and the Pennsylvania Alliance for Democracy are nonprofit organizations whose members include individuals who access the Internet at public libraries that receive E-rate discounts or LSTA funds for the provision of public Internet access. We note for the purpose of associational standing that the interests that these organizations seek to protect in this litigation are germane to their purposes. Plaintiffs Emmalyn Rood, Mark Brown, Elizabeth Hrenda, C. Donald Weinberg, Sherron Dixon, by her father and next friend Gordon Dixon, James Geringer, Marnique Tynesha Overby, by her next friend Carolyn C. Williams, William J. Rosenbaum, Carolyn C. Williams, and Quiana Williams, by her mother and next friend Sharon Bernard, are adults and minors who use the Internet at public libraries that, to the best of their knowledge, do not filter patrons' access to the Internet. Several of these plaintiffs do not have Internet access from home. Emmalyn Rood is a sixteen-year-old who uses the Multnomah County Public Library. When she was 13, she used the Internet at the Multnomah County Public Library to research issues relating to her sexual identity. Ms. Rood did not use her home or school computer for this research, in part because she wished her searching to be private. Although the library offered patrons the option of using filtering software, Ms. Rood did not use that option because she had had previous experience with such programs blocking information that was valuable to her, including information relating to gay and lesbian issues.
Plaintiff Mark Brown used the Internet at the Philadelphia Free Library to research breast cancer and reconstructive surgery for his mother who had breast surgery. Mr. Brown's research at the library provided him and his mother with essential information about his mother's medical condition and potential treatments. 3. Web Publisher Plaintiffs Plaintiff Afraid to Ask, Inc., based in Saunderstown, Rhode Island, publishes a health education Web site, www.AfraidtoAsk.com. Dr. Jonathan Bertman, the president and medical director of Afraid to Ask, is a family practice physician in rural Rhode Island and a clinical assistant professor of family medicine at Brown University. AfraidtoAsk.com's mission is to provide detailed information on sensitive health issues, often of a sexual nature, such as sexually transmitted diseases, male and female genitalia, and birth control, sought by people of all ages who would prefer to learn about sensitive health issues anonymously, i.e., they are "afraid to ask." As part of its educational mission, AfraidtoAsk.com often uses graphic images of sexual anatomy to convey information. Its primary audience is teens and young adults. Based on survey data collected on the site, half of the people visiting the site are under 24 years old and a quarter are under 18. AfraidtoAsk.com is blocked by several leading blocking products as containing sexually explicit content.
Plaintiff Alan Guttmacher Institute has a Web site that contains information about its activities and objectives, including its mission to protect the reproductive choices of women and men. Plaintiff Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. ("Planned Parenthood") is a national voluntary organization in the field of reproductive health care. Planned Parenthood owns and operates several Web sites that provide a range of information about reproductive health, from contraception to prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, to finding an abortion provider, and to information about the drug Mifepristone. Plaintiff Safersex.org is a Web site that offers free educational information on how to practice safer sex. Plaintiff Ethan Interactive, Inc., d/b/a Out In America, is an online content provider that owns and operates 64 free Web sites for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons worldwide. Plaintiff PlanetOut Corporation is an online content provider for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons. Plaintiff the Naturist Action Committee ("NAC") is the nonprofit political arm of the Naturist Society, a private organization that promotes a way of life characterized by the practice of nudity. The NAC Web site provides information about Naturist Society activities and about state and local laws that may affect the rights of Naturists or their ability to practice Naturism, and includes nude photographs of its members.
Plaintiff Wayne L. Parker was the Libertarian candidate in the 2000 U.S. Congressional election for the Fifth District of Mississippi (and is running again in 2002). He publishes a Web site that communicates information about his campaign and that provides information about his political views and the Libertarian Party to the public. Plaintiff Jeffrey Pollock was the Republican candidate in the 2000 U.S. Congressional election for the Third District of Oregon. He operates a Web site that is now promoting his candidacy for Congress in 2002. 3. The Internet 1. Background As we noted at the outset, the Internet is a vast, interactive medium consisting of a decentralized network of computers around the world. The Internet presents low entry barriers to anyone who wishes to provide or distribute information. Unlike television, cable, radio, newspapers, magazines or books, the Internet provides an opportunity for those with access to it to communicate with a worldwide audience at little cost. At least 400 million people use the Internet worldwide, and approximately 143 million Americans were using the Internet as of September 2001. Nat'l Telecomm. & Info. Admin., A Nation Online: How Americans Are Expanding Their Use of the Internet (February 2002), available at http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/dn/.
