Stefan Wray on Mon, 28 Dec 1998 21:24:54 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Austin Public Library With Cyber Patrol Blocks Academic Article

- For immediate release -

December 26, 1998

Austin Public Library With Cyber Patrol Blocks Academic Article

Austin, TX (December 26, 1998) - A New York University doctoral student
visiting Austin during the break between semesters was prevented, by Cyber
Patrol, from accessing an article on the Internet in the Austin Public
Library. This, in the age of increasing cyber-censorship, may not seem so
unusual. But the article in question was an academic piece written by the
student himself and the web location of the article was on New York
University's server.

In November, Stefan Wray, a student in NYU's Department of Culture and
Communication delivered a presentation called "Electronic Civil
Disobedience and the World Wide Web of Hacktivism" at an academic
conference in Des Moines, Iowa, called the World Wide Web and Contemporary
Cultural Theory. Several weeks later, Wray completed a paper based on his
presentation and posted the article on his NYU web site. At the same time
he sent the text to a Net-based art theory journal called Switch, located
at San Jose State University, which published the article in their latest
on-line edition.

Since publishing the academic piece on his NYU web site and at Switch, Wray
has received a number of requests from people who want to use the text. One
of the people associated with Switch said it was the "hottest" piece that
they had published. Recently, a German book publisher wrote Wray and asked
if he could re-write the article and turn it into a chapter for a book that
is due out next year. 

On Saturday afternoon, the day after Christmas, Wray went to use the
computers at the Austin Public Library. He wanted to print some pieces from
his web site. Everything was fine until he clicked on to the article in
question. A message appeared on the screen stating that Cyber Patrol had
blocked access. He tried a number of other articles in his archive and they
were not blocked.

The reference librarian explained that the Austin Public Library has no
control over what Cyber Patrol chooses to block, nor did he understand
precisely the method by which Cyber Patrol makes editorial decisions. The
librarian also explained that the intent of Cyber Patrol was to prevent
minors from gaining access to material that may be harmful to them, such as
material of an indecent or obscene nature.

Wray told the reference librarian that Cyber Patrol was blocking an
academic article that was published on New York University's server and
that the article was of a political nature. Wray also told the librarian
that he had recently been reading a number of First Amendment cases
involving the Internet and that he believed that the First Amendment widely
protects content on the Internet and that the article in question, by all
accounts, should be considered protected speech.

The librarian said the matter was not really in his hands and suggested
that Wray complete an "Austin Public Library Internet Comments Form" which
would be sent to the library director, Brenda Branch. Wray completed the
form and to the question regarding what action the library should take, he
asked that the library ask Cyber Patrol for an explanation as to why there
is a block on his article and to ask Cyber Patrol to remove the block. In
addition, he asked the library to take this action within a reasonable
amount of time and that he be provided with copies of all written
communication between the library and Cyber Patrol on this matter.

While there seems to be First Amendment grounds for a law suit against the
Austin Public Library, no decision has been made on this matter. Wray,
however, hopes to interest the Texas chapter of the American Civil
Liberties Union, the Electronic Freedom Forum, and other groups concerned
about protecting and guaranteeing First Amendment freedoms on the Internet.

"Electronic Civil Disobedience and the World Wide Web of Hacktivism" can be
read at

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