Alexandria Division

Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief

P.O. Box 4013
Leesburg, VA 20177
on its own behalf and
on behalf of its members

141 Marlow Street, S.W.
Leesburg, VA 20175

Route Two
Lincoln, VA 20160

39642 Rickard Road
Lovettsville, VA 20180

37950 Stevens Road
Lovettsville, VA 20180

411 West J Street
Purcellville, VA 20132

1105 Clover Drive
McLean, VA 22101

309 Ashton Drive SW
Leesburg, VA 20175

38620 Morrisonville Road
Lovettsville, VA 20180

300 Newman Court
Sterling, VA 20164

505 South Maple Court
Sterling, VA 20164

11216 Georges Mill Road
Lovettsville, VA 20180



102 Heritage Way, N.E.
Suite 103
Leesburg, VA 20176-4544

and its members in their official and
personal capacities,

20961 Gulick Mill Road
Leesburg, VA 20175

SPENCER D. AULT, Vice Chairman
107 N. King Street
Leesburg, VA 20176

20978 Flatboat Court
Sterling, VA 20165

11465 Dutchman's Creek Road
Lovettsville, VA 20180

18 Palmer Court
Sterling, VA 20165

and in his official capacity,

Director of Library Services
102 Heritage Way, N.E.
Suite 103
Leesburg, VA 20176-4544



Preliminary Statement

  1. Plaintiffs in this action, including parents, citizens, and other public library users in Loudoun County, seek injunctive and declaratory relief against improper restrictions imposed by the Defendants that severely censor and limit access to public information that would otherwise be available through the Internet in Loudoun County public libraries. Purportedly seeking to limit access to materials that are "pornographic" or "harmful to minors," Defendants' restrictions improperly limit adults to even less information than is fit for children, block access to valuable, educational and constitutionally protected information that has nothing to do with "pornography" under any definition of that term, fails to promote its purported objectives, and ignores readily available less restrictive alternatives. While labeling the policy as a prohibition on "sexual harassment," Defendants' Internet restrictions are far removed from any legitimate concern with such matters, and their chosen means of implementation are counterproductive. Defendants' conduct in adopting these Internet censorship restrictions has injured and continues to injure Plaintiffs in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.
  2. As explained in one recent decision, the Internet "may well be the premier technological innovation of the present age." American Libraries Ass'n. v. Pataki, 969 F. Supp. 160, 161 (S.D.N.Y. 1997). "The Internet is a far more speech-enhancing medium than print, the village green, or the mails." ACLU v. Reno, 929 F. Supp. 824, 882-883 (E.D. Pa. 1996) (Dalzell, J.), aff'd., 117 S. Ct. 2329 (1997). The Supreme Court has explained that from the readers' viewpoint, the Internet is comparable to "a vast library including millions of readily available and indexed publications." Reno v. ACLU, 117 S. Ct. 2329, 2335 (1997).
  3. On October 20, 1997, Defendant Board of Trustees of the Loudoun County Public Library ("the Board"), voted 5-4 to impose arbitrary and restrictive limits on the information that patrons may obtain over publicly available Internet access terminals provided in Loudoun County libraries. The Board adopted what it called a "Policy on Internet Sexual Harassment" ("the Policy") to prevent library patrons from accessing certain Internet resources, to be enforced by library staff and by a content blocking service controlled by a California corporation. The Policy applies the blocking software at all times for all users, regardless of age, without exception or individual choice. The Policy expressly threatens library patrons with criminal enforcement if they attempt to access information that the staff summarily decides is in violation of the rules.
  4. The Policy is a harsh and censorial solution in search of a problem. Although the Board had information that less than two-tenths of one percent of the information available over the Internet is even arguably "pornographic," and even though its investigations revealed that not a single one of the more than fifteen Virginia libraries it surveyed had experienced a serious problem with Internet access or had opted for blocking software, the Board adopted a policy that has been described by "experts [as] among the most restrictive in the nation." David Nakamura & Jacqueline L. Salmon, Internet Curbed in Loudoun: Library Board to Block Explicit Material, WASHINGTON POST, Oct. 22, 1997, at A1. The author of the policy, who was assisted by various pro-censorship organizations, announced his intention to make it a "template" for libraries across the United States.
  5. The Policy is inadequate to serve, and in fact undermines, the very purposes for which it purportedly was adopted. Although it claims to restrict informational materials that constitute "sexual harassment" or that are "harmful to juveniles," the means chosen for blocking such information are ill-suited for this purpose, and cannot implement a legal test for restricting speech. Moreover, because the Board's Policy is designed with censorship as its primary priority, and requires placement of Internet terminals in the "full view" of library staff to facilitate enforcement, it guarantees that patrons and staff will be exposed to whatever images may appear on the computer screens, including information that they may consider discriminatory or offensive. Thus, the Policy actually undermines the Board's stated interest in preventing such "harassment" of staff or patrons.
  6. The Policy censors much valuable information that has absolutely nothing to do with pornography. No blocking software designed to restrict access to information on the Internet can apply the community standards of Loudoun County, much less make the other legal determinations necessary to pass constitutional muster. The Board was well aware of this fact and implemented a content blocking service that, even in its own limited tests, was found to censor dozens of non-pornographic sites, including the home page of the Society of Friends, the Web site for the Yale University biology department graduate program, the Web site for the American Association of University Women, and the AIDS quilt Web site, among many others. Belated attempts to unblock a few of these sites were, and are woefully inadequate. Additionally, the blocking software selected by the Board restricts patrons in their use of "search engines" as a tool to conduct legitimate research on the Internet.
  7. The Policy greatly restricts the value of the Internet as an informational resource for Loudoun County library patrons even without the censorial effect of blocking software. Patrons will be deterred from seeking access to information of a sensitive or personal nature where, as here, placement of computer terminals forces users to "share" the information with all passersby. Such information may include Web sites relating to personal finance, divorce, mental health, safe sex practices, medical questions and a wide range of other data. At the same time, Defendants have ignored or rejected much less drastic alternatives to achieve their purported objectives.
  8. Reviewing the Policy, one member of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors who is also an ex-officio member of the Library Board, alerted his colleagues that "at least some of those who are advocating blocking software for our libraries eventually wish to impose censorship on a broad spectrum of ideas and information with which they disagree, regardless of whether or not those ideas and information are protected by the First Amendment." He added that "pornography has been merely used as an excuse to establish the structure by which this censorship can be imposed." As detailed below, the Policy clearly injures Plaintiffs in violation of the First Amendment.
  9. Jurisdiction and Venue

  10. This case arises under the Constitution and laws of the United States and presents a federal question within this Court's jurisdiction under Article III of the Constitution and 28 U.S.C. 1331 and 42 U.S.C. 1983.
  11. This Court has authority to grant declaratory relief pursuant to the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. 2201.
  12. Venue is proper in this judicial district under 28 U.S.C. 1391(b).
  13. Parties