The World Wide Web is a part of the Internet that consists of a network of computers, called "Web servers," that host "pages" of content accessible via the Hypertext Transfer Protocol or "HTTP." Anyone with a computer connected to the Internet can search for and retrieve information stored on Web servers located around the world. Computer users typically access the Web by running a program called a "browser" on their computers. The browser displays, as individual pages on the computer screen, the various types of content found on the Web and lets the user follow the connections built into Web pages called "hypertext links," "hyperlinks," or "links" to additional content. Two popular browsers are Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. A "Web page" is one or more files a browser graphically assembles to make a viewable whole when a user requests content over the Internet. A Web page may contain a variety of different elements, including text, images, buttons, form fields that the user can fill in, and links to other Web pages. A "Web site" is a term that can be used in several different ways. It may refer to all of the pages and resources available on a particular Web server. It may also refer to all the pages and resources associated with a particular organization, company or person, even if these are located on different servers, or in a subdirectory on a single server shared with other, unrelated sites. Typically, a Web site has as an intended point of entry, a "home page," which includes links to other pages on the same Web site or to pages on other sites. Online discussion groups and chat rooms relating to a variety of subjects are available through many Web sites.
Users may find content on the Web using engines that search for requested keywords. In response to a keyword request, a search engine will display a list of Web sites that may contain relevant content and provide links to those sites. Search engines and directories often return a limited number of sites in their search results (e.g., the Google search engine will return only 2,000 sites in response to a search, even if it has found, for example, 530,000 sites in its index that meet the search criteria). A user may also access content on the Web by typing a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) into the address line of the browser. A URL is an address that points to some resource located on a Web server that is accessible over the Internet. This resource may be a Web site, a Web page, an image, a sound or video file, or other resource. A URL can be either a numeric Internet Protocol or "IP" address, or an alphanumeric "domain name" address. Every Web server connected to the Internet is assigned an IP address. A typical IP address looks like "126.96.36.199." Typing the URL "http://188.8.131.52/" into a browser will bring the user to the Web server that corresponds to that address. For convenience, most Web servers have alphanumeric domain name addresses in addition to IP addresses. For example, typing in "http://www.paed.uscourts.gov" will bring the user to the same Web server as typing in "http://184.108.40.206." Every time a user attempts to access material located on a Web server by entering a domain name address into a Web browser, a request is made to a Domain Name Server, which is a directory of domain names and IP addresses, to "resolve," or translate, the domain name address into an IP address. That IP address is then used to locate the Web server from which content is being requested. A Web site may be accessed by using either its domain name address or its IP address.
A domain name address typically consists of several parts. For example, the alphanumeric URL http://www.paed.uscourts.gov/documents/opinions can be broken down into three parts. The first part is the transfer protocol the computer will use in accessing the content (e.g., "http" for Hypertext Transfer Protocol); next is the name of the host server on which the information is stored (e.g., www.paed.uscourts.gov); and then the name of the particular file or directory on that server (e.g., /documents/opinions). A single Web page may be associated with more than one URL. For example, the URLs http://www.newyorktimes.com and http://www.nytimes.com will both take the user to the New York Times home page. The topmost directory in a Web site is often referred to as that Web site's root directory or root URL. For example, in http://www.paed.uscourts.gov/documents, the root URL is http://www.paed.uscourts.gov. There may be hundreds or thousands of pages under a single root URL, or there may be one or only a few.
There are a number of Web hosting companies that maintain Web sites for other businesses and individuals, which can lead to vast amounts of diverse content being located at the same IP address. Hosting services are offered either for a fee, or in some cases, for free, allowing any individual with Internet access to create a Web site. Some hosting services are provided through the process of "IP-based hosting," where each domain name is assigned a unique IP number. For example, www.baseball.com might map to the IP address "10.3.5.9" and www.XXX.com might map to the IP address "10.0.42.5." Other hosting services are provided through the process of "name-based hosting," where multiple domain name addresses are mapped to a single IP address. If the hosting company were using this method, both www.baseball.com and www.XXX.com could map to a single IP address, e.g., "10.3.5.9." As a result of the "name-based hosting" process, up to tens of thousands of pages with heterogeneous content may share a single IP address. 2. The Indexable Web, the "Deep Web"; Their Size and Rates of Growth and Change
The universe of content on the Web that could be indexed, in theory, by standard search engines is known as the "publicly indexable Web." The publicly indexable Web is limited to those pages that are accessible by following a link from another Web page that is recognized by a search engine. This limitation exists because online indexing techniques used by popular search engines and directories such as Yahoo, Lycos and AltaVista, are based on "spidering" technology, which finds sites to index by following links from site to site in a continuous search for new content. If a Web page or site is not linked by others, then spidering will not discover that page or site.
Furthermore, many larger Web sites contain instructions, through software, that prevent spiders from investigating that site, and therefore the contents of such sites also cannot be indexed using spidering technology. Because of the vast size and decentralized structure of the Web, no search engine or directory indexes all of the content on the publicly indexable Web. We credit current estimates that no more than 50% of the content currently on the publicly indexable Web has been indexed by all search engines and directories combined. No currently available method or combination of methods for collecting URLs can collect the addresses of all URLs on the Web. The portion of the Web that is not theoretically indexable through the use of "spidering" technology, because other Web pages do not link to it, is called the "Deep Web." Such sites or pages can still be made publicly accessible without being made publicly indexable by, for example, using individual or mass emailings (also known as "spam") to distribute the URL to potential readers or customers, or by using types of Web links that cannot be found by spiders but can be seen and used by readers. "Spamming" is a common method of distributing to potential customers links to sexually explicit content that is not indexable. Because the Web is decentralized, it is impossible to say exactly how large it is. A 2000 study estimated a total of 7.1 million unique Web sites, which at the Web's historical rate of growth, would have increased to 11 million unique sites as of September 2001. Estimates of the total number of Web pages vary, but a figure of 2 billion is a reasonable estimate of the number of Web pages that can be reached, in theory, by standard search engines. We need not make a specific finding as to a figure, for by any measure the Web is extremely vast, and it is constantly growing. The indexable Web is growing at a rate of approximately 1.5 million pages per day. The size of the un-indexable Web, or the "Deep Web," while impossible to determine precisely, is estimated to be two to ten times that of the publicly indexable Web.
