Mississippi lawmakers have advanced legislation to protect children from obscene content online. The bill was recently amended to censor content available in libraries.
Amendment to child protection bill could have major implications for Mississippi libraries
The Mississippi House of Representatives recently took up Senate Bill 2346, and amended it to include language that could prevent minors from accessing obscene digital materials in Libraries. During floor debate, Shanda Yates, an independent, raised concerns that these censored materials would also become inaccessible by adults, though Republican Nick Bane disagreed.
“Line 331 talks about obscene materials as defined in Section 1,” said Bane.
“As part of the definition, but it’s only part of a very long definition and a very broad definition with no age limitations,” says Yates.
Bane responds “I disagree with the way you’re reading that. I think it narrows obscene materials pretty much, but like I said, it’s got a reverse repealer in it and we’re going to go to conference on it.”
A spokesperson with the Mississippi Library Commission says no complaints about obscene online materials have been filed, and these regulations could also prevent adults from accessing these sources. Some materials that could be included in this ban are required reading materials for schools, such as the Scarlett Letter and works by Shakespeare.
McKenna Raney-Grey with the ACLU of Mississippi says this amendment could stifle free speech, ban access to important research materials, and LGBTQ-inclusive content.
Raney-Grey says “Access to material, access to new ideas, access to literature, fantasy, nonfiction resources, those are the kinds of things that particularly as a very literary state like Mississippi we ordinarily are encouraging. We want people to be able to access things that they want to be able to read through public libraries. It’s why we have public libraries in the first place.”
The Mississippi Library Commission says this amendment could hinder partnerships with the many research databases that the state’s libraries rely on. Because libraries can not censor content on those platforms, they could be forced to refund the service with vendors.