Alan Harnum

Netsweeper at Toronto Public Library - An Update

For full background, please see this post and the posts linked from it.

I first sent an “official” suggestion to Toronto Public Library in May 2017 that they review their use of the Netsweeper filtering software because of their documented use in overseas censorship of the Internet and pursuit of that as an area of business. My own awareness of the Citizen Lab research into Netsweeper began with various September 2016 media stories such as this one regarding their use in Bahrain.

It is now 2018. Toronto Public Library’s City Librarian won the Ontario Library Association’s Les Fowlie Intellectual Freedom Award in early February “in recognition of courage shown in defending the rights of library patrons to full access to information”.

In late February, coincident with Freedom to Read Week, I wrote to Alex Hocevar, Director of Digital Services & Emerging Technologies requesting an update on any work that was going on to replace Netsweeper:

Hello Alex,

Has there been any movement towards the replacement of Netsweeper at TPL since my last inquiry in May 2017?

Thanks for any information you can provide.

With permission, I quote his response below:

Hi Alan,

Thanks for the email. At this time, we haven’t decided on a timeline to go to RFP for a filtering vendor.

Let me know if you have any questions.

I’m hoping some day the library is willing to extend its courage in defending the right to full access to information to include not giving business to a company who make money helping governments overseas deny the right to full access to information to their citizens, but the rather anodyne response (“we haven’t decided on a timeline to go to RFP”) makes me think this isn’t seen as anything like a priority.