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Smut issues debated in Ireland

Ireland has become the latest country to consider whether to crack down on "harmful and illegal" uses of the Internet.

Ireland has become the latest country to consider whether to crack down on "harmful and illegal" uses of the Internet, including child pornography.

The debate in Ireland comes as the United States waits for a Supreme Court ruling on the Communications Decency Act, a closely watched case involving constitutional issues of online speech and expression that could be decided as early as this week.

Ireland may be behind the United States in its attempt to create laws governing Net content, but the country is known to have strict pornography regulations in other media. "It has only recently become legal to import publications" known for pornographic content, one Netizen pointed out. "Since the early days of the Internet in Ireland, the various ISPs have operated with wildly varying policies on censorship."

This week, the Working Group on Illegal and Harmful Use of the Internet invited submissions on the subject. Those interested have until July 16 to comment.

The group consists of representatives from both private and public sectors and has both advisory and recommendatory functions. It includes the following: "To identify the nature and extent of the issues surrounding the illegal and harmful uses of the Internet," to prioritize those issues, and "to make recommendations which will inform policy in this regard."

The policies among Ireland's ISPs vary from outright bans on "clearly pornographic" material and item-by-item censorship to no blocking at all.

Many countries are grappling with the issue. In Germany, for example, the parliament just passed legislation that sets standards regarding child pornography on the Internet. The so-called Information and Communications Services Act is set to take effect on August 1.