In addition to growing rapidly, Web pages and sites are constantly being removed, or changing their content. Web sites or pages can change content without changing their domain name addresses or IP addresses. Individual Web pages have an average life span of approximately 90 days. 3. The Amount of Sexually Explicit Material on the Web There is a vast amount of sexually explicit material available via the Internet and the Web. Sexually explicit material on the Internet is easy to access using any public search engine, such as, for example, Google or AltaVista. Although much of the sexually explicit material available on the Web is posted on commercial sites that require viewers to pay in order to gain access to the site, a large number of sexually explicit sites may be accessed for free and without providing any registration information. Most importantly, some Web sites that contain sexually explicit content have innocuous domain names and therefore can be reached accidentally. A commonly cited example is http://www.whitehouse.com. Other innocent-sounding URLs that retrieve graphic, sexually explicit depictions include http://www.boys.com, http://www.girls.com, http://www.coffeebeansupply.com, and http://www.BookstoreUSA.com. Moreover, commercial Web sites that contain sexually explicit material often use a technique of attaching pop-up windows to their sites, which open new windows advertising other sexually explicit sites without any prompting by the user. This technique makes it difficult for a user quickly to exit all of the pages containing sexually explicit material, whether he or she initially accessed such material intentionally or not.
The percentage of Web pages on the indexed Web containing sexually explicit content is relatively small. Recent estimates indicate that no more than 1-2% of the content on the Web is pornographic or sexually explicit. However, the absolute number of Web sites offering free sexually explicit material is extremely large, approximately 100,000 sites. 4. American Public Libraries The more than 9,000 public libraries in the United States are typically funded (at least in large part) by state or local governments. They are frequently overseen by a board of directors that is either elected or is appointed by an elected official or a body of elected officials. We heard testimony from librarians and library board members working in eight public library systems in different communities across the country, some of whom are also plaintiffs in this case. They hailed from the following library systems: Fort Vancouver, Washington; Fulton County, Indiana; Greenville, South Carolina; a regional consortium of libraries centered in Madison, Wisconsin; Multnomah County, Oregon; Norfolk, Virginia; Tacoma, Washington; and Westerville, Ohio. The parties also took depositions from several other librarians and library board members who did not testify during the trial, and submitted a number of other documents regarding individual libraries' policies. 1. The Mission of Public Libraries, and Their Reference and Collection Development Practices
American public libraries operate in a wide variety of communities, and it is not surprising that they do not all view their mission identically. Nor are their practices uniform. Nevertheless, they generally share a common mission to provide patrons with a wide range of information and ideas. Public libraries across the country have endorsed the American Library Association's ("ALA") "Library Bill of Rights" and/or "Freedom to Read Statement," including every library testifying on behalf of the defendants in this case. The "Library Bill of Rights," first adopted by the ALA in 1948, provides, among other things, that "[b]ooks and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves." It also states that libraries "should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues" and that library materials "should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval." The ALA's "Freedom to Read" statement, adopted in 1953 and most recently updated in July 2000, states, among other things, that "[i]t is in the public interest for publishers and librarians to make available the widest diversity of views and expressions, including those that are unorthodox or unpopular with the majority." It also states that "[i]t is the responsibility of . . . librarians . . . to contest encroachments upon th[e] freedom [to read] by individuals or groups seeking to impose their own standards or tastes upon the community at large."
Public libraries provide information not only for educational purposes, but also for recreational, professional, and other purposes. For example, Ginnie Cooper, Director of the Multnomah County Library, testified that some of the library's most popular items include video tapes of the British Broadcasting Corporation's "Fawlty Towers" series, and also print and "books on tape" versions of science fiction, romance, and mystery novels. Many public libraries include sexually explicit materials in their print collection, such as The Joy of Sex and The Joy of Gay Sex. Very few public libraries, however, collect more graphic sexually explicit materials, such as XXX-rated videos, or Hustler magazine. The mission of public librarians is to provide their patrons with a wide array of information, and they surely do so. Reference librarians across America answer more than 7 million questions weekly. If a patron has a specialized need for information not available in the public library, the professional librarian will use a reference interview to find out what information is needed to help the user, including the purpose for which an item will be used. Reference librarians are trained to assist patrons without judging the patron's purpose in seeking information, or the content of the information that the patron is seeking.
