For their second year running, EBSCO has been named to the Dirty Dozen List by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) as a major contributor to the sexual exploitation of women and children.
As awareness spreads around the country, many parents and teachers remain unaware of the dangers embedded in EBSCO digital “homework” or “research” products. Information, including video evidence, is available at the NCOSE website.
FORMATION OF CONCERNED CITIZENS FOR SCHOOL DATABASES IN RESPONSE TO EBSCO SCANDAL
Almost 2 years ago, the Colorado Library Consortium, or “CLiC”, was notified of pornographic content easily available to children through innocent searches in the EBSCO K-12 databases. They failed to act to protect children.
In response, Concerned Citizens for School Databases, a Colorado community group was formed and has fostered relationships with numerous parties and organizations around the country.
EBSCO is not just a Colorado problem. EBSCO sells its K-12 products to roughly 55,000 schools all over America, as well as internationally.
The mission of Concerned Citizens is to increase awareness around the country that digital, school portals have been usurped to advertise and promote the $95 billion dollar sex industry. We call on schools and public libraries to demand that EBSCO remove any and all pornography, obscene material, and sex toy ads from the EBSCO digital database products .
We call on lawmakers to enforce existing laws prohibiting the display of obscene and pornographic material to children.
For background on how EBSCO positions itself in the market, and with its publishing partners, see, “EBSCO The Natural Partner”. This document clearly details EBSCO’s sales pitch to its publishing partners on how EBSCO can help them increase brand awareness and market penetration.
Why would these be important considerations for content publishers in a product designed for K-12 schools? More on this later.
CLIC LASHES OUT AT THE COMMUNITY IN RESPONSE TO GROWING COMPLAINTS
In an apparent response to the rising number of concerns, the CLiC, EBSCO’s wholesaler in Colorado, has produced a lengthy “Guide” for librarians with advice on how to push back against the community. This document, written by CLiC Manager, Jim Duncan, can be read in its entirety at Understanding Strident Claims.
It would be hard to imagine a more hysterical pamphlet than that produced by the CLiC.
Despite the breathy, high-pitched tone of the screed, nowhere in his lengthy rant does Jim Duncan, Director of CLiC, ever deny the existence of the obscene and pornographic content in the EBSCO products “designed” for minors. Why would he, EBSCO itself does not deny that there is pornography in it’s k-12 products. You would think that fact alone might clarify the issue for Mr. Duncan but, sadly, it does not.
It is notably ironic that the title of the CLiC’s raving is, “Understanding Strident Claims About Electronic Resources” and yet, reading through its 25 pages, it is truly difficult to imagine anything more stridently alarmist. Anyone concerned with the delivery of pornography and sex toy ads to children is denounced as a “book burner” or a “censor”. Clearly, Mr. Duncan doesn’t know the job of a parent, maybe he doesn’t have kids. One of the primary jobs of a parent is to act as the family censor; it is a parent’s duty, springing from love of their child, that requires them to protect their child from any material that is not appropriate for their level of development and which might harm a mind not yet ready for some material.
Let’s try to penetrate the hyperbole, hysteria, misinformation and alarmist tone of this document and actually get to some facts.
FALSE ASSERTIONS MADE BY CLiC ALONG WITH OUR GROUPS RESPONSES
a. Patrons Voicing Concerns about Porn-for-kids are “Book Burners”
From the outset, the “Strident Claims” document labels those who raise concerns about child safety as “Accusers” who demand nothing less than a full-scale BAN of all databases and certain e-book products.
Such accusations are absurd and the CLiC knows this.
For the record, there have been communications with CLiC representatives, EBSCO representatives, school administrators, and library officials wherein we have repeatedly asked only that the pornography be removed from the K-12 databases being made available to children.
Through the course of our inquiries and research, we have learned that much of the obscene and pornographic imagery, text, and hyperlinks will not be removed from EBSCO’s digital “homework” products. EBSCO has indicated that, by contractual arrangement, the material submitted by their publishing partners cannot be filtered.