  14. Plaintiff Mainstream Loudoun is a non-profit, grassroots membership organization based in Loudoun County, Virginia that is dedicated to ensuring a free and open society that preserves religious and personal freedom as established by the U.S. Constitution. The mission of Mainstream Loudoun includes working to ensure that the public libraries continue to provide information and resources to serve the diverse needs of the entire community of Loudoun County residents in their quest for knowledge, inspiration, enjoyment, and excellence. Mainstream Loudoun sues on its own behalf and on behalf of its members, who include teachers, authors, artists, community leaders, volunteers, parents and grandparents of minors, and other individuals who use the Loudoun County public libraries.
  15. Many Mainstream Loudoun members regularly depend on and use the free and wide range of information and resources at the public libraries. Many members already have attempted to use, or intend to use the Internet and its vast resources at the public library for these purposes. Mainstream Loudoun and its members have been harmed and continue to be harmed by Defendants' Policy that blocks their access to valuable information that would otherwise be available to them, and that imposes privacy, stigma and other burdens on their ability to access desired information Mainstream Loudoun's members' individual interests in obtaining such information over the Internet, and in not being subjected to unnecessary burdens on their use of the library, are germane to the organizational purpose of Mainstream Loudoun. Neither the claims asserted nor the relief requested herein requires the participation of Mainstream Loudoun's members in order to vindicate their individual rights.
  16. Plaintiffs Judy Coughlin, Henry Taylor, Ann M. Curley, Judith Randal Hines, Loren Kropat, Mary C. DuChateau, Kathryn Kern-Levine, Michael M. Clay, John S. White, Jerry Smith and Mary Adams (collectively, "the individual Plaintiffs") are citizens of the United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia, and, except for Ms. DuChateau, residents of Loudoun County, Virginia. All of the individual Plaintiffs use the public libraries and are harmed by Defendants' Policy for several reasons, including but not limited to the following:
    1. they have been and will be denied access to a substantial amount of otherwise available, constitutionally protected information and have been relegated to viewing even less information than what is suitable for children;
    2. they are deprived of the ability to choose for themselves and their families what constitutionally protected information they can read in the public libraries; and
    3. they have been burdened and inhibited significantly in their use of the Internet because, among other reasons, the Policy intentionally deprives library Internet users of privacy, requires library staff to monitor Internet use, and imposes potential criminal sanctions on users whom library staff believe have violated the Policy.
  17. Plaintiff Judy Coughlin has been a Loudoun County resident for 26 years and is a member of the Rust Library Advisory Board. Ms. Coughlin is employed as a technical writer at Sprint Corporation and also does freelance writing and editing in her own time. Ms. Coughlin has two children who have graduated from Loudoun County schools and was active in the Parent Teachers Association while her children were in school. Ms. Coughlin was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996 and has used and intends to continue to use the Internet at the public library for up-to-date research on breast cancer and breast reconstruction information and treatments. Defendants' Policy harms Ms. Coughlin by denying her full access to valuable information that she would like to obtain and by the lack of privacy of having the terminals placed out in the open without privacy screens which inhibits her ability to view sensitive medical and other information.
  18. Plaintiff Henry Taylor is a native of Loudoun County who attended county public schools through the ninth grade and has resided in the county for the last 18 years. Mr. Taylor is a writer, poet, and professor of literature and writing, who has published several books and received a Pulitzer Prize in 1986 for one of his books of poetry, The Flying Change. Professor Taylor regularly uses the Purcellville and Rust libraries for research, teaching, and personal learning, and has already been harmed in his use of the Internet at the public libraries for these purposes by the blocking of constitutionally protected information as a result of Defendants' Policy.
  19. Plaintiff Ann M. Curley has lived with her husband in Loudoun County for over 13 years, has three children and three grandchildren. Ms. Curley has had a long career in public service including working over 5 years in the Loudoun County's Sheriff's office, serving as President of local League of Women Voters chapters in two communities, and working over 15 years for the federal government in areas that include equal opportunity, sexual harassment and women's programs. Ms. Curley and her husband go to the Loudoun County public library often for research and educational purposes, and have used and plan to use the Internet for these purposes. While they own a computer, Ms. Curley and her husband do not have Internet access at home and thus can only access the Internet and its resources at the public libraries. Ms. Curley is harmed by Defendants' Policy because it prevents her and her family from choosing to have unfiltered access to the Internet consistent with their family values.
  20. Plaintiff Judith Randal Hines has lived in Loudoun County with her husband for over ten years. Ms. Hines, who currently is a freelance science journalist, has worked for several newspapers as a science reporter and served as past president of the National Association of Science Writers and a board member of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. In addition, Ms. Hines has been active in the community as a graduate of the Leadership Loudoun program and serving as a member of the Board of the Preservation Society of Loudoun County for more than ten years. Ms. Hines uses the Loudoun County public libraries frequently for both professional and personal educational purposes and has used the Internet for work purposes and plans to do so in the future. Many government and other documents of interest to Ms. Hines for her work are now available only through the Internet. Defendants' Policy injures her ability to receive information and to do so in a timely fashion via the Internet.