Many public libraries routinely provide patrons with access to materials not in their collections through the use of bibliographic access tools and interlibrary loan programs. Public libraries typically will assist patrons in obtaining access to all materials except those that are illegal, even if they do not collect those materials in their physical collection. In order to provide this access, a librarian may attempt to find material not included in the library's own collection in other libraries in the system, through interlibrary loan, or through a referral, perhaps to a government agency or a commercial bookstore. Interlibrary loan is expensive, however, and is therefore used infrequently. Public librarians also apply professional standards to their collection development practices. Public libraries generally make material selection decisions and frame policies governing collection development at the local level. Collection development is a key subject in the curricula of Masters of Library Science programs and is defined by certain practices. In general, professional standards guide public librarians to build, develop and create collections that have certain characteristics, such as balance in its coverage and requisite and appropriate quality. To this end, the goal of library collections is not universal coverage, but rather to find those materials that would be of the greatest direct benefit or interest to the community. In making selection decisions, librarians consider criteria including the content of the material, its accuracy, the title's niche in relation to the rest of the collection, the authority of the author, the publisher, the work's presentation, and how it compares with other material available in the same genre or on the same subject.
In pursuing the goal of achieving a balanced collection that serves the needs and interests of their patrons, librarians generally have a fair amount of autonomy, but may also be guided by a library's collection development policy. These collection development policies are often drawn up in conjunction with the libraries' governing boards and with representatives from the community, and may be the result of public hearings, discussions and other input. Although many librarians use selection aids, such as review journals and bibliographies, as a guide to the quality of potential acquisitions, they do not generally delegate their selection decisions to parties outside of the public library or its governing body. One limited exception is the use of third- party vendors or approval plans to acquire print and video resources. In such arrangements, third-party vendors provide materials based on the library's description of its collection development criteria. The vendor sends materials to the library, and the library retains the materials that meet its collection development needs and returns the materials that do not. Even in this arrangement, however, the librarians still retain ultimate control over their collection development and review all of the materials that enter their library's collection. 2. The Internet in Public Libraries
The vast majority of public libraries offer Internet access to their patrons. According to a recent report by the U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, approximately 95% of all public libraries provide public access to the Internet. John C. Bertot & Charles R. McClure, Public Libraries and the Internet 2000: Summary Findings and Data Tables, Report to National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, at 3. The Internet vastly expands the amount of information available to patrons of public libraries. The widespread availability of Internet access in public libraries is due, in part, to the availability of public funding, including state and local funding and the federal funding programs regulated by CIPA. Many libraries face a large amount of patron demand for their Internet services. At some libraries, patron demand for Internet access during a given day exceeds the supply of computer terminals with access to the Internet. These libraries use sign- in and time limit procedures and/or establish rules regarding the allowable uses of the terminals, in an effort to ration their computer resources. For example, some of the libraries whose librarians testified at trial prohibit the use of email and chat functions on their public Internet terminals. Public libraries play an important role in providing Internet access to citizens who would not otherwise possess it. Of the 143 million Americans using the Internet, approximately 10%, or 14.3 million people, access the Internet at a public library. Internet access at public libraries is more often used by those with lower incomes than those with higher incomes. About 20.3% of Internet users with household family income of less than $15,000 per year use public libraries for Internet access. Approximately 70% of libraries serving communities with poverty levels in excess of 40% receive E-rate discounts. 1. Internet Use Policies in Public Libraries
Approximately 95% of libraries with public Internet access have some form of "acceptable use" policy or "Internet use" policy governing patrons' use of the Internet. These policies set forth the conditions under which patrons are permitted to access and use the library's Internet resources. These policies vary widely. Some of the less restrictive policies, like those held by Multnomah County Library and Fort Vancouver Regional Library, do not prohibit adult patrons from viewing sexually explicit materials on the Web, as long as they do so at terminals with privacy screens or recessed monitors, which are designed to prevent other patrons from seeing the material that they are viewing, and as long as it does not violate state or federal law to do so. Other libraries prohibit their patrons from viewing all "sexually explicit" or "sexually graphic" materials. Some libraries prohibit the viewing of materials that are not necessarily sexual, such as Web pages that are "harmful to minors," "offensive to the public," "objectionable," "racially offensive," or simply "inappropriate." Other libraries restrict access to Web sites that the library just does not want to provide, even though the sites are not necessarily offensive. For example, the Fulton County Public Library restricts access to the Web sites of dating services. Similarly, the Tacoma Public Library's policy does not allow patrons to use the library's Internet terminals for personal email, for online chat, or for playing games. In some cases, libraries instituted Internet use policies after having experienced specific problems, whereas in other cases, libraries developed detailed Internet use policies and regulatory measures (such as using filtering software) before ever offering public Internet access. Essentially four interests motivate libraries to institute Internet use policies and to apply the methods described above to regulate their patrons' use of the Internet.
First, libraries have sought to protect patrons (especially children) and staff members from accidentally viewing sexually explicit images, or other Web pages containing content deemed harmful, that other patrons are viewing on the Internet. For example, some librarians who testified described situations in which patrons left sexually explicit images minimized on an Internet terminal so that the next patron would see them when they began using it, or in which patrons printed sexually explicit images from a Web site and left them at a public printer. Second, libraries have attempted to protect patrons from unwittingly or accidentally accessing Web pages that they do not wish to see while they are using the Internet. For example, the Memphis-Shelby County (Tennessee) Public Library's Internet use policy states that the library "employs filtering technology to reduce the possibility that customers may encounter objectionable content in the form of depictions of full nudity and sexual acts."
