Latest News

Should people be allowed to watch porn at the library? Many are, and some aren’t happy

Internet users work at the computers at the Philadelphia Public Library in Philadelphia in this file photo. In Los Angeles, city council members debating the installation of porn-blocking software on computers in all of its libraries.
Internet users work at the computers at the Philadelphia Public Library in Philadelphia in this file photo. In Los Angeles, city council members debating the installation of porn-blocking software on computers in all of its libraries. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Porn is a problem at Los Angeles public libraries.

Library patrons are able to view pornographic material on library computers – and often do so in front of children, according to an investigation by NBC4.

In one instance, a man watched from a computer just a few feet from the children’s area, where a librarian was hosting a reading circle. Reporters were told that anyone could watch porn as long as their hands remained visible to security guards, according to NBC4.

In response to the report, two city council members have called for software filters to be installed at all of the city’s 73 libraries.

“It is outrageous that our libraries enable people to watch pornography on public computers,” said council member Nury Martinez, in a statement released on Tuesday. “It’s just not right. Libraries are supposed to be for learning, not lewdness. No parent should ever have to worry that their child will be exposed to sexually explicit images and videos.”

The software would be installed on all publicly-owned library computers, workstations and wireless networks as the library recommends a long-term plan to prevent lewd content from being viewed on computers maintained by the library department, according to the release.

This isn’t the first time the council has grappled with pornography at city libraries.

The issue came before the council in 2011. At the time, the city’s head librarian said he would oppose the installation of such filters on public library computers, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. Citing First Amendment concerns, the council decided against blocking specific content, according to the story. The library did install privacy screens and repositioned computers to create more private viewing.

Under the national Children’s Internet Protection Act, libraries are required to have filters on publicly used computers to block illegal obscenity and child pornography. But that requirement is only for libraries that receive federal funds and adults can turn off those filters, the New York Post reported in 2011.

New York’s 200-plus library branches came under scrutiny in 2011.

At the time, library officials said pornography fell under the heading of free speech and the protection of the First Amendment, according to the Post.

Cities can further restrict viewing with specific policies, but often find it easier to take other measures to ensure those who want to view graphic material do so out of the view of younger eyes.

For example, in 2013 the Orland Park Public Library outside Chicago started carding anyone wanted to access an adults-only section of computers, according to the Chicago Tribune.

  Comments