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The decisions by most libraries to exclude pornography from their print collections are not subjected to heightened scrutiny; it would make little sense to treat libraries’ judgments to block online pornography any differently.On the other hand, Justice Souter, an avowed Luddite who lives in a cabin, responds in his dissent:
Whereas traditional scarcity of money and space require a library to make choices about what to acquire, and the choice to be made is whether or not to spend the money to acquire something, blocking is the subject of a choice made after the money for Internet access has been spent or committed. Since it makes no difference to the cost of Internet access whether an adult calls up material harmful for children or the Articles of Confederation, blocking (on facts like these) is not necessitated by scarcity of either money or space. In the instance of the Internet, what the library acquires is electronic access, and the choice to block is a choice to limit access that has already been acquired. Thus, deciding against buying a book means there is no book (unless a loan can be obtained), but blocking the Internet is merely blocking access purchased in its entirety and subject to unblocking if the librarian agrees. The proper analogy therefore is not to passing up a book that might have been bought; it is either to buying a book and then keeping it from adults lacking an acceptable purpose, or to buying an encyclopedia and then cutting out pages with anything thought to be unsuitable for all adults.So, Souter “gets” the Internet, while Rehnquist clearly does not. It’s so, so simple, people. It’s one of Newton’s Laws: The Internet Changes Everything. Everything. Someday we will have a government that understands that.
© 2016 Matthew Newton, published under a Creative Commons License.