United States v. American Library Association, Inc., 539 U.S. 194, 14 (2003)

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Cite as: 539 U. S. 194 (2003)

Opinion of Rehnquist, C. J.

create the CFC for purposes of providing a forum for expressive activity"). As Congress recognized, "[t]he Internet is simply another method for making information available in a school or library." S. Rep. No. 106-141, p. 7 (1999). It is "no more than a technological extension of the book stack." Ibid.3

The District Court disagreed because, whereas a library reviews and affirmatively chooses to acquire every book in its collection, it does not review every Web site that it makes available. 201 F. Supp. 2d, at 462-463. Based on this distinction, the court reasoned that a public library enjoys less discretion in deciding which Internet materials to make

3 Even if appellees had proffered more persuasive evidence that public libraries intended to create a forum for speech by connecting to the Internet, we would hesitate to import "the public forum doctrine . . . wholesale into" the context of the Internet. Denver Area Ed. Telecommunications Consortium, Inc. v. FCC, 518 U. S. 727, 749 (1996) (opinion of Breyer, J.). "[W]e are wary of the notion that a partial analogy in one context, for which we have developed doctrines, can compel a full range of decisions in such a new and changing area." Ibid.

The dissents agree with the District Court that less restrictive alternatives to filtering software would suffice to meet Congress' goals. Post, at 223 (opinion of Stevens, J.) (quoting 201 F. Supp. 2d, at 410); post, at 234 (opinion of Souter, J.) (quoting 201 F. Supp. 2d, at 422-427). But we require the Government to employ the least restrictive means only when the forum is a public one and strict scrutiny applies. For the reasons stated above, see supra, at 205-208, such is not the case here. In deciding not to collect pornographic material from the Internet, a public library need not satisfy a court that it has pursued the least restrictive means of implementing that decision.

In any case, the suggested alternatives have their own drawbacks. Close monitoring of computer users would be far more intrusive than the use of filtering software, and would risk transforming the role of a librarian from a professional to whom patrons turn for assistance into a compliance officer whom many patrons might wish to avoid. Moving terminals to places where their displays cannot easily be seen by other patrons, or installing privacy screens or recessed monitors, would not address a library's interest in preventing patrons from deliberately using its computers to view online pornography. To the contrary, these alternatives would make it easier for patrons to do so.


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