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March 25, 2005 05:00am
Utah Internet Porn Law Faces Challenge
Source: AP Newswire

(SALT LAKE CITY, UT) -- ISPs that operate in Utah now must offer customers a way to block porn sites under a law signed this week. Internet service providers complained that the law adds nothing to the fight against pornography, and said a legal challenge is likely.

"The market has already responded to this issue," said Pete Ashdown, president of Salt Lake-based XMission. "We have for many years provided an optional filter for our customers that they can turn on in Internet browsers."

The law requires ISPs to offer customers free software for blocking porn sites on a list maintained by the attorney general.

Republican state Representative John Dougall said the measure he sponsored should help parents overwhelmed by advancing technology.

"Kids are much more savvy about what's going on than their parents," Dougall said.

An earlier version of the bill would have required ISPs to block sites based on numeric Internet addresses, but ISPs argued that approach would block benign sites as well because they often share addresses. A federal court has struck down a 2003 Pennsylvania law that took that approach.

Though the Utah law is watered down, it still "Will very likely lead to a costly litigation," said the Washington DC-based Center for Democracy and Technology.

"We've been down this road in Pennsylvania," said Dave Baker, vice president for law and public policy at Earthling Inc. "And if that law can be struck down on constitutional grounds, this one will almost certainly face challenges."

The Utah law also requires companies that build and maintain pornographic sites to label the content "harmful to minors." Failure to comply is punishable by one year in prison and a $2,500 fine.

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