  21. Plaintiff Loren Kropat has resided in Loudoun County for 18 years and is a member of the Purcellville Town Council. Mr. Kropat and his wife have two children, a son who is thirteen years old and a daughter who is nine. Mr. Kropat is a regular and frequent user of the Purcellville Library, visiting over 50 times a year. Mr. Kropat and his children use the Internet for research and educational purposes. Mr. Kropat and his daughter already have used and they and his son also plan to use the Internet at the public library. Mr. Kropat is harmed by not having access to constitutionally protected and valuable information for his research and educational purposes and by the lack of privacy caused by Defendant's policy of locating the computer terminals in the open and having librarians monitor their use, thus inhibiting his research into business matters, medical information affecting his family, and other personal matters. Mr. Kropat has already been harmed by not being able to access a number of desired research sites that contain constitutionally protected information when using the Internet at the public library. Mr. Kropat also has been harmed by not being permitted to decide as a parent what information his children can read over the Internet in the public libraries.
  22. Plaintiff Mary C. DuChateau has worked in the Loudoun County public school system for over 20 years, first as a substitute teacher and then two years as a history and government teacher and then over 20 years as a School Library Media Specialist. As a professional librarian with a Masters Degree in Library Sciences, Ms. DuChateau is particularly concerned about how Defendants' Internet Policy will harm teachers in researching and formulating lesson plans and assignments and how it will harm students who are learning how to use the Internet to research and complete school assignments. Ms. DuChateau also is especially worried about the competitive disadvantage that Loudoun students will be put in academically and professionally as compared to their peers in other localities, most all of which permit open access to the Internet's resources. Ms. DuChateau has used the Internet at the Sterling Branch public library. While trying to research controversial topics that have been assigned in the past by teachers at Park View High School, Ms. DuChateau found that much useful non-pornographic information for students was blocked by the X-Stop software.
  23. Plaintiff Kathryn A. Kern-Levine and her husband have lived in Loudoun County since late 1993. Ms. Kern-Levine has served as Secretary of the Parents Teacher Association and a regular volunteer at her son's public school in Leesburg. Ms. Kern-Levine worked as a Child Development Program Assistant for the United States Navy in California and ran a licensed child care business in Loudoun County from 1995 to 1997. In addition, Ms. Kern-Levin has served on the Loudoun County Public Schools Textbook Selection Committee, has been active in her local temple, and has volunteered many hours at the Loudoun County Abused Women's Shelter. Ms. Kern-Levine is harmed by defendants' policy both in the limitations on her own use of the Internet and because the policy deprives her as a parent from choosing to permit her son to use unfiltered Internet access at the public libraries where he works on school reports and assignments.
  24. Plaintiff Michael M. Clay and his wife have resided in Loudoun County for ten years and his ancestors date back to Loudoun County for over 200 years. Mr. Clay and his wife have two sons, ages nine and five, who attend Loudoun County public schools. Mr. Clay is a sculptor currently employed at a bronze foundry located in Leesburg, Virginia. Mr. Clay frequently uses the Internet in connection with his work to obtain information on art history, art processes, and gallery opportunities. Mr. Clay, his wife who is a teacher, and his eldest son use the Internet for research, school and personal interests such as their son's interests in sports, aviation, and automobiles. Mr. Clay is harmed by Defendants' Policy because it deprives him of valuable information for work and personal learning, and because it deprives him as a parent of the ability to decide what information his sons can read over the Internet in the public libraries.
  25. Plaintiff John S. White has resided in Loudoun County for over 20 years. He and his wife have an 18 year old daughter who just entered college. Mr. White is a professional firefighter and currently serves as a battalion Chief in a large, northern Virginia municipal fire department where he has worked for over 25 years. Mr. White also is a Vietnam Veteran. Mr. White does not have a computer or Internet access at his home and has used and plans to use the Internet at Loudoun County public libraries. Defendants' Policy has already harmed Mr. White when he was blocked from obtaining information over the Internet at the Loudoun County public library, including a book dealing with the issue of sexual content and the law of cyberspace, for educational and personal purposes.
  26. Plaintiff Jerome J. Smith has resided with his wife in Loudoun County for over 20 years. Mr. Smith and his wife have a daughter who is 15 years old who attends a Loudoun County public high school and uses the public libraries for school and personal educational purposes. Mr. and Mrs. Smith are both teachers in Loudoun County public high schools. Mr. Smith teaches physical education, CPR, and other courses at Broad Run High School and coaches the school's football team. Mr. Smith uses the public library for professional and educational purposes and he and his daughter intend to use the Internet at the public library for these same purposes. Mr. Smith is injured by Defendants' Policy because it prevents him from having full access to the Internet at the library and from deciding with his family what information his daughter may or may not read on the Internet at the public library.
  27. Plaintiff Mary Adams has resided in Loudoun County for ten years. Ms. Adams has four children, three of whom live in Loudoun County, and nine grandchildren, of whom four live in the county. Two of her grandsons, ages ten and eight, live with Ms. Adams and attend Loudoun County public schools. Ms. Adams has no computer or Internet access at home. Ms. Adams' grandsons use the public libraries for school assignments and other educational purposes and will use the Internet at the public libraries for these same purposes. Ms. Adams is injured by Defendants' Policy because it prevents her and her family from being able to choose unfiltered access to the Internet's resources for her grandchildren consistent with their family values.
  28. Defendant Board of Trustees of The Loudoun County Public Library ("the Board") is a governmental entity responsible for oversight of the Loudoun County Public Library ("the Library") and which adopted the Policy at issue in this case. Defendants John J. Nicholas, Jr., Spencer D. Ault, Richard H. Black, Chris Howlett and Mary Ellen VanNederynen are members of the Board who voted to adopt the Policy. Defendant Nicholas is the Board's Chairman. Defendant Douglas Henderson is the Director of Library Services and is responsible for the operation of the Library and implementation of the Policy. The individual Board members are sued here in their official and personal capacities. Defendant Henderson is sued here in his official capacity.
  29. Facts

