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Court says colleges can restrict Internet access


January 28, 1997
Web posted at: 1:35 p.m. EST

NORMAN, Oklahoma (CNN) -- A U.S. District Court in Oklahoma has ruled universities have the right to limit access to explicit material on the Internet.

A federal judge ruled University of Oklahoma president David Boren, a former U.S. senator, has every right to determine what sites students and faculty can view while on the campus Internet system.

Boren was sued by University professor, Bill Loving, who claimed his First Amendment rights were being infringed upon.

The court ruled against Loving, also an attorney, saying his constitutional rights were not violated and that he is not entitled to injunctive relief.

"He (Loving) did not present any evidence at trial that he was harmed by the actions of the plaintiff or that he will suffer any harm if no injunction is granted," the court stated. "The U.O. computer and Internet services do not constitute a public forum, because there was no evidence to show that it has ever been open to the general public or used for public communication."

The cyber-legal battle began when Boren enforced a new school policy that restricted access to several hundred adult Internet newsgroups.

Boren said he didn't intend his order to be a censorship sweep. Instead, he wanted to keep minors from accessing pornographic sites and to protect the university from possibly being a distributor of such material.

He was apparently under pressure from an anti-pornography group and state legislators to ban adult-only sites from the campus Internet system.

"I am certainly pleased by the judge's decision," Boren said. "The university did its best to strike a careful balance in order to protect legitimate academic and intellectual freedom while at the same time assuring that the university not act as a distributor of obscene material, which is not protected by the First Amendment."


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