Judge Stops Virginia Net Content Law

BOSTON (08/10/2000) - A U.S. federal judge on Wednesday issued a preliminary injunction halting enforcement of a Virginia law that seeks to impose restrictions on Internet content deemed "harmful" to minors.

District Court Judge James Michael ruled in favor of 19 plaintiffs who filed suit to stop the law from taking effect. The plaintiffs include Internet service provider PSINet Inc., along with bookstores, authors, electronic businesses and the advocacy group People for the American Way.

The plaintiffs argue that the law imposes criminal penalties on constitutionally protected speech and would harm both Internet speech and interstate electronic commerce. They further contend that the law would affect the dissemination of information other than pornography, including health and sex education and works of art, and that it would extend beyond the borders of Virginia because of the ubiquitous nature of the Internet.

Similar legislation has been struck down as an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment right to free speech in Michigan, New York and New Mexico.

Laws passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton also have been ruled unconstitutional by federal courts, including the U.S.

Supreme Court.

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