Third, libraries have sought to keep patrons (again, especially children) from intentionally accessing sexually explicit materials or other materials that the library deems inappropriate. For example, a study of the Tacoma Public Library's Internet use logs for the year 2000 showed that users between the ages of 11 and 15 accounted for 41% of the filter blocks that occurred on library computers. The study, which we credit, concluded that children and young teens were actively seeking to access sexually explicit images in the library. The Greenville Library's Board of Directors was particularly concerned that patrons were accessing obscene materials in the public library in violation of South Carolina's obscenity statute. Finally, some libraries have regulated patrons' Internet use to attempt to control patrons' inappropriate (or illegal) behavior that is thought to stem from viewing Web pages that contain sexually explicit materials or content that is otherwise deemed unacceptable. We recognize the concerns that led several of the public libraries whose librarians and board members testified in this case to start using Internet filtering software. The testimony of the Chairman of the Board of the Greenville Public Library is illustrative. In December 1999, there was considerable local press coverage in Greenville concerning adult patrons who routinely used the library to surf the Web for pornography. In response to public outcry stemming from the newspaper report, the Board of Trustees held a special board meeting to obtain information and to communicate with the public concerning the library's provision of Internet access. At this meeting, the Board learned for the first time of complaints about children being exposed to pornography that was displayed on the library's Internet terminals.
In late January to early February of 2000, the library installed privacy screens and recessed terminals in an effort to restrict the display of sexually explicit Web sites at the library. In February, 2000, the Board informed the library staff that they were expected to be familiar with the South Carolina obscenity statute and to enforce the policy prohibition on access to obscene materials, child pornography, or other materials prohibited under applicable local, state, and federal laws. Staff were told that they were to enforce the policy by means of a "tap on the shoulder." Prior to adopting its current Internet Use Policy, the Board adopted an "Addendum to Current Internet Use Policy." Under the policy, the Board temporarily instituted a two-hour time limit per day for Internet use; reduced substantially the number of computers with Internet access in the library; reconfigured the location of the computers so that librarians had visual contact with all Internet-accessible terminals; and removed the privacy screens from terminals with Internet access. Even after the Board implemented the privacy screens and later the "tap-on-the-shoulder" policy combined with placing terminals in view of librarians, the library experienced a high turnover rate among reference librarians who worked in view of Internet terminals. Finding that the policies that it had tried did not prevent the viewing of sexually explicit materials in the library, the Board at one point considered discontinuing Internet access in the library. The Board finally concluded that the methods that it had used to regulate Internet use were not sufficient to stem the behavioral problems that it thought were linked to the availability of pornographic materials in the library. As a result, it implemented a mandatory filtering policy.
We note, however, that none of the libraries proffered by the defendants presented any systematic records or quantitative comparison of the amount of criminal or otherwise inappropriate behavior that occurred in their libraries before they began using Internet filtering software compared to the amount that happened after they installed the software. The plaintiffs' witnesses also testified that because public libraries are public places, incidents involving inappropriate behavior in libraries (sexual and otherwise) existed long before libraries provided access to the Internet. 2. Methods for Regulating Internet Use The methods that public libraries use to regulate Internet use vary greatly. They can be organized into four categories: (1) channeling patrons' Internet use; (2) separating patrons so that they will not see what other patrons are viewing; (3) placing Internet terminals in public view and having librarians observe patrons to make sure that they are complying with the library's Internet use policy; and (4) using Internet filtering software. The first category channeling patrons' Internet use frequently includes offering training to patrons on how to use the Internet, including how to access the information that they want and to avoid the materials that they do not want. Another technique that some public libraries use to direct their patrons to pages that the libraries have determined to be accurate and valuable is to establish links to "recommended Web sites" from the public library's home page (i.e., the page that appears when patrons begin a session at one of the library's public Internet terminals). Librarians select these recommended Web sites by using criteria similar to those employed in traditional collection development. However, unless the library determines otherwise, selection of these specific sites does not preclude patrons from attempting to access other Internet Web sites.
Libraries may extend the "recommended Web sites" method further by limiting patrons' access to only those Web sites that are reviewed and selected by the library's staff. For example, in 1996, the Westerville, Ohio Library offered Internet access to children through a service called the "Library Channel." This service was intended to be a means by which the library could organize the Internet in some fashion for presentation to patrons. Through the Library Channel, the computers in the children's section of the library were restricted to 2,000 to 3,000 sites selected by librarians. After three years, Westerville stopped using the Library Channel system because it overly constrained the children's ability to access materials on the Internet, and because the library experienced several technical problems with the system.
