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Effort to snuff online smut embroils University of Oklahoma

University of Oklahoma

January 24, 1997
Web posted at: 11:30 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Charles Zewe

NORMAN, Oklahoma (CNN) -- It's a First Amendment battle over the age-old issue of obscenity, but with a contemporary twist.

Should college students should be allowed free access to pornography on the Internet?

computer

That questions has caused quite a stir at the University of Oklahoma, where officials have taken a stand to restrict smut online.

OU has limited the access to several hundred adult Internet newsgroups -- or online discussion areas -- under pressure from an anti-pornography group and state legislators.

"How do we say to taxpayers, we're taking your money--your tax dollars--and we have a piece of equipment we've bought-- the news server--and we're using it to put pictures that are child pornography, children in explicit acts, bestiality?"

Boren

OU blocked the sex sites after Oklahomans for Children and Families downloaded pictures they deemed offensive from the University's computer system and confronted Boren with the notion OU could be considered a distributor of obscenity.

"This stuff they have on there is illegal to have and it's illegal for any person of any age to have access to," said Robert Anderson of Oklahomans for Children and Families.

The University's answer was to provide two Internet paths. One is limited to faculty, students and staff over 18 who request access to adult sites for research for "academic reasons."

A second is open to anyone, but carries no sexual matter.

Loving

Journalism Professor and lawyer Bill Loving is fighting the restriction in court, claiming his First Amendment rights have been breached.

"The First Amendment says ideas should be free, speech should be free," he says. "You cannot simply shut something down because you don't agree with it."

But not everyone at politically conservative OU agrees. "I don't see any reason why people should feel they have to look that up," says student Mario Avila.

The federal judge in the case has not yet ruled. And some legal experts expect that ultimately the United States Supreme Court will determine just how far the First Amendment extends into cyberspace.

 
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