Blocking websites in libraries—our policy

by / Filed under Politics

Adrian argues – quite rightly – that libraries shouldn’t block websites on the basis of commercial practices. That includes gambling and payday loans websites.

At Suffolk Libraries we get the odd complaint about blocked sites. Like any service using a third party provider, we can’t always control when a site is blocked. Unlike many councils, we are able to get sites unblocked when they’re brought to our attention.

Libraries exhibit varies degrees of paternalism. I can see why councils block payday loan sites; after all, lots of our users can’t afford a PC and internet access, and payday loan companies exploit poor people. Still, it’s not our job to police the internet for them, and, of course, not every library user is a potential Wonga customer.

More bizarrely, you can’t even use Facebook in some library services, presumably because it’s not improving enough.

Anyway, we came up with a what we block policy. I reckon it’s about right:

As a library service we believe in freedom of speech. We only block access to internet sites or pages you access on our fixed PCs if a website:

  • publishes illegal material
  • publishes material of a racist or homphobic nature
  • publishes material we deem pornographic or excessively violent

We do reserve the right to block any website we choose.

Our internet access is filtered by third parties; however, we can ask for a site or page to be unblocked when you access it from one of our fixed PCs.

We can’t unblock sites you access via our WiFi service. The filtering on the WiFi service is set nationally by the WiFi provider (either Polkaspots or O2). We’ve chosen ‘family’ WiFi filtering levels because we can’t tell who’s using the service.