The First Amendment Right to Receive Online Information in Public Libraries

Barbara H. Smith Ph.D., Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne


A decade after the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the Children's Internet Protection Act, which mandated Internet filters in public libraries, filtering problems have not been resolved, and the disabling of Internet filters upon the requests of adults does not seem to be as easy or automatic as the justices had presumed. In upholding CIPA, the Supreme Court seemed to misunderstand the parameters of the disabling provision, ignored the right-to-receive doctrine, and missed the opportunity to update public forum doctrine to include the Internet. This article concludes that the Court needs to reevaluate public forum doctrine in the context of twenty-first century technology and designate Internet access in public libraries as a metaphysical public forum.