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CompuServe lightens up on newsgroups

CompuServe today agreed to restore access to all but five Internet newsgroups that have been under investigation since December for online distribution of pornography.

Undaunted by last week's passage of the telecommunications bill and its antipornography provisions, CompuServe today agreed to restore access to all but five Internet newsgroups that have been under investigation since December for online distribution of pornography.

CompuServe had blocked access for its 4.7 million users worldwide to about 200 newsgroups after German authorities alleged that they contained sexually explicit material. The company is maintaining the ban against five groups that CompuServe officials say contain child pornography.

Today's decision means that CompuServe will provide access to sexually explicit newsgroups, access that antipornography activisits charge may be illegal under the Communications Decency Act contained in the new bill. But the company also today unveiled a new set of content restriction tools that parents can use to protect minors from material they judge to be indecent.

CompuServe's Parental Controls Center provides free software called Cyber Patrol for Windows and Macintosh that allows parents to restrict Net access throughout the day, limit time spent online, and block access to sites of their choice.

The Cyber Patrol software comes loaded with a CyberNot Block List of 6,000 CompuServe resources that contain material that may not be suitable for children. The company has also prepared a set of printed guidelines called "Child Safety Online."

Cyber Patrol works with all browsers and is currently available for download.