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Wednesday, 23 February, 2000, 12:28 GMT
Voters reject plan for internet curbs

Internet terminals
Public-access internet terminals are becoming increasingly common

Residents in a small town in Michigan have made history by voting against a plan to install internet filters in the public library.

The decision came despite intensive lobbying by American family groups, who wanted the filters to stop young people viewing pornography, or visiting sites glorifying violence and hatred.

But residents in the staunchly Republican town voted against the plan.

Unofficial results showed that nearly 4,400 people voted against it, and just over 3,600 were in favour. The town has a population of around 31,000.

We're at the library all the time and there's never been a problem
Voter Char Laman
"I think free speech brought out a number of voters," said Shannon Garrett, who heads Families For Internet Access, a local group that campaigned against the filters.

One voter who also opposed the plan, Char Laman, said: "I think human supervision is the answer.

"We're at the library all the time and there's never been a problem."

But LoriJo Schepers, a spokeswoman for Holland Area Citizens Voting YES! to Protect Our Children, insisted that the defeat would not end her group's fight to get filters installed on the library computers.

John McCain John McCain had spoken in favour of the filters
The issue of Internet access at libraries is being debated across the US, but Holland is believed to be the first town to put it to the vote. The vote was held at the same time as the primaries.

Filtering software prevents internet users browsing certain pages - with individual pages or pages containing certain keywords being screened out.

Opponents of the filters say they don't work and often prevent library patrons from accessing legitimate information. There were also claims that campaign groups, including the American Family Association, were using Holland to promote a national agenda.

I saw pornographic pictures on the screen. If it happened to me it could happen to kids
Carolyn Scoby
Supporters of the measure included Holland mother Carolyn Scoby, who said she was using the internet at the library when pornographic pictures started popping up on the screen.

"If it happened to me, it could happen to kids," she said.

The Republican presidential hopeful Senator John McCain, who won the state's primary, had also spoken in favour of the filters.

Some public libraries have already installed filters on internet terminals in children's sections, while others have experimented with smart cards which entitle the user to filtered or unfiltered access.

Parents can set the level of access they consider appropriate for their children.
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See also:
19 Feb 00 |  Education
Children warned against net predators
16 Jun 99 |  Sci/Tech
Unesco steps up fight against Internet paedophiles
11 Oct 99 |  Education
Net porn warning for pupils

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