‘Net age statute plays Supremes

Law orders companies to employ proof-of-age systems

WASHINGTON — In a case closely tracked by the entertainment biz, the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday took up the fate of a law forcing Internet site operators to make sure kids aren’t looking at adult material.

The American Civil Liberties Union argued that the anti-obscenity statute is unconstitutional and a direct hit on free speech, resulting in self-censorship because it prevents adults from accessing materials they have every right to see.

The new law orders companies to employ proof-of-age systems before allowing Internet users to view obscene materials on their Web sites.

U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson, speaking on behalf of the White House, told the high court the Child Online Protection Act is a “carefully crafted solution to a desperate problem.”

The law, signed in 1998 by former President Clinton, was drawn up after the Supreme Court struck down a similar 1996 statute attempting to restrict access to the Internet.

Advocates of such measures said children should be shielded from Internet pornography, just as kids are shielded from adult magazines and books.

(Reuters contributed to this report.)

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