News Release from Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)

Contact: Rex Carney
(202) 224-0229
For Immediate Release:
June 26, 1997


Legislation to Fill Void Left by the Supreme Court's Ruling on Internet Content

(Washington, D.C.) -- In response to the Supreme Court's ruling striking down the Communications Decency Act, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today announced she will soon introduce the Childsafe Internet Act of 1997, a seven-point plan to help keep children away from harmful material on the Internet.

The CDA was enacted into law last year as part of the telecommunications bill, and was designed to keep children away from sexually explicit material on the Internet. The Supreme Court ruled that this law was unconstitutional because it infringed on free speech rights.

The following is a statement by Sen. Murray outlining her legislation:

Today's ruling by the Supreme Court leaves open a large vacuum. No one wants to return home after work to find a child downloading pornographic material. Many parents have purchased computers for their children to be used for educational purposes. Unfortunately, while the Internet can provide educational opportunities for young people, it can also expose them to dangerous material.

The Internet has thrived because it has gone unencumbered by burdensome regulation and oversight. For electronic commerce and the information highway to prosper, we must continue to make the Internet accessible and educational.

In anticipation of the Supreme Court's decision, I have spent the last two months meeting with parents, industry leaders, family organizations, computer groups, and law enforcement officials to find a way to monitor harmful material on the Internet. All of these representatives believe that we can reach consensus and find an answer to meet this growing dilemma. The answer must be workable for industry, it must withstand constitutional questions, and most important, it must provide parents with the option to monitor the material their children see on the Internet.

To meet this challenge, I will soon introduce the Childsafe Internet Act of 1997 -- a seven-point plan to protect children from harmful material on the Internet. My bill seeks to bring together the interests and concerns of parents, Internet service providers and industry. It recognizes the changing nature of the Internet, while preserving the freedom of those who use it constructively, and providing the strongest protection possible for children. Specifically, my legislation will:

1) Ensure every parent with a computer has access to filtering software. These programs, such as Cyber Patrol, Net Nanny, Surf Watch, and Microsoft's Internet Explorer, are useful tools for parents. However, they are only used in less than 40 percent of the homes accessing the Internet;

2) Create a parental warning alongside copyright protections on each homepage;

3) Create incentives for webpage creators to rate their own pages for content. These ratings can be accessed through PICS, the Platform for Internet Content Selection, and can be uniformly judged by ratings systems such as RSACi;

4) Make it a criminal offense to misrate websites;

5) Make it a criminal offense to steal sites previously rated as childsafe;

6) Make it a felony for anyone to solicit or exploit childsafe chat rooms; and

7) Create a 1-800 number to provide concerned parents with a mechanism to report harmful material on the Internet. A toll-free line in Great Britain has proven successful in uncovering illegal material and providing parents with a resource for action.

Over the next few weeks, I will continue to meet with the White House, Internet service providers, filtering companies, ratings groups and family organizations to clarify this legislation and prepare it for the Senate floor. No system will be fool-proof. Pornographers are prolific and determined, computer-savvy children are tough to shield. But something must be done. Today's decision is a call to action. We face an unprecedented opportunity to provide parents the necessary tools to protect our children without threatening free speech.