Public libraries also use several different techniques to separate patrons during Internet sessions so that they will not see what other patrons are viewing. The simplest way to achieve this result is to position the library's public Internet terminals so that they are located away from traffic patterns in the library (and from other terminals), for example, by placing them so that they face a wall. This method is obviously constrained by libraries' space limitations and physical layout. Some libraries have also installed privacy screens on their public Internet terminals. These screens make a monitor appear blank unless the viewer is looking at it head-on. Although the Multnomah and Fort Vancouver Libraries submitted records showing that they have received few complaints regarding patrons' unwilling exposure to materials on the Internet, privacy screens do not always prevent library patrons or employees from inadvertently seeing the materials that another patron is viewing when passing directly behind a terminal. They also have the drawback of making it difficult for patrons to work together at a single terminal, or for librarians to assist patrons at terminals, because it is difficult for two people to stand side by side and view a screen at the same time. Some library patrons also find privacy screens to be a hindrance and have attempted to remove them in order to improve the brightness of the screen or to make the view better.
Another method that libraries use to prevent patrons from seeing what other patrons are viewing on their terminals is the installation of "recessed monitors." Recessed monitors are computer screens that sit below the level of a desk top and are viewed from above. Although recessed monitors, especially when combined with privacy screens, eliminate almost all of the possibility of a patron accidentally viewing the contents on another patron's screen, they suffer from the same drawbacks as privacy screens, that is, they make it difficult for patrons to work together or with a librarian at a single terminal. Some librarians also testified that recessed monitors are costly, but did not indicate how expensive they are compared to privacy screens or filtering software. A related technique that some public libraries use is to create a separate children's Internet viewing area, where no adults except those accompanying children in their care may use the Internet terminals. This serves the objective of keeping children from inadvertently viewing materials appropriate only for adults that adults may be viewing on nearby terminals. A third set of techniques that public libraries have used to enforce their Internet use policies takes the opposite tack from the privacy screens/recessed monitors approach by placing all of the library's public Internet terminals in prominent and visible locations, such as near the library's reference desk. This approach allows librarians to enforce their library's Internet use policy by observing what patrons are viewing and employing the tap-on-the-shoulder policy. Under this approach, when patrons are viewing materials that are inconsistent with the library's policies, a library staff member approaches them and asks them to view something else, or may ask them to end their Internet session. A patron who does not comply with these requests, or who repeatedly views materials not permitted under the library's Internet use policy, may have his or her Internet or library privileges suspended or revoked. But many librarians are uncomfortable with approaching patrons who are viewing sexually explicit images, finding confrontation unpleasant. Hence some libraries are reluctant to apply the tap-on-the- shoulder policy.
The fourth category of methods that public libraries employ to enforce their Internet use policies, and the one that gives rise to this case, is the use of Internet filtering software. According to the June 2000 Survey of Internet Access Management in Public Libraries, approximately 7% of libraries with public Internet access had mandated the use of blocking programs by adult patrons. Some public libraries provide patrons with the option of using a blocking program, allowing patrons to decide whether to engage the program when they or their children access the Internet. Other public libraries require their child patrons to use filtering software, but not their adult patrons. Filtering software vendors sell their products on a subscription basis. The cost of a subscription varies with the number of computers on which the filtering software will be used. In 2001, the cost of the Cyber Patrol filtering software was $1,950 for 100 terminal licenses. The Greenville County Library System pays $2,500 per year for the N2H2 filtering software, and a subscription to the Websense filter costs Westerville Public Library approximately $1,200 per year. No evidence was presented on the cost of privacy screens, recessed monitors, and the tap-on-the-shoulder policy, relative to the costs of filtering software. Nor did any of the libraries proffered by the government present any quantitative evidence on the relative effectiveness of use of privacy screens to prevent patrons from being unwillingly exposed to sexually explicit material, and the use of filters, discussed below. No evidence was presented, for example, comparing the number of patron complaints in those libraries that have tried both methods.
The librarians who testified at trial whose libraries use Internet filtering software all provide methods by which their patrons may ask the library to unblock specific Web sites or pages. Of these, only the Tacoma Public Library allows patrons to request that a URL be unblocked without providing any identifying information; Tacoma allows patrons to request a URL by sending an email from the Internet terminal that the patron is using that does not contain a return email address for the user. David Biek, the head librarian at the Tacoma Library's main branch, testified at trial that the library keeps records that would enable it to know which patrons made unblocking requests, but does not use that information to connect users with their requests. Biek also testified that he periodically scans the library's Internet use logs to search for: (1) URLs that were erroneously blocked, so that he may unblock them; or (2) URLs that should have been blocked, but were not, in order to add them to a blocked category list. In the course of scanning the use logs, Biek has also found what looked like attempts to access child pornography. In two cases, he communicated his findings to law enforcement and turned over the logs in response to a subpoena. At all events, it takes time for librarians to make decisions about whether to honor patrons' requests to unblock Web pages. In the libraries proffered by the defendants, unblocking decisions sometimes take between 24 hours and a week. Moreover, none of these libraries allows unrestricted access to the Internet pending a determination of the validity of a Web site blocked by the blocking programs. A few of the defendants' proffered libraries represented that individual librarians would have the discretion to allow a patron to have full Internet access on a staff computer upon request, but none claimed that allowing such access was mandatory, and patron access is supervised in every instance. None of these libraries makes differential unblocking decisions based on the patrons' age. Unblocking decisions are usually made identically for adults and minors. Unblocking decisions even for adults are usually based on suitability of the Web site for minors.
