Information Institute Announces CIPA Research Project

In light of the recent U. S. Supreme Court decision upholding the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), the Information Use Management and Policy Institute at Florida State University will begin to make public the initial findings from its ongoing initiative to study the impact of CIPA on public libraries, library staff, and library patrons.

In early 2003, as the legal challenges to CIPA were winding through the federal courts, researchers at the Institute began collecting data related to the potential impacts of CIPA on public libraries. The Institute is examining key issues related to CIPA, including:

  • The number of libraries affected by CIPA;
  • The amount of public library funding tied to CIPA;
  • The issues related to the implementation of filtering technology in libraries;
  • The issues related to library service and filters;
  • The economic impact of filters;
  • The impact on public library applications for E-rate and LSTA awards;
  • The impact of filtering in public libraries on information-disadvantaged groups; and
  • Future legal questions that may arise as a result of the implementation of CIPA in public libraries.

This research agenda will continue to evolve as the implementation of CIPA's requirements becomes more widespread.

The first product from this research will be a paper on the findings of the first phase of Institute research on CIPA. The paper, authored by Paul T. Jaeger, John Carlo Bertot, and Charles R. McClure of the Information Institute, has been submitted for review for publication. Preliminary findings, detailed in the paper, include:

  • CIPA will affect the provision of online services in a large number of public libraries across the United States
  • Many public libraries are undecided whether they will apply for E-rate funding now that CIPA has been upheld, but it is likely that economic issues will ultimately play a significant role in such decisions in most libraries
  • The implementation of filtering in accordance with the guidelines of CIPA is rife with potential problems for library administrators, staff, and patrons
  • The CIPA decision begs for a serious research effort to determine the effect of CIPA on a range of library services and activities and to determine the effect of CIPA on access to Internet-based information
  • The research will also need to address the degree to which the role of public libraries changes over time due to the limiting of access to online information through public libraries that receive E-rate discounts and LSTA grants
  • A key element of such research will be investigating issues related to the application of the law that might serve as the basis of future legal challenges to the law, as the holding by the Supreme Court does not necessarily foreclose future challenges to the application of the law

The CIPA decision has established the need for a serious and ongoing research effort to assess the effects of CIPA on a range of public library services and on access to Internet-based information in public libraries. Institute researchers have begun the next phase of the research project that will continue to assess CIPA and its impact on public libraries in the United States.