Judge Strikes Down Federal Internet Porn Law

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A 1998 federal law that makes it a crime for commercial Web site operators to let children access ”harmful” material was struck down today by a federal judge, the Associated Press reports. Senior U.S. District Judge Lowell Reed, Jr., of Philadelphia said parents can protect their children through software filters and other less restrictive means that do not limit the rights of others to free speech. ”Perhaps we do the minors of this country harm if First Amendment protections, which they will with age inherit fully, are chipped away in the name of their protection,” Reed said.

The law aimed to criminalize Web sites that allow children to access material deemed ”harmful to minors” by ”contemporary community standards.” Penalties included a $50,000 fine and up to six months in prison. Sexual health sites, Salon.com, and other Web sites backed by the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the law. They argued that the Child Online Protection Act was unconstitutionally vague and would have a chilling effect on speech. Last year Google challenged a Justice Department subpoena in the case seeking information on what people search for online. A judge limited the scope of the subpoena, which Google fought on trade secret, not privacy, grounds.

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/technology/AP-Internet-Blocking.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

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