No member of our group is demanding a “ban” of all databases. The position of Concerned Citizens for School Databases is that digital products for minors, currently in use, be filtered to block all obscene and pornographic material for minors. If that is not possible, then they should be replaced with other, similar products which do not contain obscene material.
This is an eminently reasonable request and one which would no doubt be shared by the majority of concerned parents, educators, librarians and citizens.
Instead of dealing rationally with community concerns, the CLiC, much like Chicken Little, screams that the sky is falling..
CLiC’s position is, however, consistent with that of the American Library Association (ALA) that, “…Library policies and procedures that effectively deny minors equal and equitable access to all library resources available to other users violates the Library Bill of Rights…” and, “The American Library Association opposes all attempts to restrict access to library services based on the age of library users”
Many in the community would take exception with such a policy as radical and harmful to minors. Such policies stand in direct contradiction to filtering and other statutes designed to protect minors from obscene material.
Yet, our public libraries are placed between a rock and hard place when it comes to upholding community standards of safety, and meeting ALA policy expectations. Librarians are placed at odds with the communities they are supposed to serve.
b. The “Strident Claims” Document States That School and Public Libraries Possess The Expertise And Responsibility To Choose, License Or Buy Whatever Content They Deem Valuable And Useful To Their Local Communities
It is interesting to note that the CLiC seems to be of the impression that libraries set the standards for the community they serve and not the other way around. Yet, the community, through their tax dollars, pays for all of the library products and, surely, the community has the ultimate say in what material is valuable to them, and what is not. Libraries, it seems, are no longer in place to serve, but to dictate. That’s good to know.
The “Strident Claims” document appears designed to set our libraries against the communities they were established to serve. It advises all librarians to anticipate “attacks” and be on the look out for “book burners” (yes, these are quotes). The “Strident Claims” document uses established propaganda techniques to incite fear and anger, making liberal use of inflammatory imagery such as the pouring of gasoline over books, and images of libraries going up in flames; Farenhiet 451 just around the corner.
To any rational person, this is nonsense.
c. The CLiC’s “Strident Claims” Manifesto Cites Concerned Citizens for School Databases as Claiming That “…librarians do not care about the safety of our children…”
Let the reader be the judge!
You will note that in the CLiC’s handy guide to dealing with community concern, there is no denial that the pornographic material is present in the EBSCO, and other, databases. No one denies that. EBSCO does not deny it. CLiC doesn’t deny it. Their position, as noted above, is all material to all people, regardless of age and appropriateness. If that means pornography to children, which is the CLiC and ALA position, then child safety is clearly not one of their priorities.
d. The CLiC’s “Strident Claims” Document Makes False Claims About Compliance With CIPA and State Law
This, obviously, is a legal question and we don’t see that any licensed attorney has co-authored the CLiC’s “Guide”.
However, let’s look at wording of the CIPA (Children’s Internet Protection Act)… kinda says it all, doesn’t it?
- Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA)
CIPA is administered by the Federal Communications Commission. CIPA was enacted by Congress in 2000.
What the act does, simply, is mandate certain internet protections for minors for any organization that receives discounts, funds, or grants from the federal government in the, so called, e-Rate system. Organizations wishing to receive these discounts must “certify that they have an internet safety policy that includes technology protection measures. The protection measures must block or filter internet access to pictures that are (a) obscene; (b) child pornography; or (c) harmful to minors (for computers that are accessed by minors)”
In addition, “Schools and libraries subject to CIPA are required to adopt and implement a safety policy addressing:
- access by minors to inappropriate matter on the internet;
- the safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms and other forms of direct electronic communications;
- unauthorized access, including so-called “hacking” and other unlawful activities by minors online;
- unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of personal information regarding minors, and
- measures restricting minors’ direct access to materials harmful to them
Now, since no one denies that there is pornography in the EBSCO, and other, databases and this material is actively promoted for use by minors (as “Homework” help), it is exceedingly confusing that CLiC would have us believe that libraries and schools using EBSCO are in compliance with CIPA.
