Yes, You Can Surf Porn at New York City Libraries

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If you’ve always wanted to surf porn fearlessly and in full view of the world, it looks like New York City’s many libraries are happy to let you.

Or if not happy, at least obliged to. Put another way (and to invoke Cole Porter), it seems just about anything goes at the city’s more than 200 library branches.

Public libraries that receive federal funds are required to filter illegal obscenity and child pornography on Internet-connected computers, but that’s it. If the porn in question is legal–meaning in essence “by consenting adults, for consenting adults”–it’s free speech, protected by First Amendment rights, says New York City library officials.

The New York Post broke the story, putting Brooklyn Public Library spokesperson Malika Granville on the record as saying: “Customers can watch whatever they want on the computer.”

Whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want–including right next to you, since Internet-accessible terminals in libraries tend to be clustered. The only viewing area divisions are privacy “extensions” (in this case provided by the libraries) that block a screen from sidewise viewing.

Not that you still won’t have to listen, if the guy so engaged (and you know it’ll be mostly guys) isn’t wearing headphones set to discreet decibel levels.

Last summer, while working at the public library in my wife’s hometown (hey, they had fast Internet) I noticed a guy surfing porn on a public terminal, oblivious to the world as he clicked through image after image. That in itself wasn’t startling. Here’s what was: The elementary school children sitting next to him at other terminals. That, and the group of preschoolers gathered across the room for a reading group.

I guess the question is, if public nudity (or public sex) is considered “indecent exposure” (as opposed, you know, to “free speech”) and therefore illegal, then what’s the difference between actual nudity or public sex, and viewed-in-public images or videos thereof?

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