    The Nature of the Internet

  30. As the United States Supreme Court explained earlier this year, the Internet is a unique and wholly new medium of worldwide human communication. Any person with access to the Internet may take advantage of a wide variety of communication and information retrieval methods. This unique medium, known to its users as cyberspace, is located in no particular geographical location, but is available to anyone, anywhere in the world with access. It is no exaggeration to conclude that the content of the Internet is as diverse as human thought. Reno v. ACLU, 117 S. Ct. 2329, 2334-35 (1997).
  31. The Internet is a "network of networks" that links millions of host computers around the world. Each host computer on the Internet may be linked to smaller local networks, such as office networks, that typically link several computers, or to individual computers that connect over conventional phone lines. Although the Internet originated with research funding provided by the Department of Defense, the private sector took over control of maintaining the Internet in April 1995. It has been estimated that more than 50 million people use the Internet today and that by the year 2000, up to 200 million people will use the Internet.
  32. Despite the growth of the Internet, many people do not own or cannot afford a personal computer. The only access available for many people will be in a public institution, such as a library. Some surveys have found that, after individual households, public libraries represent the location where most people gain access to the Internet. Many communities and local libraries provide free access to the Internet.
  33. The best known category of communications over the Internet is the World Wide Web, which allows users to search for and retrieve information stored in remote computers. The Web consists of a vast number of documents stored in different computers all over the world. It has been estimated that there are at least 300 million Web pages available to Internet users, and the number is growing rapidly. Further estimates suggest that several thousand pages are added to the World Wide Web every day.
  34. As the District Court in ACLU v. Reno concluded, the Web "was created to serve as the platform for a global, online store of knowledge, containing information from a diversity of sources and accessible to Internet users around the world. Though information on the Web is contained in individual computers, the fact that each of these computers is connected to the Internet through [World Wide Web] protocols allows all of the information to become part of a single body of knowledge." ACLU v. Reno, 929 F. Supp. 824, 836 (E.D. Pa. 1996) (finding of fact #34), aff'd, 117 S. Ct. 2329 (1997).
  35. Web pages are accessed on a computer by a software application called a "browser." To access the Web over a browser, the user types in the address for a particular Web page, called the Uniform Resource Locator ("URL"). When a Web page appears on the browser, the user may access other information at that site, or may access other Web sites by clicking on highlighted text, known as hypertext links. Links on a Web page are used to lead from overview documents to more detailed documents, from tables of contents to particular pages, and also as cross-references, footnotes and new forms of information structure.
  36. Many organizations now have "home pages" on the Web. These are documents which provide a set of links designed to represent the organization, and through links from the home page, guide the user directly or indirectly to information about, or relevant to, that organization. Entities that publish information on the Internet include government agencies, educational institutions, commercial entities, advocacy groups and individuals. Web publishing is simple enough that thousands of individual users and small community organizations publish their own Web pages. Mainstream Loudoun publishes a Web page located at
  37. A variety of systems allow users of the Web to search for particular information among all of the public sites that are part of the Web. Services such as Yahoo, Magellan, Alta Vista, Webcrawler, Lycos and Info Seek provide services called "search engines" that allow users to search for Web sites that contain certain categories of information. Through the use of key words, the search engine will display a list of Web sites that potentially contain the desired information. The user can then follow the individual links, browsing through the information at each site until the desired material is found.
  38. Although the Internet has no centralized control point, from the user's perspective it appears to be a "single, integrated system." Unlike most computer database systems, the computers on the World Wide Web are "linked together into a single whole." ACLU v. Reno, 929 F. Supp. at 838 (findings of fact #46-47). "Links from one computer to another from one document to another across the Internet, are what unify the Web into a single body of knowledge, and what makes the Web unique." Id. at 836-837.
  39. The Supreme Court found that the Web is comparable, from the reader's viewpoint, to a vast library including millions of readily available and indexed publications. Reno v. ACLU, 117 S. Ct. at 2335.
  40. Access to most Web pages is freely available, but some pages limit access only to those who have purchased the right from a commercial provider.
  41. There is a trend for certain documents to be produced only in electronic form and not in print. A growing number of government documents are no longer available in paper form but are accessible on the Internet. For such documents, accessibility by the public requires Internet access.
  42. Sexually oriented material is available on the Internet, ranging from the modestly titillating to very explicit material. Measured in terms of total content on the Internet, such sexually explicit material represents far less than one percent. The percentage of sexually explicit material represents a declining proportion of total material available on the Internet.
  43. Such sexually explicit material includes far more than what might be characterized colloquially as "pornography." The Supreme Court identified various examples of this, including nude photographs by Edward Weston and Robert Mapplethorpe posted by the UCR/California Museum of Photography, and safer sex instructions that the Critical Path posts to its Web site, written in street language so that teenagers can understand them. Reno v. ACLU, 117 S. Ct. at 2336.
  44. Although the Supreme Court found that sexually explicit material is widely available, it also concluded that users seldom encounter such material accidentally. Almost all sexually explicit images are preceded by warnings as to the content. Accordingly, the Court found that odds are slim that a user would enter a sexually explicit site by accident.
  45. The Internet provides information on topics that might be considered offensive or harmful by some that has nothing to do with pornography. Such information might include graphic anti-abortion imagery, sites depicting surgical procedures, sites opposing vivi-section, anti-war displays and other such sites.
  46. The Internet provides information on topics that include sensitive or personal information that a user would not want to share with all other library patrons or staff in the vicinity of the computer terminal. Such information might include information on mental health, medical conditions, divorce, adoption, drug dependency, alcoholism, religion, sexual practices, AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases, personal finances and many other topics.
  47. The Internet is a medium of speech entitled to full First Amendment protection. In Reno v. ACLU, 117 S. Ct. 2329 (1997), the Supreme Court held that two provisions of the Communications Decency Act ("CDA") that restricted speech upon the Internet violated the First Amendment. In so doing, the Court determined that there is no basis for qualifying the level of First Amendment scrutiny that should be applied to the Internet and, in fact, the Court applied its most stringent form of First Amendment review to the CDA.
  48. The Supreme Court found that lack of precision in the regulation of Internet content was a matter of special concern. The Court found that an imprecise standard would cover large amounts of non-pornographic material that has serious educational or other value, that such regulation would fail to take into account local community standards, and that it would lead to censorship of such subject matter as "any of the seven 'dirty words' used in the [FCC v.] Pacifica [Foundation] monologue, . . . discussions about prison rape or safe sexual practices, artistic images that include nude subjects, and arguably the card catalogue of the Carnegie Library." Reno v. ACLU, 117 S. Ct. at 2344, 2348. The Court was also concerned that an uncertain standard would affect discussion of subjects such as birth control practices and homosexuality.
  49. Content Blocking Software

  50. Software filters are computer programs that block access to Internet sites.
  51. Although there are several types of content filters, one popular type is known as a stand-alone proprietary filtering system. Such a system employs computer software that works in conjunction with a Web browser to block specified types of information. Stand-alone filters block sites based on criteria provided by the filtering software vendor.
  52. All Web content rating systems depend on the exercise of subjective human judgment to decide what content is acceptable and what is unacceptable.
  53. Stand-alone proprietary blocking software prevents access to content on the Internet in one of two ways. One method is to block lists of unacceptable sites. The second method blocks sites based on specified key words. Software filters, whether based on site-blocking or key word blocking, are designed solely to block access to information and specific content or viewpoints.
  54. Site-based blocking software operates by blocking specified categories of Internet content established by the software vendor. Some Internet filtering software products block as few as six categories of information, while others block up to 29 or more categories. Blocked categories may include hate speech, criminal activity, sexually explicit information, "adult" information, information on violence, or information on alternative lifestyles, such as homosexuality. Lists of unacceptable sites are compiled and maintained by the filtering software vendor.
  55. Some software filtering vendors employ individuals to decide which sites should be blocked. Other blocking software vendors use automated tools to identify which sites to block. These methods may be used in combination.
  56. Filtering software vendors that employ site-based blocking generally treat their blocking criteria as a trade secret. Accordingly, most vendors do not reveal their list of blocked sites. Filtering software that employs site-based blocking must be updated constantly to keep up with changes in content available on the Internet.
  57. Key word-based content filtering uses text searches to classify objectionable sites. If a site contains an unacceptable word or phrase, it is blocked by the filter. Content blocking software also may function to limit the ability of a search engine to retrieve a listing of Web sites in response to a search request.
  58. Filtering software that uses key words cannot evaluate the context in which those words are used. For example, some software filters that use key words have blocked access to the White House Web site because it used the word "couples." Such software has also blocked information relating to breast cancer because of the word "breast."
  59. Filtering software blocks access to Internet content in advance of any judicial test of the legal status of the blocked information and without any assessment by a court or jury as to local community standards.
  60. The Loudoun County Public Library

