Arkansas legislator introduces Internet filtering bill

Friday, December 15, 2000

An Arkansas legislator has targeted pornography on the Internet for
the upcoming session in a prefiled bill.

Rep. Jim Bob Duggar, a Republican from Springdale, introduced House
Bill 1003 which would require public schools and libraries to install filtering
software to protect minors from harmful online material.

The measure says that public schools and libraries must equip public
access computers “with software that seeks to prevent minors from gaining
access to material that is harmful to minors or purchase Internet connectivity
from an internet service provider that provides filter services to limit access
to material that is harmful to minors.”

Under current Arkansas law, public schools and libraries were exempt
from the state’s harmful-to-minors law. “This bill means that public schools
and libraries can now be held accountable if they violate the state’s
harmful-to-minors law by exposing children to pornography,” Duggar said.

The proposed legislation contains a provision which insulates public
schools and public libraries from criminal or civil liability if they install
filtering software.

Duggar’s bill employs a harmful-to-minors standard but does not
distinguish between different ages among minors. Free-speech advocates often
point out that material unsuitable for a 7-year-old may be suitable, or even
educational, for a 17-year-old.

“The measure fails to distinguish between different levels of minors
and this presents serious problems,” says constitutional law expert Robert

“Most of these filtering bills assume that material that is harmful to
minors can be regulated and adequately defined,” O’Neil said. “However, as
several court decisions have shown, this is an elaborate and difficult
constitutional issue.”

Internet law expert Jonathan Wallace, who has campaigned actively
against the use of filtering software on publicly accessible computers, said
the bill “is more carefully drafted than some, in that it contains an exception
for material with scientific, artistic, literary or political value for

But the measure still presents constitutional problems, Wallace says.
“This bill nonetheless violates the First Amendment by ordering the use of
overbroad and flawed software that routinely blocks material with significant
… value to minors.”

However, Duggar insists that the measure is a constitutional way of
preventing kids from accessing pornography. “Pornography leads to crime and
rapes,” he said. “It is bad for society and we don’t need children being
exposed to this type of material.”

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