It is apparent that many patrons are reluctant or unwilling to ask librarians to unblock Web pages or sites that contain only materials that might be deemed personal or embarrassing, even if they are not sexually explicit or pornographic. We credit the testimony of Emmalyn Rood, discussed above, that she would have been unwilling as a young teen to ask a librarian to disable filtering software so that she could view materials concerning gay and lesbian issues. We also credit the testimony of Mark Brown, who stated that he would have been too embarrassed to ask a librarian to disable filtering software if it had impeded his ability to research treatments and cosmetic surgery options for his mother when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The pattern of patron requests to unblock specific URLs in the various libraries involved in this case also confirms our finding that patrons are largely unwilling to make unblocking requests unless they are permitted to do so anonymously. For example, the Fulton County Library receives only about 6 unblocking requests each year, the Greenville Public Library has received only 28 unblocking requests since August 21, 2000, and the Westerville, Ohio Library has received fewer than 10 unblocking requests since 1999. In light of the fact that a substantial amount of overblocking occurs in these very libraries, see infra Subsection II.E.4, we find that the lack of unblocking requests in these libraries does not reflect the effectiveness of the filters, but rather reflects patrons' reluctance to ask librarians to unblock sites. 5. Internet Filtering Technology 1. What Is Filtering Software, Who Makes It, and What Does It Do?
Commercially available products that can be configured to block or filter access to certain material on the Internet are among the "technology protection measures" that may be used to attempt to comply with CIPA. There are numerous filtering software products available commercially. Three network-based filtering products SurfControl's Cyber Patrol, N2H2's Bess/i2100, and Secure Computing's SmartFilter currently have the lion's share of the public library market. The parties in this case deposed representatives from these three companies. Websense, another network-based blocking product, is also currently used in the public library market, and was discussed at trial. Filtering software may be installed either on an individual computer or on a computer network. Network-based filtering software products are designed for use on a network of computers and funnel requests for Internet content through a centralized network device. Of the various commercially available blocking products, network-based products are the ones generally marketed to institutions, such as public libraries, that provide Internet access through multiple terminals. Filtering programs function in a fairly simple way. When an Internet user requests access to a certain Web site or page, either by entering a domain name or IP address into a Web browser, or by clicking on a link, the filtering software checks that domain name or IP address against a previously compiled "control list" that may contain up to hundreds of thousands of URLs. The three companies deposed in this case have control lists containing between 200,000 and 600,000 URLs. These lists determine which URLs will be blocked.
Filtering software companies divide their control lists into multiple categories for which they have created unique definitions. SurfControl uses 40 such categories, N2H2 uses 35 categories (and seven "exception" categories), Websense uses 30 categories, and Secure Computing uses 30 categories. Filtering software customers choose which categories of URLs they wish to enable. A user "enables" a category in a filtering program by configuring the program to block all of the Web pages listed in that category. The following is a list of the categories offered by each of these four filtering programs. SurfControl's Cyber Patrol offers the following categories: Adult/Sexually Explicit; Advertisements; Arts & Entertainment; Chat; Computing & Internet; Criminal Skills; Drugs, Alcohol & Tobacco; Education; Finance & Investment; Food & Drink; Gambling; Games; Glamour & Intimate Apparel; Government & Politics; Hacking; Hate Speech; Health & Medicine; Hobbies & Recreation; Hosting Sites; Job Search & Career Development; Kids' Sites; Lifestyle & Culture; Motor Vehicles; News; Personals & Dating; Photo Searches; Real Estate; Reference; Religion; Remote Proxies; Sex Education; Search Engines; Shopping; Sports; Streaming Media; Travel; Usenet News; Violence; Weapons; and Web-based Email.
N2H2 offers the following categories: Adults Only; Alcohol; Auction; Chat; Drugs; Electronic Commerce; Employment Search; Free Mail; Free Pages; Gambling; Games; Hate/Discrimination; Illegal; Jokes; Lingerie; Message/Bulletin Boards; Murder/Suicide; News; Nudity; Personal Information; Personals; Pornography; Profanity; Recreation/Entertainment; School Cheating Information; Search Engines; Search Terms; Sex; Sports; Stocks; Swimsuits; Tasteless/Gross; Tobacco; Violence; and Weapons. The "Nudity" category purports to block only "non-pornographic" images. The "Sex" category is intended to block only those depictions of sexual activity that are not intended to arouse. The "Tasteless/Gross" category includes contents such as "tasteless humor" and "graphic medical or accident scene photos." Additionally, N2H2 offers seven "exception categories." These exception categories include Education, Filtered Search Engine, For Kids, History, Medical, Moderated, and Text/Spoken Only. When an exception category is enabled, access to any Web site or page via a URL associated with both a category and an exception, for example, both "Sex" and "Education," will be allowed, even if the customer has enabled the product to otherwise block the category "Sex." As of November 15, 2001, of those Web sites categorized by N2H2 as "Sex," 3.6% were also categorized as "Education," 2.9% as "Medical," and 1.6% as "History."
