Disney, AOL urge parents to use anti-smut software

WASHINGTON — The Walt Disney Co., America Online and kids advocacy groups are launching a nationwide campaign to let parents know they have software tools to block kids’ access to Internet smut.

The announcement was made in Washington, where the online industry is busy trying to ward off further efforts by Congress to regulate content on the World Wide Web. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court threw out the Communications Decency Act — which attempted to ban wired porn — but many online companies are worried Congress will take another run at regulating the Internet.

Last summer, the Clinton administration said it wanted a solution for Internet smut that is “as strong as the V-chip.” Sometime within the next two years, TV-set makers are expected to begin installing V-chips in almost every TV set sold in the U.S. The chips will allow parents to program their sets to block programming based on the amount of sexual or violent material in a particular show.

But so far, President Clinton has not called for the computer industry to begin hardwiring computers to block smut. The online industry hopes to placate the administration with anti-smut software solutions.

Of course, proposals to screen online content have raised the hackles of First Amendment activists, who say such proposals would limit the flow of information on the Internet. One software tool already in use screens out possibly offensive sites during Web searches.

For example, researchers at an online confab here said Monday that a search for the name of an elementary school found thousands of references through an unfiltered search via the Alta Vista search engine. But when the same inquiry was conducted with a search engine equipped with a content filter, fewer than 100 references were found.

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