Virginia professors appeal Internet censorship case


Lawsuit questions whether state employees should have unlimited access to Web sites, including those that some would find offensive





\nVIRGINIA - Six professors at George Mason University in\nFairfax will get another chance to challenge the Virginia law\nthat prohibits state employees from getting access to what some\nwould consider pornographic materials on the Internet.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in February\nthat the state could regulate government employees' Internet access\non government-owned computers.

But Paul Smith, a professor of contemporary culture and one\nof the plaintiffs in the case, said an appeal to have the professors'\ncase heard by all 14 federal court of appeals judges-rather than\nthe three judge panel that previously heard the case-has been\ngranted. The hearing will take place on Sept. 21.

The professors won the first round of the case after a trial\nin 1998.

Smith believes that the law prohibits him from doing his research\nproperly. He said the study of contemporary culture involves many\naspects, although some of them may not be pleasant topics.

"It's not like I'm wanting to go look up pornography [Web]\nsites for fun," he said.

Smith also claims that the law defines sexually explicit material\ntoo broadly. He said that censoring what he may access would deprive\nhis research of Web sites related to issues such as feminism,\ngender and sexuality.\n


Fall 1999, reports