  61. The Loudoun County public library system serves the population of Loudoun County, Virginia through six branches as well as outreach services. Library branches are located in Leesburg, Cascades, Purcellville, Sterling, Lovettsville and Middleburg. In 1997, approximately 966,000 citizens visited Loudoun County libraries and checked out more than 1.7 million books, magazines, videos, audiocassettes and CDs. In November 1997, the library began to offer Internet access through nine public terminals located at the six branches.
  62. As the library's governing body, the Board has adopted policies with respect to the development of library resources and use thereof by patrons. A policy entitled "Freedom for Ideas -- Freedom From Censorship" was adopted by the Board on May 15, 1995 and reaffirmed on January 27, 1997. The policy quotes the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and states that "[t]his guarantees to the American people that all ideas can be promulgated and are available to all who seek them." The policy contains a number of specific propositions, including, in relevant part: (1) "It is in the public interest to maintain a library collection in various media, offering the widest possible diversity of views and expressions. The selection and development of the Library collection is not to be diminished because minors might have access to materials with controversial content;" (2) "Materials shall not be excluded from the collection because of the nature of the information or views presented therein, nor the political orientation of their content. Furthermore, materials shall not be excluded because of the moral, religious or political beliefs of their writer, publisher or film maker, nor does their inclusion in the collection imply endorsement of all the ideas presented therein;" (3) "[T]he rights and responsibilities of parents or legal guardians will neither be abridged nor assumed by the library system;" and (4) "Censorship of ideas will be rejected and opposed by the library system."
  63. A "Policy on Collection Development" was revised on January 23, 1995 and reaffirmed on January 27, 1997. According to that policy, it is "[t]he goal of Loudoun Public Libraries . . . to provide the citizens of Loudoun County with a range of materials in a variety of print and non-print formats to meet their informational, cultural, educational, and recreational needs and interests." The collection policy expressly endorses the "Freedom For Ideas -- Freedom From Censorship" policy, and adds that "[i]ndividual use of library materials is a private and personal matter. All citizens are free to reject for themselves materials of which they may disapprove; no citizen may restrict the freedom of use and access for others." The policy adds that "[r]esponsibility for the reading, listening, and viewing of library materials by children rests with their parents or legal guardians and not with the library staff. Selection of library materials is not inhibited by the possibility that materials may come into the possession of children."
  64. A "Policy on Confidentiality" was revised by the Board on February 26, 1996 and reaffirmed on January 27, 1997. The policy provides that "[c]onfidentiality of all patrons' library use will be maintained. In the case of children under 17, parents and/or legal guardians shall have complete access to their minor child's records in order that unnecessary obstacles will not be placed between parent and child by the library."
  65. Development of Library's Internet Policy

