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November 10, 1994

Pitt supports CMU on Internet restrictions

Pitt supports efforts by Carnegie Mellon University to restrict access to pornographic materials on the Internet computer network.

CMU announced that it was going to block access to pornographic pictures and text that had been available on campus computers through a link with Internet on Nov. 4, and began restricting access to some of the materials on Nov. 8.

In instituting the ban, CMU said it was concerned that the material violated Pennsylvania's pornography law and that the university could be held liable. In a written statement, Pitt's Associate Vice Chancellor for Computing and Information Services Paul Stieman said: "We support the actions being taken by Carnegie Mellon to restrict access to pornographic or obscene material on their computer network." The statement continues: "It has been and will continue to be the practice of the University of Pittsburgh to respond to all complaints involving offensive materials." Stieman said the University is examining its policy on access to all electronic information and will issue a report when that review is completed.

The review is being done by the executive committee for academic computing, which is chaired by Norman Hummon, a sociology faculty member.

Hummon said ECAC has just begun examining the issue and has not reached any conclusions. However, he pointed out, pornographic or obscene materials on the Internet are an issue all over the country, not just at CMU or Pitt.

"This is a very complex problem," Hummon said. "The emphasis on Internet and the whole communications capability of the computer has been to open it up and make it as broad and as accessible as possible." Since announcing its plans last week, CMU has backed down somewhat on the scope of the restriction. Originally the University had planned to ban computer bulletin boards on which sex is discussed by individuals with access to the CMU computer network, but has since decided that the legalities involving such bulletin boards need further study.

Although CMU said it was taking this action because of concern about Pennsylvania's pornography law, the American Civil Liberties Union, in a letter to CMU President Robert Mehrabian, claimed that CMU is misreading the law.

–Mike Sajna

Filed under: Feature,Volume 27 Issue 6

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