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CDA amendment introduced

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-California) today introduced an amendment to the Communications Decency Act that would remove the word indecency from the law's language and replace it with the phrase harmful to minors.

    Congresswoman Anna Eshoo today introduced an amendment to the Communications Decency Act that would remove the word indecency from the law's language and replace it with the phrase harmful to minors.

    Called the Online Parental Control Act, the proposed amendment would also encourage the use of recently developed rating systems that let parents block Web sites they deem inappropriate, instead of relying on the government to police the Internet.

    The amendment is the culmination of Eshoo's long-standing objections to the Communications Decency Act (CDA) and her belief that technological solutions are preferable to legal ones for controlling children's access to adult material on the Web.

    "The Internet is not a government network, and giving federal officials indiscriminate censorship authority mocks constitutional protections of free speech," Eshoo (D-California) said in a House of Representatives session in February.

    The amendment is supported by the parents' organization SafeSurf, which announced the first rating system based on the new PICS (Platform for Internet Content Selection) standard. The protocol provides software and browser companies with a common method for labeling Web site content, which can then be read by filtering software used by parents. Microsoft and Netscape intend to support the PICS-based rating systems in future versions of their browsers.

    "We're working with Eshoo to make sure that the law satisfies the needs of both parents and the Net community," SafeSurf chairman Ray Soular said.

    Eshoo's amendment is separate from the lawsuit filed to overturn the CDA filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which goes to court March 21.

    "The CDA may be overturned in court, but at the same time it can be changed through the legislative process," Soular said. "Other groups are saying, 'Let's stop them in court.' We're saying, 'Let's get Congress to change the law and explain it to them because we really believe that a reasonable person wants this law to change.'"

    If Eshoo's amendment is endorsed at the committee level, it may take anywhere from three days to hree months for the proposed measure to be debated on the House floor.