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Watching Internet Porn at NYC Libraries Protected by First Amendment, Officials Say

NEW YORK -- New Yorkers can watch Internet porn at the city's public libraries thanks to a policy of free speech protected by the First Amendment, the New York Post reported Monday.

"Customers can watch whatever they want on the computer," said Brooklyn Public Library spokeswoman Malika Granville, describing the anything-goes philosophy that is the rule at the city's 200-plus branches.

The ruling has religious leaders and library patrons fuming.

"What they're doing is publicly funding an appetite for the most debased fare available," said Catholic League President Bill Donohue. "It's not like a Playboy centerfold anymore -- it's far worse."

Library patron Daisy Nazario, 60, said she was disgusted when she discovered she was sitting next to an elderly porn watcher in the Brooklyn Central Library recently.

The man was using library-provided extensions on the sides of his computer to block the view of his screen -- which was featuring a threesome at the time -- "but I could still hear the voices," Nazario said. "It is very disrespectful to the children."

Under U.S. law, all libraries that take federal funding only must install filters on publicly used computers to block content containing illegal obscenity and child pornography, and New York City officials say they comply to the letter.

If localities want to further restrict viewing, they must specifically enact a policy, although the move almost certainly brings with it legal challenges.

Library officials and civil libertarians say it is a free speech issue.

"In deference to the First Amendment protecting freedom of speech, the New York Public Library cannot prevent adult patrons from accessing adult content that is legal," said New York Public Library spokeswoman Angela Montefinise.

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