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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

4/13/2004

Filtering

A couple of people have written about my library filtering blog. Basically the question is how a hard core libertarian like me could be involved with sleezy, free speech destroying, filter merchants.

First off the guy I am working with, Bob Turner, is a much harder core libertarian than I am. Which is odd as he is also a socialist/jazz musician/artist/anarchist. He has just set up his blog which is a quirky mix of art, filtering, lefty politics and general strangeness.

How strange? Well I defy you to find another filter maker who has produced a five minute mixed media art piece which combines an original score with a reading of the "A's" from the porn block list and the titles of banned books. You can hear Banned Width here. And, no, it's not safe for work.

Bob and his friend Jeff Koftinoff developed IF2K back in the day that filters blocked breast cancer sites. They thought they could build a better filter and they did. But, and this is critical, they had no agenda other than making a bit of money. They still don't.

When the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the Children's Internet Protection Act, with the proviso that the CIPA manadated filter be easily turned off to protect the 1st Ammendment rights of adult library patrons I saw an opportunity. In that marketplace were companies like Websense, Dynacom, CyBlock and a host of others.

All fine companies but each with a particular, usually corporate and sometimes more sinister agenda. With 16,000 public libraries potentially forced into the filtering market, these vendors all were drooling at the prospect of selling filters. So, frankly, were we.

However, what we wanted to sell was the "least worse" solution. Something which met the CIPA requirments, was easily configured, easy for a patron to "click through" and, we thought best of all, cheaper by approximately 50-80%.

My end of things was to look carefully at what the librarians said they wanted and to use the blog to engage in the debate over intellectual freedom which has taken place in the last nine months inside the library community.It has been a fascinating debate with smart, articulate people arguing that any filter was, effectively the spawn of Satan and others convinced that the whole thing was a plot of some sort. Librarians are a pretty bright bunch and they really know how to "fact check your ass off".

So far we are not rich. But our marketing effort has really been to stir the pot and there we have richly succeeded. The next five months will tell the business tail; but for now librarians at least have a choice. Which makes the work worthwhile.