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Future Of Indecency Act Remains Subject Of Debate Congress Ready To Try Again If Court Rules Against Internet Law

If the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down a law criminalizing indecency on the Internet, Congress probably will draft another, an influential senator said Saturday.

But Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said any new measure that resembled the Communications Decency Act probably would not survive the Senate Commerce Committee that he chairs.

Last week, the Supreme Court began weighing the constitutionality of the law that would make it a federal crime to put indecent or “patently offensive” words or pictures online where they can be found by children.

President Clinton signed the act last year, but a three-judge federal panel blocked it as an unconstitutional restraint on free speech. The high court is expected to rule by July on the law.

McCain, whose committee oversees telecommunications, told a conference on the media, technology and politics that he voted against the act, and said it is vague and smacks of censorship.

“I’m the father of small children, they all are far more computer literate than I am,” McCain said. “I’ve seen some of the stuff that they see and it disturbs me terribly.

“But I didn’t know how you would implement that (law). I didn’t know who would decide what’s decent.”

McCain said he favored other means of keeping indecent material out of children’s hands, such as an electronic blocking device or providing parents with information on Internet content.

Tags: censorship

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