A Tweed Shire councillor wants the regional library service to use internet filtering to block users accessing pornography sites or illegally downloading movies.
Cr Carolyn Byrne (pictured) says a recent ‘incident’ at Murwillumbah library in which a person was repeatedly warned over accessing pornography on library computers in view of other users, including children, led to police being called.
Cr Byrne said complaints about the person had been made by other library users ‘and put the staff in a very difficult position and the police attending’.
In her notice of motion to be debated at the upcoming Thursday council meeting, the conservative Cr Byrne ‘requests that the Richmond Tweed Regional Library (RTRL) liaise with NSW.net to provide high level Internet filtering of content that is currently not considered to be suitable to be kept in hard copy format at the Tweed Libraries (e.g. illegal content such as child pornography, terrorism, extreme violence and hard-core pornography) and access to websites that provide a mechanism to illegally
download content (e.g. illegal movie downloads).’
In her background notes, Cr Byrne said the ‘internet kiosks and wi-fi at all the library branches is currently unfiltered and managed by Lismore’.
She said the incident at Murwillumbah library in February this year involved a library member using the public internet connection to view inappropriate sexually explicit material.
‘This occurred twice despite staff warning the member and providing copies of the internet usage policy, and the sessions had to be terminated by staff on both occasions.’ she said.
‘When the man was asked to leave he became aggressive and staff called 000 (police) before the man voluntarily left the library.’
The incident, she said, ‘prompted questions from council managers as to why the RTRL was not using filters on this and other inappropriate and illegal material (terrorism sites, making weapons, child pornography and pornography generally).’
‘This is not the first incident of this nature that has occurred at Tweed or within the RTRL service.
‘The key issues that arise from this incident include: The safety and security of staff in having to confront and deal with the likely conflict that this situation poses; the safety and security of other library users; and free and full access to information for all library users versus protection of users from exposure to inappropriate and illegal material.’
Cr Byrne said filtering software was low cost and could block entire categories of sites (eg: pornography, violence, terrorism, gaming, gambling, violence, file sharing etc).
Tweed Council currently uses similar software to filter content on staff computers.
‘The Lismore City Council IT section view is that public internet should be filtered for sites illegal to access from Australia,’ Cr Byrne said.
‘At this stage RTRL management have not supported that suggestion.
‘State Library has guidelines indicating that access to ANY information resources (physical and
electronic) should not be fettered in any way.’
Cr Byrne said at least six major councils in NSW filtered public internet content, and a survey of public libraries across Australia showed 44 per cent of libraries used filters.