Since this type of material can be accessed by minors, while within the EBSCO databases provided by the library, it seems clear that they are not CIPA compliant.
Libraries will, we can assure you, claim that they have filtering in place. The problem is, these so-called, “top site filters” cannot reach inside the proprietary EBSCO databases to filter anything. If you have any doubt about this, please see EBSCO on the Dirty Dozen List, then go to your local library and do some searching in the children’s recommended “homework” resources. What you will find will be very alarming.
2. Colorado State Law CRS 24-90-603 Also Specifies That Children Be Protected From Obscene Material
The CLiC and libraries are governed by Colorado State Law and must therefore comply with the following provisions:
CRS 24-90-603 Adoption and Enforcement of Policy of Internet Safety for Minors Including Technology Protection Measures – Public Libraries CRS – 24 – 90- 603
(1) No later than December 31, 2004, the governing body of each public library shall adopt and implement a policy of internet safety for minors that includes the operation of a technology protection measure for each computer by the public library allows for access to the internet by a minor.
The definition of what constitutes “technology protection measure” under CRS 24-90-630 is:
(7) “Technology protection measure” means a specific technology, including without limitation computer software, that blocks or filters internet access to visual depictions that are
- (a) Obscene, as defined in section 18-7-101 (2) CRS
- (b) Child Pornography, as defined in 18 U.S.C. sec. 2256 (8)
- (c) Harmful to minors, except that no technology protection measure may block scientific or medically accurate information regarding sexual assault, sexual abuse, incest, sexually transmitted infections, or reproductive health.
Hmmm, scientifically and medically accurate? Maybe to Jim Duncan.
See CRS 24 -90- 602
g. CLiC’s “Strident Claims” document cites Colorado’s Adams 12 Five-Star Schools As Having Well Established Policies For Citizens To Challenge Material
It is certainly interesting that CLiC raises Adams 12 Five-Star School libraries as example of a library well equipped to deal with materials challenges. In fact, the Adams 12 District has been very responsive to concerns raised by parents allied with our group.
When shown the offensive material and the ease with which it can be accessed by children, Adams 12 took swift action. It seems they shut down access to the databases, contacted EBSCO, and demanded action to clean up the products before reinstating student access.
The rapid responsiveness of Adams 12 Five-Star District to community concerns begs the question: Why do other libraries and CLiC refuse to take the same safety measures?
h. CLiC’s “Strident Claims” Document Declares “…Technology Solutions (such as filtering software or network devices) Are Used To Manage Blacklisted Web Sites…”
This is an extremely disingenuous statement.
First, EBSCO is not a web site and CLiC knows this.
EBSCO provides a database which can only be accessed by subscription. It is not the same as a “Google” search on the open internet. Material embedded within the EBSCO databases cannot be filtered from the outside and EBSCO has stated that they are bound by contract not to filter out any publisher material. Rather, they will remove entire publications if requested to do so.
So, there is no protection, short of a “pick-list” of publications (such as that created by Adams 12, see above).
Our Arapahoe Library District has not chosen to use the so-called “Adams 12” pick list, despite our advising them of its availability. Some school districts have made use of a “pick list” to partially remove content that is obscene for minors, however it is cumbersome and one district CIO has said that trying to sort through it with EBSCO is exceedingly frustrating.
And it is a constant effort. New material is added daily. It would take a full-time team to keep the pick-list up to date and what school district has the money for this? And why should they have to do it?
i. CLiC’s “Strident Claims” Document States Correctly that “…Filtering is not perfect”
We finally agree. No, it is not and, in the case of an EBSCO database, it is not effective at all because EBSCO is shielded from top-site filters.
According to CLiC,, “The best organizations understand that “students, parents, teachers and community members are all concerned about internet filtering – so districts [and libraries] are more successful if they communicate their policies to all these groups”.
Conspicuous by its absence is any mention of CLiC or libraries being concerned about blocking obscene material from access by children; apparently, the important point is that they convey their policy. It seems protection of children is only a “student, parent, teacher and community members” concern.
