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Law Protecting Minors from Internet Pornography Unconstitutional, Says Judge

Posted January 31, 1999

— The government hopes the second time is the charm as it attempts to protect minors from online pornography.

TheCommunications Decency Actdid not make it past the Supreme Court. Now, theChild Online Protection Actis in federal court.

Most of those following what is going on with the Child Online Protection Act feel that even if enacted, it will not be entirely successful.

The fact is there is simply too much pornography online to be completely filtered.

That leaves a lot of responsibility on parents' shoulders.

It is estimated there are more than 30,000 pornographic or adult Internet sites in the U.S. alone.

Children get to them on purpose or by accident. The Child Online Protection Act would require age verification through a third party site or verification using a credit card.

Filtering software like Cyber Patrol, SurfWatch andNet Nannyhas been in use for some time.

Bill McKeown heads information services atCary Academy. He says many young computer users can bypass filtering software.

"All you have to do is get onYahooand do a search, and there are lots of people who will give you information about how to get around them," said McKeown.

GuardianNet and EdView do not allow youngsters to surf out of bounds. However, those sites may not work for older students.

"Those sites are too limiting. You're hosting a library with only the books that you deem appropriate," explained McKeown.

Cary Academy students are trusted to use the Internet wisely, but parents can and do check to see where their children surf.

No matter what legislation may be passed, smut on the Internet will continue to be a problem, because U.S. law cannot control content from the rest of the world.

McKeown says parental involvement is the most effective tool against Internet pornography.

"It's an agreement that you make between your child and yourself that you do indeed have to have some oversight into the things that they do," said McKeown.

Monday, the judge ordered a preliminary injunction against the law passed last year by Congress.

If it does eventually go into effect, an interesting question is posed. Would it be illegal to have a link to theStarr Reportonline?

That is indicative of the thorny problem facing librarians, educators and others.


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