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September 20, 1998

NEW TEETH FOR SPAWN OF COMMUNICATIONS DECENCY ACT

By CBR Staff Writer

The US House of Congress telecommunications subcommittee has passed the Child Online Protection Act. This legislation proposes levying a $50,000 fine or six month jail sentence on commercial sites that publish material deemed harmful to minors. According to Wired, legal experts believe the act is less likely to be overturned on constitutional grounds that the Communications Decency Act (CDA) that preceded it. Introduced by Representative Mike Oxley, Child Online Protection Act mirrors Senator Dan Coats’ so-called CDA II bill, which passed the Senate as part of an appropriations bill in July (CI No 3,458). A spokesperson for Oxley’s office explained that his bill uses a three-prong test for determining what is harmful to minors. She said that Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr’s report, containing graphic details of the sexual relationship between Monica Lewinsky and the President, met none of these conditions and was completely protected speech. The House has drawn the ire of free speech activists and accusations of hypocrisy after a majority of the Congressional representatives who voted for the CDA in 1996 also voted to place the Starr report online.

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