Internet Pornography in Public Libraries

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 1
Words: 1307
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: Bachelor

The variety of information available on the Internet is tremendous. Some sites are useful for scientific and individual study and leisure, and others contain content that might be considered disturbing, such as pornography. Since the Internet became accessible in educational establishments and public libraries, there has been a dispute regarding what individuals, particularly minors, ought to be able to view. Regulations are more inclined to restrict users from accessing Internet pornography, and many public libraries have at least one kind of censorship software that limits what material may be viewed on library computers. Nevertheless, regardless of software and regulations, library employees will come across a patron who is viewing Internet pornography. In this case, considering the detrimental effect of Internet pornography, including illegal content, encouragement of violence, and exposure of minors and other visitors to disturbing content, such material should be filtered.

Due to such issues being raised, the authorities, independent organizations, and the general public contributed to changes in regulation. The Children’s Internet Protection Act was passed by Congress in 2000 in response to complaints about minors viewing explicit content online in public libraries and educational establishments (Glazer). It mandates libraries and educational institutions that obtain government funds for an Internet connection to deploy filtering software on computers used by children to censor images or information considered “obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors” (Glazer 880). The American Library Association (ALA) opposed the statute, claiming that it restricted libraries’ capacity to provide users with the protection from the first amendment material (Glazer). In U.S. v. American Library Association, the Supreme Court maintained the legislation in 2003, ruling that libraries may preserve adult individuals’ freedom to constitutionally protected content by reactivating computers for specific adult people with demand.

Still, there have been major contributions to the protection of the rights of other visitors. Since 2016, sixteen states have approved or legislative proposals calling pornographic material a “Public Health Crisis,” with more states indicating their willingness to follow the same path (Watson 20). Furthermore, the national statute recognized as the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act/ Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act was enacted in 2018 and went into force a year later. Despite being directed against sex trafficking, it had a tremendous impact on the material posted on the Internet (Watson). As a result, it can be seen that there are two opposing views, with one group protecting fundamental rights and another group protecting the interests of individuals who might be at risk due to permitted access to Internet pornography.

While some people believe that no visible harm is done by access to pornography in libraries, others consider that it poses serious risks for those who watch it, especially in the situations where children can get access to it. In many porno movies, physical violence and verbal aggression is demonstrated. While there are no scientific studies that confirm that pornography provokes violence, the authors of some works draw attention to the fact that hardcore porn can cause aggression in those who are inclined to it (Watson). Besides, pornography can pose a threat to building real-life relationships. In most pornographic materials, men are portrayed as domineering and women as obedient. Regular watch of such content often leads to the fact that depersonalization and unquestioning submission begin to seem normal. Aggressive pornography “legitimizes” humiliation and violence and can prevent the creation of harmonious relationships, as if instilling in a person the idea that pain cannot be expressed — it must be endured. While adults can be less influenced by such notions, teenagers who may get unsanctioned access to such materials at the libraries may assume these ideas as a model for building relations in real life. This may ultimately prevent them from building a healthy society based on the principles of equality, mutual respect and empathy. Aversion to sex in the future as well as deep residual protest, are among the consequences of subjection to pornography at an early age.

One more challenging factor when it comes to explicit content is that adults might gain access to illegal child pornography or violent adult pornography on library computers (Watson). In this case, they can not only view such material but download and spread it. As a result, it becomes an ethical problem, encouraging the dissemination of illegal material through institutions aimed at serving educational purposes. Due to unfiltered Internet pornography, the premises of a public library can become an unsafe territory for both adults and minors. This can also happen because the place might be frequented by child predators and individuals who desire to gain access to illegal content.

When it comes to the fact that public libraries might become unsafe, it might also be due to individuals who create a sexually dangerous environment for other visitors. In this sense, it is vital to mention that public libraries are frequently visited by many individuals of different genders and ages. Aside from this, it is noteworthy that there are many female and other employees at libraries who might be unsafe. As a result, specific groups might be at risk of being physically or verbally abused, making public libraries poorly protected.

Lastly, the problem of Internet pornography might transcend the narrow issues of public libraries being unsafe due to the actions of certain individuals who make the place unsafe or exploit public computers for illegal actions. The issue of Internet pornography might also pose a threat to minors’ mental state and promote unhealthy and toxic behavior (Edlund). For example, many parents might be revolted by the idea that their children are exposed to adult content. Furthermore, Internet pornography might expose minors to violence due to the unethical conduct in the content. In this sense, minors’ perceptions of what is correct and incorrect behavior toward others might be distorted, leading to anger issues and tendencies to harm others. Moreover, it might be disturbing to many other visitors to see explicit material on public computers since previous visitors might leave up pornographic sites. Students who work on their papers often visit public libraries and might be exposed to disturbing behavior or material.

While there are many factors that illuminate Internet pornography as a public health issue, requiring the filtering of explicit content at public libraries, however, there are many individuals who believe that the right to access any content must be protected by the First Amendment. In this case, it is considered a violation of the constitutionally protected right to access the required material online. However, it is vital to understand that protecting this right at the given establishment on the grounds of fundamental rights inviolability might be harmful to other patrons on the premises of the public library. As mentioned before, while some patrons might gain access to Internet pornography, individuals, such as minors, employees, or other visitors, might be exposed to the given material that might not only be detrimental to psychological but physiological health. Thus, while protecting the rights of a specific group of citizens, the rights of the majority are ignored.

Hence, public libraries are intended to provide sources and conditions for educational purposes. However, there are many incidents of visitors gaining access to adult content, which becomes dangerous. While many might consider that restricting access to specific material on public computers might violate fundamental rights, permission to access such sites might ignore the rights of other visitors. In this sense, it is crucial to understand that many minors will be exposed to adult content, which might be detrimental to mental health and encourage violence. Moreover, library employees and other visitors might be at risk of being physically or psychologically abused by visitors who have access to pornographic material. Lastly, it allows many individuals to see and spread illegal material, such as child pornography and violent adult pornography. As a result, there must be the filtering of Internet pornography in public libraries.

Works Cited

Edlund, Hannah. “An Analysis of American Public Libraries’ Policies on Patron Use of Internet Pornography.” Open Information Science, vol. 4, no. 1, 2020, pp. 58-74.

Glazer, Sarah. “Pornography.” CQ Researcher, vo. 26, 2016, pp. 865-888.

Watson, Brian M. “The New Censorship: Anti-sexuality Groups and Library Freedom.” Journal of Intellectual Freedom & Privacy, vol. 4, no. 4, 2020, pp. 19-27.