Senate approves Internet filtering amendment

Schools and libraries that receive federal funds to help pay for their Internet

access would be required to add filtering software to their systems under

an amendment to an appropriations bill approved by the U.S. Senate.

The Senate voted 95-3 Tuesday to require schools and libraries receiving

E-rate funds to use technology that blocks access by minors to obscenity,

child pornography and "any other material that the library determines to

be inappropriate for minors." The E-Rate plan is part of the Telecommunications

Act of 1996 and is designed to place computers with Internet access into

schools and classrooms.

The amendment, submitted by Sen. John McCain, (R-Ariz.) comes less than

a week after Congress' latest attempt to protect children from harmful material

on the Internet, the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), was rejected by

an appeals court. The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled

COPA, signed into law by President Clinton in 1998, unconstitutional.

The Senate also approved on Tuesday an amendment similar to McCain's

that would require that schools and libraries either install blocking technology

or adopt acceptable use policies. The amendment, put forth by Sen. Rick

Santorum (R-Pa.), passed 75-24. The Center for Democracy and Technology,

the American Library Association, the American Civil Liberties Union and

other groups oppose the McCain amendment.

The amendments were added to the appropriations bill for the departments

of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. The Senate is expected

to vote on the full appropriations bill later this week and send it to the

joint House-Senate Conference Committee, which would iron out the differences.

The House already approved the bill.

Under a third amendment added by the Senate, Internet service providers

with 50,000 or more subscribers would be required to provide filtering software

to their customers for free or at cost.

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