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ACLU files court challenge to CDA II

October 23, 1998
Web posted at: 11:00 AM EDT

by Nancy Weil

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BOSTON (IDG) -- Civil liberties groups Thursday filed a court challenge to a new U.S. law that makes it a federal crime to knowingly transmit via the Internet commercial material deemed "harmful to minors."

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have asked a federal judge to impose an injunction keeping the Child Online Protection Act from taking effect. The act was attached to federal budget legislation approved this week by the U.S. Congress, signed by President Bill Clinton and scheduled to take effect next month.

The civil liberties groups were joined in the court challenge by 13 other plaintiffs, including independent bookstores, World Wide Web sites and the Internet Content Coalition. The plaintiffs filed the challenge against U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.

The Child Online Protection Act has been called "CDA II," because of its similarities with the Communications Decency Act, portions of which were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court two years ago. The plaintiffs in today's action, announced at a Philadelphia press conference, contend that the flaws in the new law are much the same as those in the original CDA.

"The effect of the act, like the CDA, is to restrict adults from communicating and receiving expression that is clearly protected by the Constitution," according to the court challenge filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Nancy Weil writes for the IDG News Service in Boston.

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