A Pennsylvania law allowing the state to force Internet service providers to block access to child pornography sites is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled on Friday. Judge Jan Dubois, of the U.S. court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, found that the law was unconstitutional because technology used to block the sites would also prevent users from accessing sites that had nothing to do with child pornography. "With the current state of technology, the act cannot be implemented without excessive blocking of innocent speech in violation of the First Amendment," the judge wrote. The decision could set a national precedent on Internet regulation, said John Morris, staff counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington-based advocacy group that brought the suit against Pennsylvania Attorney General Jerry Pappert. The other plaintiffs were the American Civil Liberties Union and Plantagenet, a Pennsylvania-based Internet service provider, informs Reuters. According to Computerworld, a Pennsylvania law requiring Internet service providers to block Web sites deemed by the state's prosecuting attorneys to be child pornography has been overturned by a U.S. federal court, with the judge ruling the law violated free-speech rights. In a ruling today, a federal judge ordered service providers that had blocked more than 1.1 million Web sites under the law to remove the blocks and ordered Pennsylvania Attorney General Jerry Pappert to stop issuing blocking orders. Opponents of the law, passed in 2002, argued that the secret orders issued by the state attorney general and other prosecuting attorneys violated the due-process guarantees in the U.S. Constitution, because Internet service providers and Web site operators weren't first notified of the proceedings. The law violated free-speech rights because it was an overly restrictive means of limiting Pennsylvania residents' access to child pornography, opponents charged. In a ruling issued Friday, a federal judge ordered ISPs that had blocked more than 1.1 million Web sites under the law to remove the blocks and ordered Pennsylvania Attorney General Jerry Pappert to stop issuing blocking orders. Opponents of the law, passed in 2002, argued the secret orders issued by the state attorney general and other prosecuting attorneys violated the due process guarantees in the U.S. Constitution, because ISPs and Web site operators weren't first notified of the proceedings. The law violated free speech rights because it was an overly restrictive means of limiting Pennsylvania residents' access to child pornography, opponents charged. "Many of us realized this was an important law because it was the first of its kind effort, at least in the United States, to regulate the Internet by regulating the destination ISP ... rather than by trying to regulate publishers of content," said Alan Davidson, associate director of the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), a plaintiff in the case. "This decision sends a very important signal about ... the inappropriate and flawed approach that this kind of regulation presents." CDT and other opponents argued the law places a burden on ISPs to police the Internet and makes them liable for content anywhere on the Internet, even if they aren't associated with operators of child pornography Web sites, reports InfoWorld.
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