CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Internet

Online speech: Porn, spam, and political disclosure

Congress is charged with protecting children from adult material while also upholding the First Amendment online.

    Online speech Congress's first attempt at regulating online speech--the Communications Decency Act--was canned in June by the Supreme Court, which stated the Net deserved the same First Amendment protection as print media. Without the CDA, lawmakers are now looking for alternate ways to keep children out of
    Legislation to watch Legislation to watch
    Signed into law Signed into law
    the Net's red-light districts. Regulating unsolicited email is another hot topic. On the other hand, some members are pushing for more digital communication on their end--a slew of bills on the table look to require online campaign finance filings.

    Minors and Sexually Explicit Material

    Bills to watch Selling online pornography to minors
    Introduced by Sen. Dan Coats (R-Indiana)

    Amends the Communications Act of 1934 to prohibit commercial Web sites from distributing to those under age 17 any material that is "harmful to minors," which includes messages or Web sites that depict actual or simulated sexual acts. The material would have to "lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value" to fall under the law. Violators could be fined up to $50,000 and imprisoned for six months.

    Status
    Referred to the Senate Commerce Committee.

    Previous coverage
    •  CDA sequel introduced, November 12, 1997
    •  CDA's death sparks legislation trend, June 27, 1997

    Net access and sexual predators Introduced by Rep. Marge Roukema (R-New Jersey)

    Amends the Communications Act of 1934 to prohibit Net service providers from giving accounts to "sexually violent predators." ISPs would be fined up to $5,000 for each violation.

    Status
    Referred to House Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade, and Consumer Protection.

    Previous coverage
    •  Man sues to keep photo off police site, November 6, 1997
    •  Prostitution arrests posted online, October 27, 1997
    •  Antiporn group targets ISPs, April 21, 1997

    Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act Introduced by Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Illinois)

    Makes it a felony to use a computer network to send sexually explicit messages to a minor under the age of 16. Violators could get up to five years in prison.

    Status
    Referred to House Judiciary Committee.

    Previous coverage
    •  CDA sequel introduced, November 12, 1997
    •  Legislator posts sex crime list, October 21, 1997
    •  AOL to post photos of missing kids, July 29, 1997

    Family-Friendly Internet Access Act
    Introduced by Rep. Joseph McDade (R-Pennsylvania )

    Internet Freedom and Child Protection Act
    Introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-California)

    Each bill requires that Internet service providers offer Net filtering software to customers for a price or free.

    Status
    Referred to various committees.

    Previous coverage
    •  Bill to nail CDA's coffin, February 14, 1997

    Spam

    Netizens Protection Act
    Introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-New Jersey)

    Bans commercial spam by amending the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. Smith's bill would extend that fax law to cover junk email but would "protect" communications between people who have existing business or personal relationships.

    Status
    Referred to House Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade, and Consumer Protection.

    Bills to watch Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Mail Choice Act
    Introduced by Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska)

    Does not prohibit spam outright but would require senders to label email messages as advertisements. If the bill is passed, Internet service providers across the country also will have to take it upon themselves to screen all unsolicited messages for customers that ask them to do so.

    Status
    Referred to Senate Commerce Committee.

    Previous coverage
    •  FTC searches for spam solution, June 12, 1997
    •  Congress considers two spam fixes, May 21, 1997

    Electronic Mailbox Protection Act
    Introduced by Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-New Jersey)

    Prohibits sending unsolicited email from fictitious email addresses or without an accurate address for replying. Spammers that don't remove people from their list upon request, continue to distribute email to Net users who have said they don't want the messages, or ignore Net access providers' policies against spam could be fined up to $5,000.

    Status
    Referred to Senate Commerce Committee.

    Previous coverage
    •  Group shuns government on spam, June 24, 1997
    •  FTC searches for spam solution, June 12, 1997

    Campaigns

    Internet Election Information Act
    Introduced by Rep. Rick White (R-Washington)

    Amends the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to require that Internet access providers and online services let candidates use their services free of charge to disseminate campaign information and encourage public debate through online chats and bulletin boards, for example.

    Status
    Under consideration by House Oversight Committee.

    Bills to watch Citizens' Right to Know Act
    Introduced by Rep. Lynn Rivers (D-Michigan)

    Bills to watch Campaign Finance Reform Act
    Introduced by Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Missouri)

    Bills to watch Campaign Finance Sunshine Act
    Introduced by Rep. Merrill Cook (R-Utah)

    Bills to watch Electronic Campaign Filing and Disclosure Act
    Introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia)

    Rivers's bill requires candidates for the House of Representatives and Senate to file electronically quarterly campaign contribution reports with the Federal Election Commission within 48 hours of the time the information becomes available, so that the data can be posted on the Internet. Gephardt's bill is similar, but also limits nonfederal campaign financing. Finally, both Cook's and Goodlatte's bills would make the finance reports available to the public within 24 hours of receipt. The bills will likely be reconciled in committee.

    Status
    All four bills referred to House Oversight Committee.

    Back to: Main story