multichannel connect
careers
all access

News

House Panel OKs Web-Smut Bill

9/27/1998 8:00 PM Eastern

Washington -- A bill aimed at protecting children from
online smut passed a House subcommittee two weeks ago, despite some lawmakers' claims
that the measure would expand the Federal Communications Commission's jurisdiction
over the Internet.

The "Child Online Protection Act," sponsored by
Rep. Michael G. Oxley (R-Ohio), would require commercial Internet-pornography distributors
to keep their material away from minors under threat of a penalty of six months in jail or
a fine of up to $50,000.

Operators of porn Web sites would be required to verify
that the people trying to access their sites are actually adults, either through a
verification service or by requiring the use of a credit card.

But some lawmakers criticized the scope of the bill, saying
that certain provisions could authorize the FCC to develop regulations about the sorts of
identification technology that Internet companies should use.

"Letting the FCC do this by regulation is very
frightening," Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) said.

Cox cautioned that potential FCC regulations could hamper
the development of new technology.

Plus, despite some changes in the bill's language,
civil libertarians continued to be critical of the effort, saying that the bill would
limit access to constitutionally protected speech. Last year, the Supreme Court struck
down a provision in the Communications Decency Act that tried to ban indecent speech on
the Internet.

The bill now goes to the House Commerce Committee. A
similar measure in the Senate was incorporated into an appropriations bill earlier this
summer.

States News Service

September