  66. At some time in spring, 1997, Defendant Henderson began making arrangements for the initiation of public Internet access in the Loudoun County Library system.
  67. At the Board's May 19, 1997 meeting, Defendant Henderson reported to the Board on developments relating to Internet access and presented to the Board a proposed Internet policy that would have provided unrestricted access to the Internet at the Library. The draft policy stated that "[i]n providing access to the Internet, the Loudoun County Public Library subscribes to and fully supports the FREEDOM FOR IDEAS -- FREEDOM FROM CENSORSHIP policy adopted by the Loudoun County Public Library's Board of Trustees." (emphasis in original). At its May 19, 1997 meeting, the Board formed an Internet Policy Committee to consider issues relating to Internet access in Loudoun County public libraries.
  68. Defendant Black handed out a formal statement opposing the proposed Internet use policy at the May 19, 1997 Board meeting which demonstrated that he had reached his final conclusions regarding the policy prior to any committee deliberations. Among other things, Defendant Black wrote, "I'm certain the Board does not wish to use tax dollars to subsidize 'child pornography, bestiality, violence, and Nazi images,' such as those for which one Compuserve official now faces probable indictment by German authorities."
  69. The proposed Internet policy was made available for public comment. The Internet Policy Committee received public comments on the proposed policy in meetings on June 11 and 12, 1997. The Board discussed the proposed Internet policy and public comments regarding the proposal at its June 16, 1997 meeting, but did not formally vote on the policy.
  70. In the course of evaluating the proposed policy, representatives of the Internet Policy Committee contacted at least fifteen other libraries in the State of Virginia. None of the library systems contacted had adopted an Internet policy that required the use of blocking software.
  71. None of the libraries contacted by Loudoun County had experienced a significant problem with patrons seeking to access "pornography." Only one library reported a single incident of a patron taking offense. That library solved the problem by installing "privacy screens" on Internet access terminals to prevent patrons other than the one using the computer from viewing information on the screen.
  72. In a July 17, 1997 letter to the Board, Plaintiff Mainstream Loudoun strongly supported the proposed Internet policy drafted by Defendant Henderson. The letter said that "[i]f the Library Board decides to install filtering software, it should be offered as an optional tool for patrons to request." The letter added that "[i]ndividual library patrons have the right to decide what they and their children access on the Internet, not the government and not private industry." Plaintiff Mainstream Loudoun also wrote to the board in support of a proposed Internet policy that would have required minors to obtain written parental permission before being allowed to use library computers for Internet access without filtering software. Mainstream Loudoun's proposed policy further provided that adults would be granted Internet access without software filters, unless an individual patron requested such filtering be activated.
  73. On July 21, 1997, the Board adopted an "Internet Use Policy" (hereinafter, "the initial policy"). The initial policy provided that the Library's computers would be equipped with screening software designed to prevent access to material that is indecent, creates a hostile environment, or "exposes those of tender age to violent or sexually explicit text and imagery." Under the initial policy, adults would have been able to obtain unfiltered access to the Internet for a specific session upon request to the library staff. The initial policy stated that minors could obtain unfiltered Internet access only if a parent or legal guardian gave permission and was physically present with the minor for the duration of that specific session.
  74. The Board adopted the initial policy over the objection of the Director of Library Services.
  75. On September 3, 1997, Mainstream Loudoun sent a letter to Chairman Nicholas and all the members of the Library Board detailing the various constitutional and policy problems with the newly adopted Internet Use Policy and urging the Board to reconsider and rescind the policy. In the letter, Mainstream Loudoun reiterated its less restrictive proposal that would permit adults and parents to decide for themselves and their children whether to choose filtered or unfiltered access to the Internet in the public libraries consistent with individual choice and family values.
  76. At a public meeting held on September 15, 1997, the Board voted to reconsider the initial policy. At the same meeting, the Board considered, but did not vote upon, another proposal under which Library computers would be "equipped with screening software that attempts to avoid obscene or unlawful materials." As with the July 21, 1997 policy, this proposal called for placing Internet computer terminals "in full public view of library staff to discourage inappropriate use."
  77. On or about October 16, 1997, Defendant Black circulated to certain Board members a draft policy entitled "Policy on Internet Sexual Harassment." The draft policy was proposed for consideration at the October 20, 1997 Board meeting. Defendant Black has stated that he was assisted in drafting the Policy by the National Law Center for Children and Families.
  78. On October 19, 1997 James Burton, a member of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, and ex-officio member of the Library Board, sent a memorandum to Library Board members regarding the proposed Internet policy. The memorandum reminded Board members that as public officials they must comply with constitutional requirements and stated that "the draft policy proposed by Mr. Black does precisely what the Supreme Court says cannot legally be done. If I read Mr. Black's proposal correctly, he would employ filtering software, with no option to turn it off, that restricts protected as well as unprotected speech with the net effect of reducing the material that is available to adults to the level of what is appropriate for children." In his October 19, 1997 memorandum to the members of the Library Board, Supervisor Burton stated that "despite claims to the contrary, no software exists that would block all unprotected speech and only unprotected speech. In other words, material that should be blocked will get through, and material that legally should not be blocked, will be blocked."
  79. In his October 19, 1997 memo to the Board, Supervisor Burton suggested that "it would be prudent to seek formal legal counsel with respect to any policy you choose before it becomes official." He added "I strongly recommend that you ask the County Attorney and/or an outside expert to review whatever policy you develop."
  80. At its October 20, 1997 public meeting, the Board voted to adopt the current "Policy on Internet Sexual Harassment" ("the Policy"), drafted by Defendant Black. The Policy was adopted by a vote of 5 to 4. Defendants Nicholas, Black, Ault, and VanNederynen voted to adopt the policy. A copy of the Policy is attached hereto.
  81. Various Board members stated at the October 20, 1997 meeting that there had been inadequate time to consider the Policy adopted at that meeting.
  82. The Policy provides that Internet filtering software designed to block access to specific sites on the Internet "will be installed on all computers."
  83. The Policy states that the filtering software will "to the extent technically feasible" block "child pornography and obscene material (hard core pornography)" and "material deemed Harmful to Juveniles under applicable Virginia statutes and legal precedents (soft core pornography)."
  84. The Policy does not define the terms "child pornography," "obscene material," "hard core pornography," "material Harmful to Juveniles," or "soft core pornography."
  85. The Policy states that the Library's computers will be placed "in close proximity to, and in full view of, library staff" so that staff can monitor use of the Internet by Library patrons.
  86. The Policy asserts that allowing Library patrons unrestricted access to the Internet could create a sexually hostile environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  87. The Policy does not allow an adult to access the Internet without blocking software under any circumstances. Even with the blocking software, library users under age 18 must obtain written permission before using the library Internet terminals.
  88. Library patrons who seek to access prohibited information under the Policy will be told by library staff that they are in violation, and if they continue, will be told to leave the library. If such patrons do not leave, the Policy states that they will be considered in trespass and police will be called to remove them from the premises.
  89. Defendants Black and Nicholas both stated at the October 20, 1997 Board meeting that filtering software is "not perfect." Defendant Nicholas acknowledged that some "pornographic" material would evade the filter and that some constitutionally protected material would be blocked.
  90. On October 22, 1997, after the Board adopted the Internet policy, Supervisor Burton sent a memo to other members of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors regarding the Internet Policy. In the memorandum, Supervisor Burton stated: "Our County Attorney attended the Trustee's Meeting Monday evening to give advice if asked. Mr. Roberts [the County Attorney] was asked no questions, either at the meeting or prior to it at any time, about the legality or wisdom of Trustee Black's proposed policy which had been introduced for the first time that evening." Supervisor Burton added that "[n]o attempt was made to seek outside legal advice even though I had requested Trustees to do so."
  91. Defendants either refused to consider or rejected less restrictive alternatives for achieving its purported objectives. For example, the Board refused to consider the proposal made on several occasions by Mainstream Loudoun, including during public session at Board meetings and in the September 3, 1997 letter referenced above, that would require written parental permission for minors to have unfiltered Internet access and would permit adults and parents to decide for themselves and for their children whether to choose filtered or unfiltered access to the Internet in the public libraries. In addition, with respect to the current policy's stated concerns about sexual harassment, even if the mere presence of something on a computer screen that was offensive to an employee could somehow be considered harassment, defendants failed to consider any alternatives such as placing the computer terminals in a private location or utilizing "privacy screens" that would prevent employees and patrons not using the Internet from viewing a user's computer screen. To the contrary, defendants' Policy directly undermines the purported objectives relating to "sexual harassment" by requiring that the Internet computer terminals be placed "in close proximity to, and in full view of" library staff and by requiring that library staff monitor use of the Internet to identify, stop, and, if necessary, eject violators by calling the police to remove them for criminal trespass.
  92. Supervisor Burton's October 22, 1997 memorandum to the County Board of Supervisors noted that the Library Board's rejection of alternatives to software filters "suggest very strongly that something other than removing pornography from accessibility is the issue driving this policy."
  93. Implementation of the Policy

