Supreme Court blocks web porn law

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The Independent US

The US Supreme Court blocked a new law designed to protect children from encountering pornography on the internet yesterday - deciding that it interfered with the constitutional right to free speech.

The US Supreme Court blocked a new law designed to protect children from encountering pornography on the internet yesterday - deciding that it interfered with the constitutional right to free speech.

The court ruled 5-4 to send back to a lower court a case involving regulations for website operators that require them to use credit cards or adult access codes and personal identification numbers to keep minors from seeing pornography.

It is the second time the Supreme Court has rejected the legislation. The law passed in 1998 would have authorised fines of up to $50,000 (£28,000) for the crime of placing material that is "harmful to minors" within the easy reach of children on the Net.

The majority of justices said the lower court was correct to block the law from taking effect because it was likely to violate the First Amendment.

That majority, led by Justice Anthony Kennedy, said there may have been important technological advances in the five years since a federal judge blocked the law. It said that holding a new trial would allow discussion of what technology, if any, might allow adults to see and buy material that is legal for them while keeping that material out of the hands of children.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the law would have restricted far too much material that adults may legally see and buy. But a Justice Department spokesman denounced the ruling. "Our society has reached a broad consensus that child obscenity is harmful to our youngest generation and must be stopped," he said.

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