Toronto Public Library

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Why we are challenging this organization.

  • The largest library system in Canada has unfiltered access to pornography on their publicly funded computers in adult areas of the library…. Even their Mayor was surprised about this.

    In November 2015, Toronto Mayor, John Tory, was surprised to learn that patrons were able to view pornography on the libraries’ computers.

  • Today’s “adult content” is misogynistic, violent, degrading, racist, and normalizes rape culture. We also know that there is a seamless link between pornography and other forms of sexual exploitation, such as human trafficking, including those who traffic children.1
Use of pornography, including in libraries, is contributing to a public health crisis. Motion 47, now passed in Parliament, has tasked the Standing Committee on Health to look into this issue. There is much research documenting the harms of pornography.

We are asking the Toronto Public Library, to research and implement filtering on all their terminals.

The Canadian Library Association, which until this year, was the umbrella organization for libraries, has advocated for unhindered intellectual freedom, and have resisted the use of filters in libraries, stating that they are upholding a charter right of intellectual freedom and access to full range of knowledge. However, libraries acknowledge that they don’t keep print pornography. So why would they provide access to digital pornography?

One of the main arguments against filters is that they “over filtered”, blocking legitimate websites. Filters are more sophisticated than they were previously.

Currently, most library internet use policies say you can’t look at illegal things on library computers, including but not limited to hate literature, child pornography, or sedition. But how do they regulate this? Filtering would be one way to have electronic and librarian oversight of compliance.

At the library, there is also the issue of inadvertent exposure, either by viewing what is on the screen of another patron, or perhaps the terminal being left on a pornographic site after the patron leaves.

In 2003, librarians in Ottawa brought a grievance to their employer saying that patrons viewing pornography on library computers was creating a toxic work environment. The library agreed to put filters on all terminals with the option given to adult patrons, 16 and older, to have the filter turned off. Currently, their policy is that adults must request the filter to be turned on.

Recently, Dr. Carla Hayden, the recently appointed Librarian of Congress in the United States, confirmed that pornography has no place in the Library. She also reflected that the quality of filters has improved, addressing previous concerns about over-filtering.

Join us in asking Toronto Public Library, the largest public library system in Canada, to Choose Change, balancing intellectual freedom with the public health of patrons and employees by researching and implementing filtering of pornographic websites.

1 Farley, Melissa. “Pornography, Prostitution, & Trafficking: Making the Connections.” Presented at the Pornography: a Public Health Crisis forum, hosted by National Center on Sexual Exploitation, Washington DC, July 14, 2015.


Why we are challenging this organization.
Trigger Warning. The material in this section contains graphic descriptions and blurred screenshots.


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Response to Toronto Public Library

If you received a response from TPL, you can send a second letter to TPL.

Follow Up Letter

TPL says internet filters are an infringement of Canadian Charter rights. The Supreme Court says limiting the harms of pornography is justifiable.

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