  94. In late November 1997, the Library Director selected a vendor for content blocking software and installed the blocking software on library computers before making Internet access available to the public in the Loudoun County library system.
  95. The library administration selected blocking software called X-Stop. X-Stop is a product created and sold by Log-On Data Corporation ("Log-On"), whose principal place of business is located at 4175 East La Palma Avenue, Suite 130, Anaheim, CA 92807. Promotional material for Log-On Data Corporation states that all management personnel of the company are graduate engineers, scientists, or researchers.
  96. The version of X-Stop installed on library computers is designated "X-Stop 95/NT v.3.0."
  97. Various groups that support Internet censorship have advocated the use of X-Stop in public libraries on a nationwide basis. Enough is Enough has endorsed the use of content blocking software in general, and X-Stop specifically. The American Family Association announced that it formed an alliance with Log-On Data Corporation to promote X-Stop as an Internet content blocking tool.
  98. One method that X-Stop uses to block access to information on the Internet is through a list of specific Web sites that are blocked. Log-On adds Websites to its blocking list for X-Stop by use of a computerized searching program it calls MudCrawler. Log-On describes MudCrawler as a "propriety automation system" that is "a combination of virtual entities that Log-On Data Corp. has perfected to search the Internet for hard-core pornography and other offensive addresses." The company claims that X-Stop has the largest available hard-core pornography and other offensive site blocking library. Promotional material for Log-On states that X-Stop "is not a filter but a combination of 16 technological devices which effectively and reliably screen out hard-core pornography and other offensive sites on the Internet."
  99. The rating system used by Log-On to implement X-STOP blocking software is proprietary and is a trade secret of Log-On. Web sites identified by MudCrawler are assessed by employees of Log-On who determine if the site is "pornographic." Log-On claims to access thousands of new Web sites each week to add sites to its blocked list.
  100. Promotional material for Log-On claims to have created a library of blocked sites that includes "over 50,000 in the categories included in the librarian version of X-Stop." Promotional material for Log-On asserts that the librarian edition of X-Stop "is equipped only with the 'felony load' of blocked addresses, so that only sites qualifying under the Miller [v. California] standard are blocked." Promotional material for Log-On claims that the librarian edition of X-Stop only blocks Web sites that show sexual acts, bestiality, and child pornography. It claims that "[l]egimate art or education sites are not blocked by the library edition, nor are so-called "soft porn" or "R"-rated sites."
  101. Promotional material for Log-On states that the foremost way in which almost all users of the Internet retrieve information is through the use of search engines. It adds that "[w]ithout the use of Internet search engines, meaningful retrieval of relevant information is almost an impossibility," and that "most Internet filtering systems have not found a way in which to block use of Internet search engines without completely eliminating their use. Without the use of these search tools, effective, positive, productive use of the Internet can quickly become an impossibility. It is absolutely essential to have these tools available."
  102. A second way that X-Stop blocks access to Internet information relates to the use of Internet search engines. Promotional information for Log-On states that X-Stop also includes a search engine monitor. It describes the monitor as "an intuitive proximity logic device." Log-On states that: "X-Stop knows when the user is entering an Internet search engine. Normally, 'OK' words are not always 'OK' in key word searches. The X-Stop device monitors most, if not all, of the world's Internet search engines. Any attempt to use words that have been found to lead to danger, indecent or offensive material is blocked. X-Stop in effect allows only wholesome searches."
  103. On or about October 6, 1997, an article by Jonathan Wallace appeared on the Web site "The Ethical Spectacle" ( entitled "The X-Stop Files." The article listed a number of Web sites blocked by the "felony load" X-Stop librarian edition including sites hosted by the Society of Friends, the Banned Books page at Carnegie Mellon University, the American Association of University Women, the AIDS Quilt Site, the Heritage Foundation Web site, the University of Chicago's Fileroom Project, which tracks acts of censorship around the world, and numerous others.
  104. On November 20, 1997, Supervisor James Burton sent a memo to the county board of supervisors entitled "Censorship on Library Internet Computers." In the memorandum Supervisor Burton stated that "[d]uring the library staff evaluation, the X-STOP software blocked 57 sites that had nothing to do with pornography; sites that contain speech protected by the First Amendment. One of those blocked sites was the Quaker Home Page at As an experiment, I went to that site on the net and found the attached piece written by Jonathan Wallace."
  105. The article by Jonathan Wallace to which Supervisor Burton referred in his November 20, 1997 memorandum was the article described in paragraph 96 above which listed non-pornographic Web sites blocked by X-STOP.
  106. In his November 20, 1997 memorandum to the County Board of Supervisors, Supervisor Burton stated that "[i]t has been and continues to be my fear that at least some of those who are advocating blocking software for our libraries eventually wish to impose censorship on a broad spectrum of ideas and information with which they disagree, regardless of whether or not those ideas and information are protected by the First Amendment. I believe pornography has been merely used as an excuse to establish the structure by which this censorship can be imposed, with that structure being software controlled by unnamed individuals with unknown political, social, cultural and moral beliefs in a company in California."
  107. Local press accounts revealed that the blocking software in the Loudoun County library system blocked non-pornographic Web sites, including the home page for the Society of Friends.
  108. In the wake of press reports about the use of X-Stop in the Loudoun County libraries, Mike Bradshaw, Chief Executive Officer of Log-On was contacted about the blocking of harmless Web sites.
  109. Mr. Bradshaw stated that the inappropriate blocking of non-pornographic Web sites was caused by "human error." Mr. Bradshaw stated that X-Stop was designed to block access only to hard-core pornographic sites, and not sites that are considered "soft-core" material.
  110. In response to the press reports concerning inappropriate blocking in the Loudoun County library system, Mr. Bradshaw contacted a regional sales manager for Log-On who was attending a White House Summit on Internet filtering in Washington, D.C. on December 2 and 3, 1997.
  111. The representative of Log-On visited the Loudoun County library system as a result of this communication, and he unblocked a number of Web sites on the Loudoun County system.
  112. Even after a number of Web sites were removed from the blocked site list, Plaintiffs found that the X-Stop filter at Loudoun County libraries continued to block a number of Web sites that have nothing to do with pornography. Examples include the Yale University biology graduate school Web site, the Zero Population Growth Web site, a Web site for a Massachusetts Institute of Technology course entitled "Ethics and Law on the Electronic Frontier," the Safer Sex education Web site and a Mormon Church Web site on the prevention of masturbation. Although the Web site for the American Association of University Women was removed from the blocked list, the Web site for the American Association of University Women -- Maryland continued to be censored.
  113. Experience Under the Content Blocking Policy

