A divided U.S. Supreme Court refused Tuesday to let the government enforce the latest version of a criminal law requiring commercial Web sites to shield minors from sexually explicit material.

In a 5-4 ruling, the court upheld a lower court's injunction against the 1998 Child Online Protection Act, which would make it a crime punishable by six months in jail and a $50,000 fine to post material for commercial purposes that is harmful to minors because of its sexual content and lacks serious cultural or social value. Providers could win acquittal by showing that they took steps to prevent minors' access by requiring a credit card or adult identification.

Citing free-speech concerns, the court majority said the evidence so far suggests that allowing parents to use Internet filters to screen out sexually explicit material would be more effective in achieving the goal of the law without resorting to criminal prosecution. That means opponents of the law, led by the American Civil Liberties Union, have shown that it is probably unconstitutional and are entitled to a continued injunction against enforcement, the court said.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2004/06/29/PORN29.TMP


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