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Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA)
Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Is there something wrong with this computer? I can't get to a site that I used recently.
    Most likely, there is nothing wrong with the computer. The site may have been blocked by our new filtering software, installed in compliance with CIPA.

  2. What is CIPA?
    CIPA stands for the Children's Internet Protection Act, a federal law passed in December 2000. CIPA was challenged by libraries and other organizations as a violation of free speech under the First Amendment, but was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2003.

  3. What does CIPA have to do with libraries and computers?
    CIPA requires all public libraries that accept federal funds for Internet access to install filtering software by July 1, 2004. This software must protect against access, through library computers, to certain images that are obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors.

  4. Why is Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh complying with CIPA?
    Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is part of the eiNetwork consortium, which receives a significant amount of federal funding to provide Internet access to over 85 library sites in Allegheny County. Because we receive federal funds for Internet access as part of the eiNetwork, we are required under CIPA to install filtering software.

  5. How does the filtering software work?
    This library uses filtering software called NetSweeper. NetSweeper filters sites based on content, and not just individual words. The software scans the Internet daily and enters the web addresses of prohibited sites into its database.

  6. Does it always work?
    No filter is always effective. Sometimes a filter can block sites with legitimate informational or educational value, and other times it can allow access to sites that are illegal, obscene, or sexually explicit. For additional information on filtering and Internet safety, you can view our Internet Safety and Use Policy.

  7. The site I tried to access is not a "sex site." Why is it categorized as one?
    As with any filtering software, NetSweeper can incorrectly categorize sites that in no way violate CIPA. NetSweeper uses an automated system to determine the category of a page. Sometimes the automated system cannot detect a category, and sometimes it assigns the wrong category. If the NetSweeper software has incorrectly categorized a site, we can submit a request for the category to be changed within 48 hours. Please help us by completing a CIPA Feedback Form.

  8. How can I view a blocked site?
    If you are an adult (age 17 or older), you may ask a library staff member to disable the filter without significant delay. An adult may access any site not prohibited by federal, state, or local laws. Prohibited sites for adults are generally those that are obscene, contain child pornography, or may be used for fraudulent or illegal purposes.

  9. What about a minor?
    A minor (age 16 or younger) may ask a library staff member to override the filter if it mistakenly blocks access to a specific site. A minor may access any site not prohibited by federal, state, or local laws. Prohibited sites for minors are generally those that are obscene, contain child pornography, are harmful to minors, or may be used for fraudulent or illegal purposes.

  10. Does this mean that I can view any site I wish?
    Individuals may not access any sites that are prohibited as outlined in numbers 7 and 8 above. In addition, all computer users agree to observe the library's Computer Use Policy when logging on to a computer. The library's complete Internet Safety and Use Policy can be found at

  11. How can I express my feelings about CIPA?
    To provide feedback about the software or the library's compliance with CIPA, you can complete a CIPA Feedback Form.

Revised 03/08/05

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