  114. Loudoun County library patrons who wish to access the Internet are required to sign a lengthy policy statement concerning the Internet policy and sexual harassment. A special sticker is placed on the library cards of patrons who sign the form.
  115. The Internet Policy and consent form that library patrons must sign to gain Internet access repeats the term "pornography" nine times. Because of the overriding emphasis of the consent form and library policy on "pornography," the Loudoun County procedures create the inference that anyone who receives a violation message on an Internet terminal was attempting to access illegal materials. Any attempt to gain access to a Web site, or to conduct a search using a term banned by X-Stop causes a "Violation" message to appear on the computer screen. The message is clearly visible to other library patrons.
  116. Library patrons who wish to access the Internet are required to present both a library card and a second piece of identification, such as a driver's license.
  117. Library patrons who wish to access the Internet are required to surrender their library cards to the staff while using the computer terminals.
  118. Anyone under the age of 18 can use the library Internet terminals only if a parent signs a consent form.
  119. The names of library patrons who use Internet access terminals are recorded on a log by library staff. The log is kept at the library reference desk and patrons' names may be freely observed by others in the library.
  120. Library patrons who access the Internet are further required to review the Internet policy on sexual harassment once on-line and electronically agree to it before continuing with Internet access.
  121. The computer terminals in the Loudoun County library system are placed so that library staff, and other patrons, can easily look at the computer screen over the user's shoulder and view any information being accessed by the user.
  122. Printers attached to computer terminals also are placed so that others may view any material that is printed by a library patron accessing the Internet.
  123. The library staff actively monitors the usage of Internet access terminals.
  124. Because library Internet access terminals are fully visible to all onlookers, users are inhibited in their ability to access information that involves personal or sensitive information. This includes such matters as mastectomy reconstruction surgery, mental health information, other medical information, matters of personal finance, divorce, safe sex information, and other materials that users may reasonably want to avoid sharing with all library patrons.
  125. Library patrons who seek to access a Website that is blocked by X-Stop receive a message that reads "Violation!! Violation!! Violation!! Access to this site has been blocked. Please click on your bookmark to go to some other Website, Contact your Internet or Network Coordinator if you believe this site should not be blocked. X-Stop 95/NT - the Filter. X-Stop, division of Log-On Data Corp."
  126. When the X-Stop message designating a blocked Web site appears on a computer screen, it is freely visible to other library patrons and to library staff.
  127. The X-Stop content blocking program in the Loudoun County libraries has prevented access by Plaintiffs and other library users to a large number of Web sites that would otherwise be available and that are not even arguably pornographic, much less illegal. Plaintiffs found that X-Stop blocked a significant number of non-pornographic information such as the Web site for Atomic Books, the Web site for the National Journal on Sexual Orientation Law, the Quaker home page, and many others. Library patrons found that Websites were blocked by X-Stop both when a URL was entered directly and when they sought to access the site through a link from another page.
  128. Plaintiffs and other users of the Loudoun County library system also have had the use of search engines blocked by X-Stop. The X-Stop program checks the words that are used in a search. If the search terms violate the X-Stop "foul word" filter, the program returns a message that reads "you have attempted to use a search key word that has been blocked by X-Stop." X-Stop replaces the word typed in by the user with asterisks and causes the search engine to return zero hits in response to the search.
  129. When the X-Stop message restricting the use of a search engine appears on a computer screen, it is freely visible to other library patrons and to library staff.
  130. Library patrons have found that the X-Stop foul word blocking program monitors and checks each key stroke as a search term is being typed. The program displays the "violation" message immediately after a user types a space after a banned word. The "foul word" filter also prevents searching for a URL that includes a banned word.
  131. The "foul word" blocking function severely limits access by Plaintiffs and other library users to information that has nothing to do with pornography. For example, library patrons have found that the X-Stop "foul word" blocking function prevents a search that incorporates the word "pussy." Consequently, the blocking function prevents searches for such subjects as "pussy willows" and the "Owl and the Pussy Cat."
  132. Library patrons similarly have found that the X-Stop "foul word" blocking function prevents a search that incorporates the word "bastard." Consequently, the blocking function prevents searches for such books as 1992 National Book Award finalist, "Bastard Out of Carolina," by Dorothy Allison, or the American bicentennial novel, "The Bastard," by John Jakes. The X-Stop blocking scheme censors material that is not blocked in the non-Internet context. Both of these books are available in the Loudoun County library system without any restrictions, and may be accessed via the library's on-line card catalogue.
  133. The "foul word" blocking function disables search engines that are generally available on the Web, as well as those associated with on-line book stores, such as Amazon Books (
  134. There is no corresponding banned word feature on the Loudoun County library's on-line card catalog. A user may search the card catalog for any of the terms that X-Stop prohibits for an Internet search. For example, the on-line card catalog permits searches and provides hits for "pussy willow" and "The Owl and the Pussy Cat."
  135. Defendants' blocking system does not in fact achieve its purported goal of blocking all "pornographic" material. For example, the X-Stop foul word filter does not block searches for such terms as "69," "prick," "pecker," "dick," "blow job," "porn," or "nipple." In addition, library patrons who used the Internet access terminals in the Loudoun County library system found that certain sites that arguably contain "pornography" were not blocked.
  136. The library staff makes available a "Request to Review Blocked Site" form for library patrons who think that an Internet site has been improperly blocked. Patrons are advised that they may fill out the form and submit it to a reference librarian. The form calls for the name, library bar-code and phone number of the library patron and requires that the patron specify the URL of the blocked Web site and to list specific reasons for objecting to the block.
  137. Library patrons have been told that the library's policy does not permit immediate removal of a block on a site that has been inappropriately censored. Patrons have been informed that they must fill out the "Request to Review Blocked Site" form and submit it to the library staff. The form is reviewed by a library committee to determine if its agree whether blocking of the Web site is appropriate. If they agree with the library patron, a request is sent to Log-On Data Corporation, which may or may not remove the Web site blocking.
  138. Even the inadequate "Request to Review Blocked Site" procedure deals only with Internet sites that users specifically learn are being blocked. There is no method by which Plaintiffs and other library patrons may find out about or even attempt to deal with all of the other information and Web sites that are automatically blocked by X-Stop.
  139. Constitutional and Legal Violations

  140. Plaintiffs incorporate by reference paragraphs 1 through 130 above.
  141. The Policy is a content-based restriction upon speech subject to strict scrutiny under the First Amendment.
  142. The Policy places a significant burden upon the right of library users to receive otherwise available speech and information via the Internet.
  143. The Policy blocks a substantial amount of speech that is not obscene or otherwise constitutionally proscribable and that adults have a right to receive. The effect of the Policy is to reduce adults accessing the Internet at the Library to even less than material suitable for children.
  144. The Policy is enforceable by criminal sanction and has a real and substantial deterrent effect on protected expression.
  145. The policy fails to advance a compelling or substantial governmental interest, including Defendants' purported interest with respect to sexual harassment. Allowing users of a public library to access the Internet without filtering software does not create a sexually hostile environment or otherwise violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and a public library cannot be held liable under Title VII for allowing its patrons to access material on the Internet entitled to First Amendment protection.
  146. There are viable alternatives to the Policy that are substantially less restrictive of the right to free speech.
  147. The Policy provides for suppression of speech without any judicial determination that the speech is obscene or otherwise unprotected by law.
  148. The Policy provides for suppression of speech on the basis of determinations made by private, nongovernmental actors, and on the basis of automated computer software.
  149. The Policy chills the willingness of persons to access the Internet by providing for Library computers to be located in close proximity to, and in full view of, Library staff and for Library staff to monitor use of the computers.
  150. The Policy vests Library staff with unfettered and unreviewable discretion to instruct persons accessing the Internet to refrain from viewing certain material on the basis of the content of the material and authority to eject such persons from the Library if they refuse.
  151. The Policy is unconstitutionally vague.
  152. The Policy violates the Library Board's own adopted policies, as referenced in paragraphs 57-59 above.
  153. The Policy violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
  154. Because the Defendants, acting under color of state law, have caused Plaintiffs to be deprived of their constitutional rights pursuant to an official policy or custom and thereby proximately caused injury to plaintiffs, the Defendants are liable under 42 U.S.C. 1983.

Requested Relief

WHEREFORE, plaintiffs respectfully pray that this Court:

A. Declare that the Policy is unconstitutional;

B. Permanently enjoin Defendants from enforcing the Policy's requirements;

C. Award Plaintiffs such costs and fees as are allowed by law pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1988; and

D. Grant Plaintiffs such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper.

Respectfully submitted,


Robert Corn-Revere
H. Christopher Bartolomucci
Eric H. Loeb
555 Thirteenth Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004
(202) 637-5600

Elliot M. Mincberg
Lawrence S. Ottinger
2000 M Street, N.W., Suite 400
Washington, D.C. 20036
Counsel for Plaintiffs

Dated: December 22, 1997


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