Senator plans to introduce CDA-like amendment to Internet tax bill

Tuesday, October 6, 1998

Sen. Dan Coats plans to introduce an amendment to the Internet Tax Freedom Act today that would bar tax breaks for commercial Web sites which fail to adequately limit minors' access to pornography.

If it is passed, the Internet Tax Freedom Act would establish a two-year moratorium on taxes “on the Internet or interactive computer services” to ensure the free flow of online commerce. In June, the House passed a version of the bill that contained no anti-porn provisions.

However, Coats, R-Ind., an original sponsor of the ill-fated Communications Decency Act of 1996, wants to stop what he sees as the free flow of pornography on the Internet.

After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down two provisions of the CDA that criminalized the display of “patently offensive” and “indecent” online communications last year, Coats, R-Ind., responded by introducing narrower legislation this session that also takes aim at Net pornography.

Coats' S. 1482, dubbed the “Son of CDA” or “CDA II” would criminalize the commercial distribution of material that is “harmful to minors.”

Under CDA II, a commercial Web site operator that provides material deemed “harmful to minors” could avoid punishment if it restricts access by “requiring use of a verified credit card, debit account, adult access code, or adult personal identification number.”

The upcoming floor amendment, according to Coats spokesman Matt Smith, will be “an amendment in the spirit of S. 1482, but not the exact same bill.” The senator's office would not release the actual text of the amendment until after it is introduced.

“The senator firmly believes that we should not give a tax break to commercial Web sites that don't provide protection to kids from pornography,” Smith said. “The Internet is another avenue for distribution. Just as bookstores are held to certain levels of decency in what and how they display material, Web site operators should be held to the same standards.”

Smith said that the Senate could vote on the Internet tax bill as early as this afternoon.

Congress only has a few days left to pass legislation this year. If Coats' anti-pornography amendment succeeds in the Senate, it still must be accepted by the House, which passed the Internet tax bill last June.