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Byron Shire
May 10, 2021

Tweed councillor calls for library-service content filter

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Tweed Shire Councillor Carolyn Byrne. Photo supplied
Tweed Shire Councillor Carolyn Byrne. Photo supplied

Luis Feliu

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.

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  1. Sledgehammer to crack a walnut. Although unfortunate for the library staff, they acted appropriately. There is no nuance to internet filtering. Simply block clearly inappropriate sites. Thanks mum but I make my own decisions these days.

  2. One wet-behind-the-ears person out of 90,000 people in Tweed Shire, so throw a wet blanket over the 90,000 people to nab one person to make the Tweed River dry right next to the library.
    Doesn’t compute.

  3. My opinion is that restricting content and access in a public site such as our regional libraries is a perfectly reasonable and sensible thing to do. I frequent the library with my young children almost daily. Not only would I not wish them to be exposed to pornography that someone else is viewing at the library, but I would also like to know they do not have the ability to access inappropriate sites when on the internet there in the future. I do not see it as an infringement of rights or inappropriate content restriction. It’s a public place. View what you like in the privacy of your own home (hopefully without your kids watching)!
    I actually find it disturbing that this has been able to occur as it did, and even more so to read it’s not an isolated incidence. Hear hear Cr Byrne!

  4. If an Internet filter is used, PLEASE investigate the risk of legitimate content being caught in the net, and take a stand to prevent this. For example, the Blue Coat system apparently filters out a category called ‘alternative spirituality’, which in addition to occultism, also targets paganism, and potentially other obviously innocuous areas such as meditation and Reiki.

    As a result of some of these filters’ concerns about about cults, and groups that are denounced as ‘cults’ by dictatorships such as China, Falun Gong is also blocked:


    In the UK, a persistent media campaign resulted in the introduction of an ‘opt-out’ filter targeting pornography. The idea behind ‘opt-out’ is that you are signed up by default, and as you have to manually request an opt-in, 90% of people won’t know that the filter exists or take the trouble to do this.

    By the time it had been introduced, this filter had morphed into a trojan horse, targeting several other areas – violence, ‘extremism and terrorism’, anorexia and eating disorders, suicide, alcohol, and smoking. Hardly surprisingly, people seeking help in some of these areas were also sometimes blocked from getting it.

    Two other areas are ‘alternative spirituality’ and ALL web forums regardless of content.

    The thought police are slowly marching in our direction, looking for unacceptable ideas, and dissenting views to squash. Do we let them in or lock them out?


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