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Cybercafe ordinance put on hold

A California judge issues a temporary restraining order preventing the city of Garden Grove from enforcing a new ordinance that restricts cybercafes.

A California judge issued a temporary restraining order this week preventing the city of Garden Grove from enforcing a new ordinance that restricts cybercafes.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Dennis S. Choate on Wednesday delayed implementation of the ordinance amid concerns it might violate free-speech rights and harm the cafes financially. He also set a hearing for Aug. 29 so both sides could try to arrive at a compromise.

Garden Grove in January approved an ordinance that required minors to leave cybercafes by 8 p.m. and mandated the installation of extra security measures. The ordinance was prompted by the deaths of two teens who were killed in separate incidents after leaving cafes.

However, five cybercafe owners asked the judge to reconsider the restrictions, saying they were being unfairly blamed for a shooting and a stabbing that were due to gang violence, not the cafes.

Garden Grove officials and attorneys for the cybercafes did not immediately return requests for comment.

Crackdowns on cybercafes are on the rise, as the Internet drop-in spots have become popular meeting places for teens looking to go online or engage in multiplayer video games. Several other cities are considering similar restrictions and are closely watching the Garden Grove case.

Internationally, countries such as Vietnam and China have attempted to shutter cybercafes in an attempt to control their citizens' exposure to information, fearing that access to Web material from the other countries might incite rebellion or expose minors to offensive content.