Saturday, April 18, 2009

I like democracy!

Here's a copy of a "letter" I just emailed my city council representative.

Dear Councilmember Oliviero:

As a member of District 6, I have voted for you (twice!) and appreciate the attention you have paid to local issues, especially your support of the Willow Glen Spur Trail.  Today when I visited the Willow Glen library, I was asked to sign a petition supporting pornography filters in the library.  I am writing to urge you to vote “no” and keep flawed software from interfering with our right to access valid information.

I am a professional software developer, and know all too well that any consumer product is riddled with bugs.  Censoring is a particularly difficult problem, and too often “false positives” are blocked along with the desired targets.  I still remember my experiences with a similar filter at my high school, which was intended to block pornography but also kept students from accessing web sites for minor political parties, foreign news sources covering the war in Bosnia, and a wide range of health issues.

I’m certain that you will hear many voices asking you to take the politically easy road and support censorship in our libraries.  Please know that, while nobody wants children to view pornographic images, using software filters on public computers is not the right way to achieve this goal, and will hurt the ability of thousands to access information.

Thank you for your support.


Christopher King

I think this has been an ongoing controversy for a little while... I vaguely recall reading an article a few years ago about a dispute involving the head of the San Jose library system.  One of the (few!) downsides of my vendetta against the Mercury News is that I no longer am plugged into local issues as much.  Anyways.  This is one of those things that drives me nuts - people are very effective at framing the issue such that it sounds like the only choices are censoring the Internet or saying that you support child pornography.  I have no idea how this vote will go, but I really hope that our elected representatives have the political courage and respect for our traditions to keep free access in our libraries.


  1. Very nice. Kudos on digging to the deeper issue.

  2. Excellent letter, Bro. Hopefully he listens to you on this issue.

    A question: what group was circulating the petition? In the future when attempting to undercut such a move, it can be useful to identify to the representative who is pushing for the measure and why they are wrong. Usually, the group is not being deliberately deceptive, but if you point out that the measure was sponsored by, say, the Neo-Luddites he may take to your side.

  3. Oh, good point! I totally should have done so.

    I did grab a flyer from the guy, which included a web site, which let me identify them. They're a group called the Values Advocacy Council - I hadn't heard of them before, but it looks like they're a local religious association that opposes same-sex marriage and stuff. Doesn't look like they're too far out of the mainstream.

    I'm actually REALLY glad that I grabbed a flyer. I was going to write Pieluigi a letter-letter, with a stamp and envelope, in hopes it would have a greater impact. But, thanks to looking through the VAC's web site, I saw that they're planning a rally at City Hall on Monday to support a vote on this very issue. Which is another thing that annoys me a little - they'll be gathering a ton of signatures over the weekend, but there's no time for the EFF or another pro-liberty organization to mount a defense, hence there will probably be a feeling of, "See? All these people agree we should censor computers! Think of the children!" I wanted to make sure they could hear at least one voice opposed to it.