It is also interesting to note that the primary concern of CLiC seems to be that “they communicate their policies to all these groups”, not that they do anything to protect our children, just that they communicate their policies, which, as we have seen, are that all materials be available to all patrons, at all times per their “Library Bill of Rights” policy. They make no distinction between material that maybe appropriate for adults and material that is completely inappropriate for children. The distinction is irrelevant to them.
So, have libraries communicated this policy in a clear and transparent manner? Are Colorado parents aware of the Library Bill of Rights? Do they understand that by allowing their children to use the library they are agreeing that librarians may steer them to “homework” help resources containing obscene material? Doubtful.
Most parents would likely just keep their kids away from the library if its policies and Bill of Rights concerning minors were posted in a sign over the front door?
What is CLIC’s justification for making pornography available to children and fighting so hard to maintain it?
To really understand the level of intransigence, just look at the suggested email template that libraries use to gain a “City Official(s)” trust and support:
Thus, the CLiC manifesto, “Strident Claims”, advises librarians to deceive city officials as to the nature of complaints received by community members. It is also interesting that the manifesto assumes, a priori, that complaints are invalid and should be summarily discredited without any investigation. Of course, knowing the material is there obviates any need to investigate.
j. CLiC’s “Strident Claims” Manifesto Specifies Certain “Strategies that will make your library or school look great”
Note, nowhere in its list of actions does the CLiC actually suggest that the librarian review the material with the complainant and then respond directly to the complaint. All the steps are designed to maintain the material, not to engage in any consideration of its merit in the library and certainly not any consideration of the appropriateness of the material for children.
And, to be clear, if any further clarity is needed, no one is challenging Huck Finn or To Kill A Mockingbird. We are talking about extremely graphic and obscene content, including advertisements for sex products, made available in your school and public libraries, under the cover of “Homework” and “Research” resources.
k. “Strident Claims” States That “…Nationwide, school educators and librarians make purchasing decisions based on collection development guidelines or curriculum needs”.
So, can there actually be a “curriculum need’ for pornography?
l. “Strident Claims” States That “…these individuals [raising concerns about porn in kids’ digital products] claim that databases from EBSCO contain at least 200 obscene articles, stories, and images of a graphic nature”
Well, we counted 200 and then we just got tired of logging them all. The amount of pornography and sex toy ads is astounding. I wonder how much, or how little, is OK for our children? By CLiC’s standards, how much must there be for it to be unacceptable? No amount, no matter how much, seems unacceptable to CLiC.
CLiC seems to believe that the likelihood of a child just stumbling upon this offensive material is like winning the lottery but we have found it through benign ESBCO searches such as “diabetes”, “respiration”, “boy’s stories”, “girl’s stories”, “animal stories”, “human biology”, “fashion”, and so on. You can imagine what comes from these searches.
In fact, EBSCO school databases are preloaded with obscene search extenders i.e. live search recommendations for terms such as “lust”, “leather communities”, “bdsm”, “group sex” and many, many others. The very terms that should be properly filtered out are embedded as helpful search extenders.
m. The CLiC Manifesto Asks: “How Credible Are the Claims?”
Here, we again find something to agree on with CLiC: that you be the judge.
View the material at EBSCO on the Dirty Dozen List and judge for yourself!
Go to your local library and raise the concern and see where that gets you.
Raise the issue with your school principal and see what the result is.
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation
CLiC appears to deride and denigrate this organization for trying to take steps to protect all of our children from the various methods of sexual exploitation.
Again, we encourage parents and anyone concerned with the effects of pornography on children to visit the NCOSE site and decide for yourself whether this organization should be scorned, or applauded.
Finally, we think any public entity is beholden to the community they serve, not the other way around. It is not CLiC or librarians that decide what products are appropriate for a publicly funded institution, it is the community of tax payers that foot the bill. There is an old saying that he who pays the freight calls the weight. Well, the community pays the freight and it is time that CLiC understood this.