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Supreme Court Partially Upholds Online Child Porn Law

Advocates of protecting children from pornography on the Internet won a partial victory in the U.S. Supreme Court Monday. By a margin of 8-1, the court ruled that a key part of a federal law aimed at limiting access to Internet pornography was constitutional.

At issue was whether it was proper for the law to rely on community standards to determine which online material is deemed harmful to children.

The Child Online Protection Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1998. It requires Web site operators to ensure that only adults have access to online material considered harmful to children.

The law was immediately challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union and several online businesses, which said it violates the rights of adults to see or buy what they want on the Internet.

Critics also contend that using community standards to determine what material is suitable for children would effectively force online services to conform to the most conservative or puritan standards in their offerings on the Internet.

In the majority opinion Monday, the high court also said that, while the basis for the law was constitutional, there are other potential problems with the law, and sent the case back to a lower federal appeals court for further review.

The Supreme Court said the government is barred from enforcing the law in the meantime.