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Warning follows Auburn Library child-porn viewing

“Preteen Naughty Phobia” on library screen “sickens” customer who reported it
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Report child exploitation

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children provides a tip line for reports:

n Cybertipline.com

n (800) 843-5678

 

AUBURN CA - A visit to the Auburn Library turned disturbing when an Auburn woman viewed a computer screen being used by another library patron and saw what appeared to be child pornography.

The viewer of apparent pornography was subsequently advised by a librarian that the activity was not allowed under the library’s computer acceptable-use policy and he would be subject to being banned from Internet viewing at all county libraries if the activity continues, Placer’s chief librarian said Tuesday.

Terri De Shon said she wants to warn other library users – particularly those with children or parents who have children who go alone to the library – to be on guard.

“I love the library – it feels sort of like home, a safe place,” De Shon said. “Imagine my surprise while sitting and enjoying a book, when I look up to see “Preteen Naughty Phobia” on the computer screen nearest me.”

De Shon went back to her book after glimpsing the apparent child pornography site, thinking it was perhaps a case of “fat fingers” making a keystroke error.

“Sometime later, I looked again and the elderly gentleman was now scrolling through another porn Website,” De Shon said.

De Shon said it sickened her because there was a young, female student sitting next to the man. E. V. Cain Middle School students were arriving at the time after classes let out for the day.

De Shon said she decided to alert a librarian and the man was immediately told that such site visits were not acceptable.

“He walked out in a huff,” De Shon said.

Behavior unacceptable

Mary George, director of library services, said that activities De Shon reported fall under a library rule of conduct for activities not allowed on library property, namely “engaging in behaviors or activities that are disruptive to the use of the library by other customers.”

If a crime was alleged to have taken place, the library would cooperate to its fullest abilities with investigators, she said. She added that use records typically aren’t kept and that user information would normally require a subpoena.

While figures weren’t broken down, the library currently has 136 adults banned from using the Internet at its sites, George said. The Auburn Library’s public-use computers were used 21,289 times in the 2011-12 fiscal year. The library system’s computers over all its branches were used 69,132 times last year.

As well as adults, 10,048 children are on the library’s database as restricted from using the Internet because of a parental request.

George said that library policy is to not place filters on Internet viewing because they make the computer an inefficient research tool.

“It filters out information that people conducting their research may need,” George said.

For parents, the filter is contacting the library and requesting that their children not be allowed access to the Internet service, George said.

Auburn Police Chief John Ruffcorn said that, after being apprised of the complaint, he’ll be sending an investigator to the library this week.

“Intentional viewing is a crime,” Ruffcorn said. “It’s not a crime if it pops up in spam. There are software programs to block these types of sites and we’ll be talking to the library about the possibility of implementing them.”

De Shon said that she was told that rules dictate that patrons using the Internet at the library are given two warnings before being barred from using the free high-speed Web service the Nevada Street facility provides to library card holders.

De Shon said the library should have a zero tolerance policy for visitors who choose to go to Websites such as the man was visiting. She added that parents should be aware of interactions like the one she experienced.

“It seems even our wonderful library isn’t immune to sexual perverts,” De Shon said.

George said that De Shon’s description indicated staff procedure was followed.

 

Procedure followed

“Procedure is for staff to watch and step in and say we’ve had complaints that someone has been viewing sites that are inappropriate,” George said. “We tell them once, we tell them twice and the third time they’re out. We keep track of that and it goes on their library card, so they can’t access the Internet at other libraries.”

“The way that it played out was the best-case scenario,” George said.

George said library customers need to realize that the library is a public place, “with all that entails.”

“You’re not sitting in the police department – nobody is monitoring or watching,” she said. “And it’s a neutral place where we’re not taking care of children.”

As well as alerting library personnel or local law-enforcement, people who suspect someone of being involved in child-pornography can contact the national CyberTipline. Since its inception in 1998, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has processed more than 1.3 million tips related to incidents of child sexual exploitation, the majority of which relate to activities connected to child pornography on the Internet.

Since it was created, the CyberTipline has seen a dramatic increase in the number of reports received, according to its Website. In 2011, the tip line received more than 326,000 reports.

The Center for Missing & Exploited Children states that even after child pornography producers are identified and convicted, their recordings still circulate online and elsewhere for the continued consumption by other like-minded offenders.

“The danger of the production, distribution and possession of child pornography remains multifaceted and disturbing for victims all over the world,” the center’s online site states.

George said that one of the most important roles of a library is to make customers feel comfortable when they visit.

“And we want to know if someone is disrupting the visit of others,” George said. “That includes inappropriate Website use.”

 

Report child exploitation

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children provides a tip line for reports:

n Cybertipline.com

n (800) 843-5678