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Congress Can Force Public Libraries to Block Porn, Rules Supreme Court - 2003-06-23


The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that Congress has the right to force public libraries to block access to pornographic sites on the Internet or lose federal funding.

By a vote of six to three, the high court ruled that Congress can force the nation's libraries to install filters on computers that block access to pornographic web sites on the Internet.

The court majority said the Congressional requirement for public libraries to either install the filters or forfeit federal funding does not violate the constitutional guarantees to freedom of speech, even though the filters do block some legitimate, informational web sites.

The anti-pornography law was enacted by Congress in 2000. It was intended to keep children from accessing pornography on the Internet through public library computers. But the American Library Association and civil liberties groups argued that forcing acceptance of the blocking technology amounted to censorship because it also blocked other sites with valuable information.

In another decision, the Supreme Court struck down a California law that was intended to help Holocaust survivors collect on insurance policies from the Nazi era.

The court, on a five to four decision, sided with the Bush administration, which had argued that the California law was unconstitutional meddling by a state in foreign affairs.

The law was originally enacted so that the state could pressure reluctant insurance companies into turning over records of Holocaust-era insurance policies. Failure to do so would result in the company possibly losing the right to do business in California.

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