Websense offers the following categories: Abortion Advocacy; Advocacy Groups; Adult Material; Business & Economy; Drugs; Education; Entertainment; Gambling; Games; Government; Health; Illegal/Questionable; Information Technology; Internet Communication; Job Search; Militancy/Extremist; News & Media; Productivity Management; Bandwidth Management; Racism/Hate; Religion; Shopping; Society & Lifestyle; Special Events; Sports; Tasteless; Travel; Vehicles; Violence; and Weapons. The "Adult" category includes "full or partial nudity of individuals," as well as sites offering "light adult humor and literature" and "[s]exually explicit language." The "Sexuality/Pornography" category includes, inter alia, "hard-core adult humor and literature" and "[s]exually explicit language." The "Tasteless" category includes "hard-to-stomach sites, including offensive, worthless or useless sites, grotesque or lurid depictions of bodily harm." The "Hacking" category blocks "sites providing information on or promoting illegal or questionable access to or use of communications equipment and/or software." SmartFilter offers the following categories: Anonymizers/Translators; Art & Culture; Chat; Criminal Skills; Cults/Occult; Dating; Drugs; Entertainment; Extreme/Obscene/Violence; Gambling; Games; General News; Hate Speech; Humor; Investing; Job Search; Lifestyle; Mature; MP3 Sites; Nudity; On-line Sales; Personal Pages; Politics, Opinion & Religion; Portal Sites; Self-Help/Health; Sex; Sports; Travel; Usenet News; and Webmail. Most importantly, no category definition used by filtering software companies is identical to CIPA's definitions of visual depictions that are obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors. And category definitions and categorization decisions are made without reference to local community standards. Moreover, there is no judicial involvement in the creation of filtering software companies' category definitions and no judicial determination is made before these companies categorize a Web page or site.
Each filtering software company associates each URL in its control list with a "tag" or other identifier that indicates the company's evaluation of whether the content or features of the Web site or page accessed via that URL meets one or more of its category definitions. If a user attempts to access a Web site or page that is blocked by the filter, the user is immediately presented with a screen that indicates that a block has occurred as a result of the operation of the filtering software. These "denial screens" appear only at the point that a user attempts to access a site or page in an enabled category. All four of the filtering programs on which evidence was presented allow users to customize the category lists that exist on their own PCs or servers by adding or removing specific URLs. For example, if a public librarian charged with administering a library's Internet terminals comes across a Web site that he or she finds objectionable that is not blocked by the filtering program that his or her library is using, then the librarian may add that URL to a category list that exists only on the library's network, and it would thereafter be blocked under that category. Similarly, a customer may remove individual URLs from category lists. Importantly, however, no one but the filtering companies has access to the complete list of URLs in any category. The actual URLs or IP addresses of the Web sites or pages contained in filtering software vendors' category lists are considered to be proprietary information, and are unavailable for review by customers or the general public, including the proprietors of Web sites that are blocked by filtering software.
Filtering software companies do not generally notify the proprietors of Web sites when they block their sites. The only way to discover which URLs are blocked and which are not blocked by any particular filtering company is by testing individual URLs with filtering software, or by entering URLs one by one into the "URL checker" that most filtering software companies provide on their Web sites. Filtering software companies will entertain requests for recategorization from proprietors of Web sites that discover their sites are blocked. Because new pages are constantly being added to the Web, filtering companies provide their customers with periodic updates of category lists. Once a particular Web page or site is categorized, however, filtering companies generally do not re-review the contents of that page or site unless they receive a request to do so, even though the content on individual Web pages and sites changes frequently. 2. The Methods that Filtering Companies Use to Compile Category Lists
While the way in which filtering programs operate is conceptually straightforward by comparing a requested URL to a previously compiled list of URLs and blocking access to the content at that URL if it appears on the list accurately compiling and categorizing URLs to form the category lists is a more complex process that is impossible to conduct with any high degree of accuracy. The specific methods that filtering software companies use to compile and categorize control lists are, like the lists themselves, proprietary information. We will therefore set forth only general information on the various types of methods that all filtering companies deposed in this case use, and the sources of error that are at once inherent in those methods and unavoidable given the current architecture of the Internet and the current state of the art in automated classification systems. We base our understanding of these methods largely on the detailed testimony and expert report of Dr. Geoffrey Nunberg, which we credit. The plaintiffs offered, and the Court qualified, Nunberg as an expert witness on automated classification systems. When compiling and categorizing URLs for their category lists, filtering software companies go through two distinct phases. First, they must collect or "harvest" the relevant URLs from the vast number of sites that exist on the Web. Second, they must sort through the URLs they have collected to determine under which of the company's self-defined categories (if any), they should be classified. These tasks necessarily result in a tradeoff between overblocking (i.e., the blocking of content that does not meet the category definitions established by CIPA or by the filtering software companies), and underblocking (i.e., leaving off of a control list a URL that contains content that would meet the category definitions defined by CIPA or the filtering software companies). 1. The "Harvesting" Phase