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Campus opinion varies concerning the Communications Decency Act

March 25, 1997

From Staff and Wire Reports

BURBANK, Calif.-- Internet pornography presents a troubling clash of conservative values for congressional Republicans who try to promote family values without meddling in a promising new business.

As the U.S. Supreme Court judges a law that would criminalize indecent material, three Republicans at a weekend conference on technology said they too were struggling with it. If the law is found unconstitutional, they expect it will resurface in similar, new legislation.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona said any new measure that resembled the Communications Decency Act probably would not survive his committee, which oversees telecommunications.

The chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee said the current act is vague and smacks of censorship.

At the University, Richard Gerik, assistant director for student computing services, said there are policies regarding pornography and the use of campus computers.

'Baylor has policies in place concerning fraudulent, harrassing or obscene messages,' he said.

One of the functions for the Center of Computing and Information Systems is to research complaints of alleged computer law infractions, Gerik said. Students who abuse the policies are refered to the dean for student development and services, Jimmy McCluskey, for disciplinary action.

'We act more as a information gathering network,' Gerik said.

According to Gerik, policies covering campus computer use are updated every year, and next year some changes will be implemented. One of these changes will now explicitly outlaw the display of pornography on University computers. Prior written rules state that pornography cannot be requested.

'Pornography should not be censored because it is covered by the freedom of press and speech,' said Angela Robinson, an Anderson, Ind., junior. 'Parents should have the option to control online pornography in the home.'

McCain said, 'I'm the father of small children, they all are far more computer literate than I am, and I've seen some of the stuff that they see and it disturbs me terribly. But I didn't know how you would implement that [law]. I didn't know who would decide what's decent.'

No professors were available for comment from the University law school or political science department Monday afternoon.

'I think absolutely there needs to be some kind of control on it, Price Johnson, a Waco law student said. 'It is certainly the lesser of two evils. I think there are certain situations in which the government should step in. This is likely a circumstance where the government intervention would be appropriate.'

Johnson said he understands Republicans do not like to infringe on the rights of businesses though sometimes a line has to be drawn and government action should be taken.

Rep. Jim Rogan of California, who sits on a House telecommunications subcommittee, said he strongly defends the First Amendment.

``Yet as a former judge myself I recognize there are limitations,'' he said, citing regulations on child pornography.

Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson said the federal government should

have some role in cyberspace. ``I'm not sure where exactly it ought

to be, frankly,'' he said.

The law before the Supreme Court would make it a federal crime

to put indecent words or pictures online where they can be found by

children. Those opposing government interference of Internet

content said software is available to let parents filter out such

material.

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