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ACLU Challenges Child Porn Law

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Jan 8, 2004 12:00 AM PST    Text size: 
PHILADELPHIA -- The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) went out on a limb this week to challenge a recently enacted child pornography law. The ACLU’s claim is that the sweep of the new law is far too broad and infringes on user’s rights to access non-child porn related sites.

The law in question gives power to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block user access to more than 800,000 websites, the Associated Press reported. Critics claim the law is unconstitutional and encroaches on free speech and freedom of expression rights.

In an effort to block child pornography websites, the terms of the law dictate that ISPs can block certain servers that host child porn sites, but along with those sites, many legitimate websites get blocked as well. In effect, critics argue, the Philadelphia law acts as a form of censorship.

According to the AP, the law has infringed on sites belonging to civil organizations that lost their host and could not be displayed to web visitors. There are even allegations that at one point AOL blocked an estimated 400,00 websites in an attempt to rid itself of one child porn site.

The ACLU and the Center for Democracy & Technology have asked a state judge to throw out the law in a lawsuit filed in September 2003 on behalf of both organizations. A trial date is expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

The point of view of the litigants is that the law is “technologically misguided,” the AP reports.

However, supporters of the law believe firmly that it does not interfere with user’s First Amendment rights, and that infact, according to the AP, most ISPs can block child porn sites while not interfering with non-porn sites.

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