Overblocking autonomy: The case of mandatory library filtering software [Book Review]

Continental Philosophy Review 42 (1):81-100 (2009)
Abstract
In U.S. v. American Library Association (2003), the Supreme Court upheld the Child Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which mandated that libraries receiving federal funding for public Internet access install content-filtering programs on computers which provide that access. These programs analyze incoming content, and block the receipt of objectionable material, in particular pornography. Thus, patrons at public libraries are protected from unintentionally (or intentionally) accessing objectionable material, and, in the case of minors, from accessing potentially damaging material. At least, that is the official story. In this paper, I develop three points. (1) I argue that CIPA and ALA are better read as examples of the enforcement of a regime of normative sexuality. The question of minors accessing pornography is only relevant to the official story insofar as it provides a rhetorically persuasive example of deviance from that normative regime. CIPAs full target includes information about topics such as homosexuality and contraception. (2) Rather than (or in addition to) punishing deviances directly, CIPA attempts to constitute a “public” in which such deviancy can never occur in the first place. Hence, the designation of a “public” space serves to domesticate alternative sexualities and to sanitize that space of sexual difference. (3) This interaction at the border of the public and private spheres offers an opportunity to reflect on and underscore the ways that subject formation and subjectivity are mediated through technological artifacts like the Internet.
Keywords Child Internet Protection Act  Library filtering  Internet  Sexuality  Hetero-normativity  Privacy  Public sphere
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References found in this work BETA
Gordon Hull (2005). Capital Sive Natura. International Studies in Philosophy 37 (2):15-35.
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