Court ponders Web site-blocking law

Wednesday, 7 January 2004, 12:51 PM EST

Although the law is only a Pennsylvania state statute, it has an international reach. When the Pennsylvania attorney general used it to force MCI to ban access to some sites with suspected child pornography, the company said it had no choice but to block those Internet addresses for all of its North American subscribers.

Two nonprofit groups, the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), filed suit against Pennsylvania in September. Their lawsuit claims that the state law's "secret censorship orders" have led to more than 1 million Web sites blocked, nearly all featuring legal material.

"The reason we're looking at this law is that it was at one point seen as a model law by several different states," said Ari Schwartz, CDT's associate director. "We were concerned that this would spread and become a model for blocking content." CDT sent one of its lawyers to testify against a similar proposal in the Maryland House of Delegates last March and says Oklahoma and some national legislative groups have considered the same approach.

By Declan McCullagh at ZDNet.

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