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Civil Liberties Group Challenges Internet Porn Law

October 23, 1998| From Times Wire Services

PHILADELPHIA — A U.S. civil liberties coalition representing booksellers, gay rights groups, medical professionals and the media went to court Thursday to stop Congress' latest bid to curtail pornography on the Internet.

A day after President Clinton signed the Child Online Protection Act into law as part of a $500-billion government spending bill, opponents denounced the measure as an affront to free speech that could be used to suppress Internet discussions on women's sexual freedom, the arts, AIDS and breast cancer.

The law requires commercial sites on the World Wide Web to prevent children from gaining access to material deemed harmful to minors.

"This act is absolutely misdescribed as being for children. It is no more for children than it is for free speech," said American Civil Liberties Union President Nadine Strossen.

The ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group devoted to the Internet, challenged the new law in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia on behalf of 17 plaintiffs and asked for a preliminary injunction.

The coalition, part of a group that persuaded the Supreme Court last year to strike down an earlier attempt by Congress to control Internet pornography known as the Communications Decency Act, also asked the Justice Department not to prosecute complaints when the new law takes effect in 30 days.

In California on Wednesday, an Alameda County Superior Court judge dismissed a parent's lawsuit against the Livermore city library for allowing her 12-year-old son to use its computers to see and download sexually explicit pictures.

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