Bill would require filtering of internet service in schools
WASHINGTON, D.C.–Schools and libraries will be forced to filter or block access to adult online material or forfeit federally- subsidized Internet service under a bill introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in early February.
Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) introduced a second bill designed to punish online providers of material considered “harmful to minors.”
Both bills come in the wake of efforts by educators’ and parents’ groups, who seek new controls on Internet content after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Communications Decency Act in June 1997.
Coats’ bill would punish online distributors of “indecent” material with up to six months in jail and a $50,000 fine.
Free-speech advocates have strongly opposed both bills. In a letter to the members of the Commerce Committee, the American Civil Liberties Union argued that online filtering or blocking in schools could restrict students’ abilities to research such issues as reproductive health, AIDS and crime victim support. Moreover, the ACLU argued, existing laws provide adequate means in prosecuting the dissemination of constitutionally unprotected speech, like obscenity and child pornography. (S. 1619, S. 1482)