SPOKANE — A rural library district is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union over its Internet filtering policy.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, seeks an order directing the North Central Regional Library District to provide unblocked access to the Internet when adults request it.
The ACLU of Washington brought suit on behalf of three individuals and the pro-gun Second Amendment Foundation over the library district's Internet filter on computers.
The lawsuit contends the library's policy of refusing to disable its Internet filters when requested for lawful purposes is unconstitutional and goes beyond what federal law requires.
"Libraries should not deny adults using publicly available computers the opportunity to view research material and other lawful information," ACLU Legal Director Sarah Dunne said in a release.
Dean Marney, director of the library district based in Wenatchee, said he was surprised by the lawsuit. He said the library recently changed its filtering software that allows sites to be unblocked. However, federal law does not require that requests to remove filters be granted, he said.
Doug Honig, an ACLU spokesman in Seattle, said new filtering software is "a step in the right direction" but does not change the underlying legal issue: whether libraries should act as gatekeepers of what adults do legally online.
Libraries that receive funds for Internet access under two specific federal programs are required to have the ability to block minors from seeing visual depictions of sexual activity.
But the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted the law to mean that libraries should disable those filters upon the request of an adult.
The plaintiffs include a Ferry County woman who wanted to do research on drugs and alcohol while studying at Eastern Washington University; a professional photographer blocked from researching art galleries and health issues; and an Okanogan man unable to access a Web log he maintains, as well information relating to gun use by hunters.
The Second Amendment Foundation is another plaintiff.
The Bellevue-based organization contends the library district blocked online access to Women & Guns, a magazine it sponsors covering topics such as self-defense, recreational shooting, new products and legal issues.
The district has 28 branch libraries in Chelan, Douglas, Ferry, Grant and Okanogan counties.
—The Associated Press