STRANGE ALLIANCES.

Over at the ACLU blog, Catherine Crump discusses an upcoming censorship case that has been joined by a gun-rights group. The lawsuit in question involves libraries that block Internet access to all content considered unsuitable for children -- including Web sites that talk about firearms:

At stake is whether libraries are free to use Internet filtering software to block adults’ access to constitutionally protected speech. The defendant, a consortium of 23 public libraries, has a policy of blocking access to all speech it considers inappropriate for children. One of our clients, the gun rights group the Second Amendment Foundation, joined the lawsuit because the libraries went so far as to block all websites about firearms, including one of the advocacy organization’s own websites.

In the name of protecting kids, the library has blocked access to a great deal of speech that is indisputably protected by both the Washington and federal constitutions. Other clients in the case are adult patrons of the libraries whose efforts to do research online have been frustrated by the libraries’ filter. For example, Sarah Bradburn was prevented from accessing websites about youth tobacco usage that she needed to complete a school assignment.

The Washington State Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in June. This kind of anti-censorship case was among those that made associate attorney general David Ogden unacceptable to the religious right.

-- A. Serwer

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